By continuing use this site, you agree to the Terms & Conditions and our use of cookies.
Rest times between sets in weight training

Rest times between sets in weight training


As I often point out, there's a lot more to bodybuilding than pushing iron in sets. In fact, other parameters need to be taken into account to optimize body and muscle progression. Of course, there's diet and nutrition or rest outside the gym. But one factor is often overlooked: rest time between sets to relieve muscle groups.

What exactly is rest time between sets?

Recovery time between sets and exercises is a parameter that is often taken into account in a haphazard way. It may depend on how out of breath the body is, or on the form of the day. But it is rarely planned in relation to the objective of the training session. And yet it's important. Let's find out why.

Why are rest periods important in bodybuilding between sessions, exercises and sets? To function, the muscle uses glycogen, which comes from the breakdown of glucose and is stored in the latter. But it also uses adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is produced by the chemical reaction of adenosine diphosphate and creatine phosphate within the muscle. This ATP enables muscle contraction.

the additional intake of creatine, in addition to diet and good nutrition, enables creatine to be stored in the muscle, allowing the muscles to recharge. The aim is to support more intense training and exercise.

This chemical reaction enables muscles to contract. But for the muscle to be able to contract again "at full power", it must have time after a set to regenerate its stock of ATP. And that's where we're going to talk about different recovery or rest times, depending on the focus of the session.

Defining the best rest times according to your objective

When the bodybuilding session is geared towards exercises and strength work, the sets will be very short and very heavy (2 to 5 repetitions with loads and weights up to 110% of your max). An intensity-based method.

The energy pathway used is mainly anaerobic alactic: no production of lactic acid (muscle waste), but high use of ATP for very powerful contractions and high demand on nerve impulses. In order to recover fully from the series and recharge both nerves and ATP, recovery and rest time should be of the order of 3 to 5 minutes.

When the muscle-building series focuses on exercises aimed at muscular hypertrophy, the aim of the training will be to stimulate the muscles to the maximum, with sets of 8 to 15 repetitions. These sets will use the anaerobic lactic pathway, producing lactic acid in the effort-limiting muscle. To evacuate this lactic acid and restore the muscle's capacity to work, you'll need less time than for strength training.

The rest time for this type of training will be around 1 minute 30 seconds. As soon as you're in a dry period or looking for muscular endurance work to deepen the details, the series of exercises will be longer (more minutes and repetitions) and the weights will be lower. The aim is to work the muscle on the aerobic energy pathway; lactic acid production is present, but we're aiming to push the effort as far as possible. As a result, recovery and rest time will be much reduced. In this type of work and training, recovery time will be of the order of one minute to 30 seconds.

Coach's tip for improving recovery during rest periods

However, to increase the intensity of a muscle-building session, in order to work a muscle group against a background of fatigue (a good method for building muscle mass) and push it to its limits, we'll reduce the usual recovery time between each exercise and series. As the aim is to stimulate the fibers as much as possible, it's not uncommon to reduce the rest time from 1 minute 30 seconds to 1 minute, or even 45 seconds, in a session focused on muscle hypertrophy.

In this type of session, muscle ATP reserves are not fully replenished, and muscle fibres are highly stimulated. This type of muscle-building session can be interesting for working on a weak point, for example.

To sum up, rest times often vary according to the orientation of the session and therefore its objective. It would be counter-productive to work on strength with very short rest periods, as the muscle would not have the time to recover fully to develop maximum strength for the next series. In the same way, working on muscular endurance with "long" rest times would not enable you to achieve the desired objective after and during training. So adapting your rest times to suit your bodybuilding sessions and their sets will optimize the work done.

Author Alexandre CARPENTIER

Bodybuilding Champion N.A.C 2012

Alexandre shares his bodybuilding experience with MegaGear blog readers