How Long Should You Rest Between Exercises and Sets?

17 Feb

Rest-period[1]Rest periods, between exercises and sets, can vary depending on the sport or exercise.  As a general rule, when strength or speed training, your rest intervals should be proportional to the intensity of your workout.  The purpose of rest periods is to ensure adequate recovery in order to perform subsequent exercises with maximal effort and proper technique.

Strength Training

Depending on your primary resistance training goal/strategy (and commensurate intensity level), below are recommended rest intervals:

  • Strength & Power: Heavy weight (75% – 90% loads, relative to % 1RM) and low repetitions (4-6 range) warrant longer rest intervals, 2-5 minutes.
  • Hypertrophy (size): Moderate-to-heavy weight (67% – 85% loads) and low-to-medium reps (6-12 range) = 30 seconds – 1.5 minutes rest intervals.
  • Endurance: Moderate weight (loads of 67% and less) and high reps (12+) = rest intervals of less than 30 seconds.

Speed Training

Since the goal of speed training requires exercises and drills to be performed at maximum speed — and with proper technique — you must avoid excessive fatigue.  Sprinting when you’re tired results in poor running mechanics and slower speeds.

  • Recover fully between sprints (30 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on distance).
  • Don’t overdo it; 3-10 sprints, with full recovery, are adequate.
  • Sprints should be done toward beginning of workout when energy level is highest.

Growth Hormone and Testosterone

The length of your rest intervals can also influence production of growth hormone and testosterone, according to Rahimi, et. al., in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.  “… short rest intervals (60-second) elevated greater increase in growth hormone (GH) compared with 120-second rest,” while “… testosterone (TS) response was greater in the resistance exercise protocol with a 120-second rest interval between sets.”

At Athletic Performance Training Center, we utilize agonist-antagonist paired sets (APS), alternating “push and pull” exercises for opposing muscle groups (for example, the bench press and row), primarily for the purpose of increasing efficiency by reducing training time.  Basically, one muscle group’s “work” exercise is the opposing muscle group’s “rest.”  “The use of APS training is an efficacious and time-effective method for developing strength and power…” (Robbins, et al.; Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research).


Your thoughts?


One Response to “How Long Should You Rest Between Exercises and Sets?”


  1. How Long Should Your Workout Take? | Athletic Performance Training Center - December 28, 2016

    […] Please see related articles, The Fallacy of Workout Duration, and How Long Should You Rest Between Exercises and Sets […]

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