Muscle science shows your rest time between sets depends on your goal.
Is your goal to burn fat, build muscle, or increase strength?*
Knowing your goal dictates the length of time you should rest between sets. Here’s a breakdown based on science with pros and cons.
Goal 1: Burn Fat
The ideal rest time between sets of more than 12 reps is 30 seconds. With limited rest times, your heart rate remains elevated, which supports calorie and fat burning achievement.
Pro: A limited rest between sets burns more total calories and net fat calories than a workout with longer rests between sets.
Con: The short rest periods can compromise exercise technique, decrease focus, and increase risk for injury.
Goal 2: Build Muscle
Ideal rest time between sets of 8 to 10 reps is about 1 to 2 minutes. This rest time allows ATP, the energy currency of the cell, to replenish about 90%. A 90% replenishment of ATP supports a high intensity lift of heavier weight to build muscle.
Pro: A 1-2 minute rest allows exhausted muscle groups to recover so that you can perform high levels of strength training.
Con: After resting 1-2 minutes, the psychological momentum can subside as your body cools down, making it feel as though you’re starting over rather than continuing to build muscle.
Goal 3: Increase Strength
Ideal rest time between sets of 3 to 5 reps is about 2 to 5 minutes. This rest time allows ATP, the energy currency of the cell, to full replenish, which is needed to lift near maximum weight.
Pro: A 2-5 minute rest between sets helps you build strength as you go ‘all out’ every lift of 3-5 reps. This type of training recruits more muscle fibers than the previous two.
Con: Increasing strength with 3-5 reps workouts is highly intensive. Proper form is essential for long term care of the body.
In closing, for those of you that want all these effects, as long as you stay true to the principles and routinely apply them, you can build a hybrid program to reach your goals.