The amount of time you rest while you work out could play a role in your results and may even determine how many calories you burn. Let’s take a look at how to rest successfully to achieve your goals.
How long to rest between sets
So, how long should you rest between sets? The ultimate answer to this question is: rest as long as you need to. For most people, the length of your rest is only determined by the amount of time it takes you to recover from your last set.
There is no set ‘time’ you should rest, although it is okay to time yourself. The most important thing is to make sure you aren’t rushing it – especially in the beginning. If you are new to working out, don’t be discouraged if it takes you 5 minutes to feel like you are ready for the next set. I am a seasoned weight lifter, and after some time off I get out of shape too. Sometimes I will even take a little extra time between sets if I know I have a really hard set coming up.
There is no ‘maximum’ rest period
As I have already said, there is nothing wrong with taking your time. In fact, taking a 20 minute rest isn’t going to negatively impact your results at all; it may even help since you will recover plenty of energy. The only problem with taking 20 minute rests between sets would be that you would be working out all day long. So, to keep things practical, try to limit yourself on the 20 minutes rests.
In all seriousness, take as long as you need to get your next set in with good form, and an appropriate amount of reps (repetitions). If you don’t already have a program to follow, feel free to check out mine. It’s free.
Resting, Cardio, and Weight Loss
Shorten your resting periods for increased cardio endurance
If you are working toward building up your endurance or losing weight, just shorten your resting period. It will be different for everyone, but a general rule of thumb would be to rest for 1 minute between sets to keep your heart rate up.
Resting for between 30 seconds and 2 minutes will help you maintain a higher heart rate. Shorter resting periods may also burn more calories in a shorter period of time. So, shorter rest breaks may be good for weight loss.
Use a heart rate monitor
Another way you can determine how long to rest is to use a heart rate monitor. If I am lifting weights to build muscle, I usually wait until my heart rate is below 100 bpm (beats per minute) before I continue with my next set.
On the other hand, if I’m trying to build endurance with added cardio in my workout, I will usually try to keep my heart rate above 120. So, as soon as my heart rate starts to drop to somewhere between 120 and 125, I will start my next set.
A super set is when you go from one type of exercise (i.e. shoulder press) immediately into another (i.e. dumbbell curls). The purpose of this is to not only increase your endurance, but also to cause “muscle confusion”. Muscle confusion is a theory that making changes in the way you work out will cause added shock to the muscles; resulting in more growth.
I would not focus on jumping into super sets right away if you are new to working out unless you are training for some type of athletic event. I do incorporate super sets in my program, but not until after you have given yourself time to develop a good ‘muscle base’.
Recommended Rest Between Sets
For most people, in most cases, 2 minutes between sets is a good balance between recovery and not wasting time. Any longer than 2 minutes and the workout will seem like it drags on forever. If you are resting less than 2 minutes, you run the risk of not getting an effective workout in on your next set. If you are too tired to move on, your form might suffer and you could get injured.
I usually rest for 2 minutes between my sets. I have a smartwatch with a fitness tracker built in and it times me. It also keeps track of my heart rate and can even guess what type of workout I’m doing by the motion of my wrist. I use Google Fit, but there are also other good fitness apps out there. Apple Watch also has their own built-in fitness companion, and although I’ve never used it, I hear it is good.