How Long to Rest Between Sets to Build Muscle?

The other day at the gym I was talking to a dude and our topic was how long you should rest between sets when you train.

As always (and this is the type of answer that I hate) depends!

Rest between setsI am sure you hate it too when you ask a question and they say "it depends".

Come on, depends on what, just give me an example, right?

Sure thing,

It Depends on Whether You want to Build Mass or Tone

I see all kinds of people when I work out, from those that stay at the gym for 2 hours and take 10 minutes rest between set and exercises, and those that do a set, then stretch a little bit and are back pumping.

Both of them, for me, are no go.

Want to Build Muscle?

If your purpose is to build muscle and grow, then you should rest from 2 to 4 minutes between sets. I usually rest 2 or 3 minutes and that works good for me.

If you are trying to build mass you need to do exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench press, pull ups etc., which are compound exercises.

Exercises like those require more time to recuperate your energies between sets.

If you don't take enough rest betweens sets of squats or deadlifts you are going to fail!

If you rest 1 minute only you probably can't perform enough reps on your next set, maybe you can do only 2 or 3 reps, or maybe you even have to drop weight.

If you do that you don't build muscle, clearly.

Take at least 2 or 3 minutes between sets of hard exercises, make it a habit if you want to start seeing good results.

This won't allow you to have too many exercises in your workout program because you also need to limit the time you spend at the gym. See the What’s the Ideal Workout Duration? article to learn why you should keep your training short).

Want to Lose Fat and Tone?

Then I recommend 2 minutes rest between sets, max.

Usually 1 minute or 90 seconds will be enough because you want to burn more calories when you do your exercises.

Rest Between Sets and Exercises?

The same principle applies to rest between exercises. You should rest the same time that you rest between sets, because the next exercise will start with a set that will just make you perform a different movement.


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