Brandon Carter | Start Here

How Long Should You Rest Between Sets?

One of the questions I get a lot is how long I rest between sets? I don’t really believe there is an optimum rest time; it’s about training to ABSOLUTE failure. As long you do that each and every set, then the rest period is more a secondary factor. Personally, I like to keep my rests short, usually no more than one minute and even as short as 10 seconds in some instances.

Keep It Brief

In the past, I have rested as long as three minutes. I’ve heard of others who would rest as long as five minutes. To me, that is way too long and unnecessarily extends the time in the gym. I also know of people who don’t time their rest at all and would lose track of time between sets in order to socialize.

I firmly believe you should time your sets and keep the resting period brief. Recently, my rests have been 60 seconds; this allows me just enough time to load or unload plates if using free weights.

Keep in mind that resting time may also vary depending on the type of exercise. When it comes to ab exercises, for example, I like to keep it as short as possible, usually 10 to 30 seconds. If I’m doing decline sit-ups with a plate in hand, then I can easily swap out plates with a lighter one on the side without even getting off the bench, and it only takes about five seconds or so.

On the other hand, when it comes to bench presses or squats on a squat rack, then I might allow a longer rest period of 90 seconds or even two minutes. Changing out the plates on both ends of the barbell, after all, does take a little more time.

You can read this report on the scientifically verified benefits of short rest intervals.

Workouts should also be no more than an hour at the most, and preferably under 45 minutes. Studies show that testosterone levels decline after the one hour mark during intense physical activity. If your workout includes multiple exercises, each with multiple sets, then prolonged resting periods may cause the workout to go over that mark.

Use Your Resting Time to Improve Performance

If you perform any type of strength training, then you know you have to make improvements in the strength and endurance department in order to see gains. Most of the time, this is achieved either through increasing the weight or increasing the reps. Another way, though, is to shorten the rest period. In other words, if you normally rest one minutes between sets, then shorten it to 50 seconds and go from there. If you’re able to perform the same repetitions using the same amount of weight under a shorter resting period, then that is as much of a strength increase as being able to use more weights or whipping out an extra rep or two.

Time Your Rest

Short resting periods between sets give you less time to catch your breath or for your muscles to recover from the lactic buildup. It also means having to use lighter weights for subsequent sets. However, as long you train to failure every time, then you will continue to see muscle gains and fat loss. Plus, it will also keep training sessions well below the one hour mark.

Check out my program The Simple Shredded Solution.