Training

How long should I rest between sets?

Short or long rests, what is the best method?

The rest time between sets is an important topic, and although it is agreed that for strength training the rest time must be significant, for those looking for hypertrophy, there are many theories.

There are those who talk about short rests and some who advocate longer rests in order to recover better.

After all, who is right?

If your goal is to gain muscle mass, or keep what you have while losing fat, how long should you rest between sets?

To answer this question, we first took a look at what the studies tell us, and we found some to help us.

After the studies, our opinion on the subject remains.

1 minute vs 3 minutes

This year an interesting study was published that compared long periods of rest with short periods of rest, in a context of strength and hypertrophy.

21 young men with training experience were selected and were divided into two groups.

One group rested for 1 minute between sets, while the other group rested for 3 minutes between sets.

The experiment lasted 8 weeks, and consisted of three weekly full body workouts, with 7 exercises per training, 3 sets per exercise and between 8 to 12 repetitions.

At the end of the study, the results showed that the group that rested the longest, 3 minutes, not only gained more strength, as expected, but also gained more muscle mass than the group that rested just one minute.

In terms of muscle endurance, the results were similar between both groups.

rest time between sets

1 minute vs 2.5 minutes

In 2009, a study was published that also compared short rest times between sets and longer rest periods.

They decided to evaluate the differences in hypertrophy, strength and hormonal response between these two methods.

The study lasted 10 weeks and 12 men were selected, with an average age of 25 years and with no training experience.

They were separated into two groups, one with a rest period between sets of 1 minute and the other of 2.5 minutes.

At the end of the first week, the group that rested for just one minute, had an increase in testosterone and cortisol after superior training compared to the group that rested 2.5 minutes.

However, at the end of the study, that difference disappeared, and the hormonal response was similar between groups, as was the strength gain.

The difference between the two groups in the end was just one.

The group that rested the longest between sets, gained more muscle mass.

2 minutes vs 5 minutes

In a 6-month study, they decided to compare the results between 2-minute rest periods and 5-minute rest periods between sets.

For this, they selected 13 men with training experience and analyzed whether any of these two methods could bring better results in terms of muscle mass, strength and even hormonal level.

For three months these men did their training plan with 2 minutes of rest, and for another three months they rested 5 minutes.

At the end of the study, the conclusion was simple.

There were no significant differences between the two methods, either at the level of muscle mass, strength or even differences at the hormonal level.

How long should I rest then?

According to the studies, using short pillows does not seem to have any benefit in terms of hypertrophy, and it was to this same conclusion that they arrived in 2014, when they decided to evaluate the available studies on the topic (1).

You should get enough rest so as not to affect your next set, that is, if you rest 1 minute it means that you will reduce the load by 20%, then you should rest longer.

There is no magic number, but for larger muscles and compound exercises, you should rest for at least 2.5 minutes.

For smaller muscles and isolation exercises, at least 1.5 minutes seems like a good starting point, but you may need more.

There are several factors that can affect the rest time between sets, such as the training experience or the diet, so you must adapt them in order to achieve the best results.

Another important factor to take into account is your time to train, and if resting for 3 minutes means less exercise, then obviously you should rest less time.

rest between sets

But what I want is to lose fat, now what?

If your goal is to lose fat, you should pay attention not to the rest time between sets but to your diet.

If to lose fat you choose to rest less time between sets, you will end up reducing the volume or intensity, and consequently, losing more muscle mass.

Use weight training to maintain lean mass, and diet and cardio training to lose fat.

In other words, the rest times are similar, whether you want to gain muscle mass or lose fat, and you can even help with a slightly higher rest in order to maintain the training volume.

Conclusion

The rest time between sets is important, and 10 minutes between each one will not help you at all, however, there are much more important factors.

You must find a balance, and just as resting too long can be harmful, resting too little.

In short, if you need three minutes to load the previous series, or increase, rest three minutes, not two.

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