By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 8 November 2016)
A number of studies have tackled this question, and the findings indicate that ideal rest times vary based on your training goals:
- Athiainen et al. (2005), study: Resting for 2 or 5 minutes between sets made no difference in results for advanced strength trainers.
- Willardson & Burkett (2006), study: 3-minute rests allowed strength trainers to complete more repetitions than 2-minute rests, which may support more significant strength gains.
- Willardson (2006), research review: At least 3 minutes of rest between sets is ideal when trying to build muscle power; shorter rest intervals (30-60) seconds should be used when the goal is hypertrophy (size); and 30-second rests are more effective for those seeking to build muscular endurance by lifting lighter weights with more repetitions.
- Willardson & Burkett (2008), study: Advanced strength trainers had no significant differences in strength gains with 2-minute and 4-minute rests between barbell squat sets.
- De Salles et al. (2009), research review: Rests of 3-5 minutes between sets are more effective for those using a high weight/low-repetition/multiple-set strategy to build strength fast. For those who care more about hypertrophy than power, rests of 30-60 seconds are ideal, and for muscle endurance, shorter rest intervals of 20-60 seconds are best.
Overall, the data support the following recommendations, based on your strength training goals:
- Power: Rest for approximately 2-3 minutes between sets if you want to build muscle strength.
- Size: Rest for approximately 30-60 seconds between sets if your goal is hypertrophy.
- Endurance: Rest for approximately 30 seconds between sets if your goal is muscular endurance.
- American College of Sports Medicine. (2013). Resistance Training for Health and Fitness [PDF]. ACSM.org.
- Ahtiainen, J. P., Pakarinen, A., Alen, M., Kraemer, W. J., & Häkkinen, K. (2005). Short vs. long rest period between the sets in hypertrophic resistance training: influence on muscle strength, size, and hormonal adaptations in trained men. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 19(3), 572-582.
- de Salles, B. F., Simao, R., Miranda, F., da Silva Novaes, J., Lemos, A., & Willardson, J. M. (2009). Rest interval between sets in strength training. Sports Medicine, 39(9), 765-777.
- Willardson, J. M. (2006). A brief review: factors affecting the length of the rest interval between resistance exercise sets. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 20(4), 978-984.
- Willardson, J. M., & Burkett, L. N. (2006). The effect of rest interval length on bench press performance with heavy vs. light loads. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 20(2), 396-399.
- Willardson, J. M., & Burkett, L. N. (2008). The effect of different rest intervals between sets on volume components and strength gains. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 22(1), 146-152.