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Wendy Shafranski


March 5, 2024

Rest Between Sets

In strength training, the magic happens during your rest period, yet we see way too many people finishing one set, then proceeding to the next with little to no rest. If this is you, I encourage you to read on.

Often, this is because someone is used to high-intensity classes that use lighter weights, but in order to gain strength (and muscle) and to be able to hit the sets/reps with the same intensity, you must rest!

Research has indicated that the rest interval between sets is an important variable that affects both acute responses and chronic adaptations to resistance exercise programs.

For those of you who want scientific proof, consider this study:

For those who want the Cliff Notes version, here’s an important abstract:

In terms of acute responses, a key finding was that when training with loads between 50% and 90% of one repetition maximum, 3-5 minutes' rest between sets allowed for greater repetitions over multiple sets. Furthermore, in terms of chronic adaptations, resting 3-5 minutes between sets produced greater increases in absolute strength, due to higher intensities and volumes of training. Similarly, higher levels of muscular power were demonstrated over multiple sets with 3 or 5 minutes versus 1 minute of rest between sets.

Simply put, you want your muscles to recover as fully as possible so they can generate maximum force during each set.

To help you understand this better, I’ve created this handy-dandy little chart that explains how recovered you are at certain timeframes.

And here are some pointers for those who are immediately ready to get back to lifting with minimal to no rest:

  • If you feel that you don’t need rest, you probably aren’t challenging yourself by going heavy enough. Take warm-up sets to feel the weight out and use weights that feel heavy. If you WANT to rest,  you’re doing it right.
  • The heavier you go, the more rest you need.
  • The fewer number of reps, the longer the rest.

So, maximize your training session and build that muscle! Challenge yourself with the weight being lifted and REST!

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