The best rest period time depends on several factors such as; your goals, which muscle groups you are working on, your biology, and how you feel on the day.
Many prefer shorter rest periods of 1-3 mins between sets. This shorter rest will keep a high metabolic rate, which is helpful if you want to improve aerobic conditioning or lose fat. It also allows you to get through your workout quickly, and for most, this is adequate.
However, if developing maximum strength or power is your goal, research suggests rest periods of 3-5 mins between sets are better. This amount of time allows your anaerobic ATP-PC energy system to almost fully recharge. Being recharged increases your ability to apply maximum or near-maximum strength and power to your next set with proper technique.
THE RISKS OF EXTREMELY SHORT REST PERIODS
For improved muscular endurance, shorter rest periods of 20-60 secs help improve your tolerance and ability to process high lactate levels. However, take care when training with shorter rest periods as this puts your body under high stress. As the rest time decreases, the stress increases.
Many fitness classes and programs promote circuit training with short rest periods which maintain high metabolic stress to “burn calories.” Circuit training typically can be better tolerated because of a lower weight/resistance used. Low resistance doesn’t generate as much lactate as high intensity strength and power training.
For information on Exercise:Rest ratios for aerobic interval training refer to HIIT.
Last updated 12 December 2020.
1. Rest interval between sets in strength training. de Salles BF, et al. Sports Med. 2009;39(9):765-77. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19691365