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When it comes to rest periods between sets/exercises it really does depend on your overall goal or even what the desired outcome/result of the session at hand is.

If you're training for pure strength, wanting to increase overall muscle mass/aesthetics or if stamina/endurance is the goal then your rest between sets will look quite different for each of these goals.

Read up on how much rest to take, why we take it and why it can benefit your results over a sustained period of time.


For the best results when it comes to this type of training, the ideal rest period is anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes. Somewhere in the region of 90 seconds works great.

This typical type of training which is usually in the rep region of 6-12, utilising moderate and heavy weight combinations uses predominantly an energy system that uses carbohydrates from the food you eat as its energy source.

Alongside of course the right diet this type of training due to the short rest periods assists your body in growing muscle mass. Making them stronger and ultimately bigger.

The way this works (a little bit of science for you), is all down to anabolic hormones. Think of these hormones as the body's way of helping your muscle grow to better assist you the next time you put it through similar rigorous training. After your session, your body releases an additional amount and when your rest periods are shorter you release an elevated amount of anabolic hormones than when your rest is longer, due to the mechanical and metabolic stress placed on the muscles.

It has also been shown that when your rest periods are on the shorter side, you have an increased lactate production as well as an elevated amount of blood flow to the muscle and surrounding muscles that you are working. Better blood flow means better nutrient and oxygen flow to the working muscles too!

Example exercises (Can be any movement in a rep range of 6-12, a normal working set or superset, so combining 2-3 exercises together with minimal rest and resting after your last exercise in the set):

Dumbbell Chest Press

Single Arm Dumbbell Row

Seated Shoulder Press

Tricep Pushdown


When pure strength is the goal, it's best to take considerable rest between sets, somewhere in the region of 3 to 5 minutes. Choosing somewhere between these numbers, based on how you feel and the level at which you're training. Let’s say for example you are going for a new personal best, the upper region of 5 minutes is likely the best option to give you maximum time for recovery between sets, without cooling down too much. (It's always advised to stay fairly mobile when resting for so long to avoid this cooling off of your muscles)

This type of weight training is carried out with sets consisting of 1-6 reps, this uses a completely different energy system that utilises energy in short quick bursts.

The energy system predominantly used in strength training is the ATP-PC system (Adenosine Triphosphate-Phosphocreatine). In short terms, ATP-PC system uses ATP for energy as well as creatine phosphate to produce energy very quickly without the need for oxygen. Think short bursts of power.

However, it's important to note that the reserves of ATP are considerably small, around 15 or so seconds worth in total. Whilst it takes around 3 minutes to replenish. So, you can see then how this energy system is utilised for low reps, heavy weight and longer rest periods.

There are various studies that have tested the 'strength and rest' theory and it's been proven that if you lift heavy for lower reps and rest for 3-5 minutes, you will improve overall strength across your compound movements and make the better strength gains compared to lower rest periods. It's important to note though, that should you rest LONGER than 5 minutes you COULD risk injury as your body/muscles starts to cool down… you really don’t want that when you are putting your body under maximal loads!

Example exercises (Compound Movements usually carried out as normal working sets, so one exercise focus at a time):

‘The Big 3’

Bench Press




For this type of training, you would ideally keep your rest periods low, in turn keeping the intensity relatively high. The best rest period here is between 45 seconds and 2 minutes. Choosing the most relevant rest suited to your goal and ability.

When it comes to endurance training within a weight training environment, the rep range is high. Anywhere from 15 – 20 reps utilising lighter to moderate weight compared to the other 2 training methods mentioned above.

Unlike the other energy systems, endurance training utilises energy via our aerobic metabolism. Quite literally meaning that your body burns carbohydrates and fats whilst in the presence of oxygen. A good method and rep range to include in training if for example weight loss is the overall goal!

Ultimately with this type of training, you are actually training your body to better deal with fatigue. You know when you train, you’re on your last couple of reps and you feel that build up of lactic acid? So unbearable it quite literally ensures that you cannot get another rep? Well, the theory is, the more you train in this rep range, the more resistant your body becomes.

So in simple terms, your body becomes more efficient at clearing the lactic acid build up from your body. How this works is due to the positive boost it gives to your body's hormonal and vascular systems.

Example exercises (Any movement in a rep range of 15-20, usually carried out as a superset or circuit for maximum intensity, resting only after all exercises in the superset/circuit are complete):

Cable Crossover

Kettlebell Swing

Lat Pulldown


Hopefully all of this information is useful for your training! It should help you to focus on one goal at a time and therefore one rep range, so utilising one of the methods above and giving it some serious effort! Then once foundations are established/goals are reached. New limits can be attained by appropriately combining these methods and keeping your training sustainable, exciting and progressive for months and years to come!

Coach Dyl


Don't forget if you'd like to learn more about training or you want to workout more effectively you can book your first Personal Training session absolutely free of charge! We'll discuss your goals and the best ways for you to reach them with an individual and bespoke programme.


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