Training

How Long Between Sets Should I Rest For Hypertrophy, Strength & Fat Loss?

How Long Between Sets Should I Rest For Hypertrophy, Strength & Fat Loss?

One of the most under talked about topics within the fitness realm is the idea of rest timing in between sets and exercises. Many will just get done with their set, get on their phone and all of a sudden it’s five minutes later before they do their next set. Equally bad is visiting with others in the gym – tell your buddies you’ll talk later and that the gym is for lifting, not chatting!

Start tracking your rest time in between sets and reap the benefits of either upping your hypertrophy, smoking more fat or building up some serious strength.


Rest Time for Hypertrophy

Hypertrophy sets or more commonly known as the “sweet spot for building muscle” are usually performed with reps in the 8-12 range to ultimately build the most muscle possible. This wear and tear of the muscle breaks it down just enough and hits the correct fibers to allow you to rebuild them with maximum hypertrophy in mind. But your rest time needs to mimic the reps you are performing or you’re just spinning your wheels.

rest between sets

Rest time for hypertrophy is ultimately right around 45-75 seconds, resting less when the reps are up around the 12 range and resting more when they are lower in the just barely 8 range. This allows the body ample time to recover but not fully recover to keep the blood flowing and the breakdown of the muscle to be consistent. During this rest time, do not be checking your phone but grab a sip of water, write in your weight journal and stretch out a bit before heading into the next set for maximum results.


Rest Time for Fat Loss

A different kind of monster than building muscle is fat loss rest time. You can burn insane amounts of fat without ever setting foot on the treadmill before or after your workouts. A typical set’s rep range for fat loss is usually just slightly more than for hypertrophy, so right around 12-18 reps. Couple this rep range with a rest time that’s either very short (10-30 seconds) or use this 30 seconds or so to get your heart rate up. Things like high knees in place, step ups and lunges in between sets are great ways to shred fat and keep your heart rate up while still building some lean muscle.

rest between sets

To ensure a leg pump, try super-setting squats with leg extensions and for 20 seconds afterwards head directly into body weight squats as fast as you can perform them – crazy stupid pump!


Rest Time for Building Strength

Different yet again, your rest time for the goal of building up some serious strength should be greatly increased from the previous two methods. During a strength set the ultimate goal is not necessarily to tear down the muscle and build size but rather lift as much weight, with good form, as many times as possible. A typical strength set’s reps fall in the range anywhere from 1-6 and rest time should mimic this – the lower the reps, the heavier the weight, and the more energy exerted so more rest needed, and vice versa.

rest between sets

If you’re going for a strength set on the bench press of 5 x 3, your rest time would probably need to be in the 120-150 second range in order to give yourself the best opportunity each set to lift at a maximum load. Don’t use this extended period to run and chat with your friends or call your girlfriend. Instead, stretch and contract the muscle you’re working, re-hydrate, think about the next lift and get your mind right.


Take-Home Message

Depending on your ultimate goal, your rest time plays an important role in either building muscle, losing fat or building strength. Keep your mind right no matter the length of the rest time and always be thinking about the next set and how to improve, rather than dwelling on what you’ve done in the past.



Tyler Stark

Tyler Stark

Writer and expert


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