Rest Periods Between Sets

Rest periods between setsRest periods between sets can play an important role in promoting muscle growth. If you are like most guys in a gym, you stick to one particular rest duration between sets or even worse – your rest time in-between lifting weights is quite random (depends on how long your conversations with a gym buddy lasts). However, if you use a cycle of different and consistant rest time, you can spark new growth in your muscles. There are two basic ways to change your training tempo. You can take powerlifting approach with longer rest periods between sets or you can use a beloved method of most bodybuilders with shorter rest periods. Interestingly, both produce muscle gains.

Maximal recovery between sets with powerlifting style rest periods

One approach is to lengthen your rest periods. Powerlifters are the example here, and they take anywhere from two to five minutes between sets to get their rest in. They want to maximize creatine recovery in muscles which allows heavier weights to be lifted. Heavier working weights do more muscle damage per repetition and trigger more intensive natural testosterone production. Also, it stimulates extremely well your central nervous system making you stronger. So you too would use two to five minutes as your target rest range between sets.

Minimal recovery between sets with bodybuilding style rest periods

The other approach is to minimize your recovery time. By using shorter rest periods between sets you engage lactic acid energy system, which raises natural growth hormone levels in the body. Also, you still get muscle damage. Although, protein degradation per repetition is smaller in comparison to longer rest and heavier working weights. Natural testosterone stimulation via shorter rest periods is also less significant. However, this will get you through your workouts a lot faster which allows you to increase the overall training volume. For this style of training you take only 60-90 seconds to rest between each set.

Rest periods between sets should not be permanent

Both styles – increasing and decreasing the rest period – result in the stimulation of new muscle growth. However, you don’t want to stay with either of them forever. If you stay too long on the minimal rest workouts, the gains can cease and you may even start to lose ground in terms of your strength. If you stick around for too long with maximal rest periods between sets, then you may start lacking isolation exercises in your routines. After all, longer rest times make your total training volume shrink. Use the shorter or longer rest periods cyclically, and go with a 6-8 week cycle, then revert back to your former training rest tempo. Also, you can systematically mix different rest periods between sets on the same training cycle. The conclusion is that you should not be stagnant. Keep your body guessing, make it adopt to different effects from your weight training.


Paul Becker is a natural (steroid free for life) bodybuilder and fitness consultant. Visit his website at