How Much Rest Between Sets? The Studies & Science of Muscle Recovery

Is it better to take shorter or longer breaks between your sets if you’re trying to build muscle? what about the fat loss is it better to move between your sets faster pace or do you wanna take your time fully recover before moving on to your next set? Well, in this article we’ll be going over exactly how much rest between sets you should take to achieve the results that you’re after. Whether we are building muscle or burning fat and we’ll give you the ideal rest time to do it in an efficient way possible.

We’ll go over the pros & cons of each rest interval & we’ll back it all with scientific evidence that helps you to decide which is best for you & your goals. Even though you can technically set up the length of time of your interval between sets. We wanna compare a shorter interval which is anything between 60 seconds of rest to a moderate interval. Which could be anything between 1-2 minutes breaks between sets & finally compare all of that to a longer interval which could be anything between 3-5 minutes of rest.

60 Seconds Or lesser Rest between Sets

Let’s start by first taking a closer look at shorter intervals of 60 seconds or less. The biggest benefit that you’ll experience when taking shorter breaks is within the realms of endurance. When you’re near the end of your set, your muscle will begin to feel the onset of fatigue. That tiresome burning feeling in your muscle is caused primarily by the build-up of lactic acids & these lactic acids happen to be the major cause of fatigue, especially in activities that require endurance.

By training with higher reps with fewer breaks time your body becomes more efficient at clearing out lactic acids from the muscle by boosting your body hormonal & vascular systems.

20-60 Seconds Rest between Sets

The shorter interval of rest 20 to 60 seconds long will allow you to become more fatigue resistance for a longer length of time and it will yield the most beneficial improvements in your cardiovascular system and it’ll allow you to burn more calories during the workout than you were taking longer breaks due to constantly elevated heart rate.  However, the downside of these shorter rest times is that you won’t be fully recovered for your next set, Causing you to lift less than you would be able to lift if you took a longer break.

This is only because of lactic acid production but also due to your ATP and PC energy systems. ATP stands for Adenosine Triphosphate & PC stands for phosphocreatine just makes things super simple for you where you have to know that these energy systems provide immediate energy and they’re largely responsible for providing energy during the first 20-30 seconds of almost any activity. a lot of your strength & power comes from these two energy systems.

According to the National Academy of sports & Medicine, After 20-30 seconds of rest time allow you to recover approximately 50% of your ATP & PC. Then 40 seconds you have recovered about 75% & at 60 Seconds you have recovered 85-90% and at 3 minutes you should be fully recovered approximately 100%.

Now If you have been a natural lifter trying to build muscle mass you should try to lift heavier weights whenever you can to help stimulate protein synthesis so you could ultimately build more muscle. Some experts say that you should aim for breaks that are under 60 sec long to build more muscle. This is due to a 2009 meta-analysis of a couple of studies that show that greater growth hormone was released from a shorter rest time of 30-60 seconds.

However, later studies are of which was conducted in 2015 showed that are longer rest time of 3 minutes led to more strength & size gains than 1 minute. Regardless of conflicting results many experts still recommend a shorter rest time for building muscle and they want you to aim for about a 1:1 rest work ratio for hypertrophy. So that would mean that if you spend 45 seconds doing your set you would take 45 seconds of rest before doing the next set.

1-2 Minutes of Rest

Since muscular strength is tight so closely to muscular growth for natural lifters longer rest of interval 1-2 minutes between sets may be much better for muscle growth. The slightly longer rest time will allow for sets that are higher intensity without allowing muscles that are being targeted to fully recover which can lead to greater muscle motor unit recruitment and greater pump. This means that taking a 1-2 minute break could be beneficial for building more muscle while still getting some benefits area of endurance.

2-3 Minutes

Now, what if we select that a bit less than 3 minutes, let’s say 2-3 minutes break?
With this kind of interval will be losing our endurance benefits that show rest time under 2 minutes will provide but we will get a little more of a mix of hypertrophy benefits with strength training benefits.

3-5 Minutes Rest between Sets

Now let’s take a much longer break time somewhere between 3-5 minutes.
A longer break time allows full recovery allowing you to produce the greatest muscular force for each set. This leads to the greatest absolute strength and power gains from your training session. Research also shows that when this longer rest interval is combined with heavy weight loads, it appears to produce greater testosterone levels, especially with exercise incorporating larger muscle groups such as squats & deadlifts.


Having a natural testosterone level by lifting heavier weights loads can help you build more muscle. But the main benefits of this rest interval when coupled with higher weights and fewer reps lie in the area of strength & power.

To sum all this up we can say that a rest interval under 60 sec is great for increasing endurance and burning more calories during your workout. Resting for 1-2 minutes is ideal for building more muscle as well as getting some endurance benefits. 2-3 minutes is ideal for building more muscle and strength. 3-5 minutes is ideal for pure strength and power purposes.

Which One Should You Pick?

So you should just pick the rest time that maximizes your goal well. Let me explain.

By spending time working within the shorter rest intervals of less than 60-sec break you’ll improve the speed at which your body can officially clear out lactic acid. This can help you to squeeze in a couple of extra reps when you work within an interval of 1-2 minutes or 2-3 minutes or maybe it will even help you to squeeze out 1 extra rep 3-5 minutes break with a heavyweight.

The Benefits of adapting to a shorter rest time transfer over to all the other intervals. You can see the same things in the reverse. If you were to spend time working with 3-5 minutes rest intervals and you were to increase your overall strength power that would mean your body will adapt to lifting a heavier weight load. This increase in muscular strength would transfer over and allow you to lift a heavier weight load all the other rest time as well.

Since the unique benefits of each of the rest intervals will transfer over to the other intervals, it is optimal to switch off your rest intervals just like you switch off your reps ranges with periodization. You can spend 4 weeks taking a shorter break with a lighter weight and working in a higher rep range of 12-20 reps. Then for the next week take moderate breaks with moderate weight loads and a moderate rep range of 6-12 reps. And then 4 weeks longer breaks and low reps range of 3-4 reps. Mixing it all can help you progressively overload your muscles while hitting fewer plateaus over time.

If you don’t want to mix it up the rest time that produces the most muscle growth you should at least make sure that your breaks are greater than 1 min long. Because there was another meta-analysis done in 2017 that compares 6 different studies and conclude that rest time of over 60 seconds produces slightly higher muscle gain because it allows you to lift a higher total volume per workout. This is why between all the rest time.

If my goal is muscle growth and I had to choose one, I’ll go with the 1-2 minute break ideal break time of maximal muscle growth.
Now the last that we should mention is that according to research multi-joint compound exercise using larger muscle reps like the back & legs, tends to produce greater results when you take a longer break around 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, with isolation exercises that target muscles like the biceps triceps, and shoulders shorter breaks lasting 45-90 seconds maybe more ideal for growth.


So to give you the bottom line and simplify everything I just talked about above, the ideal rest time for muscle growth is 1-3 minutes with more break time given big compounds like squats and deadlifts and less break for isolation exercises like biceps curls & tricep extension. With that in mind, you also want to incorporate periods of shorter rest time to increase your lactate threshold & incorporate periods of longer rest time to increase your strength in power the benefits your get from each of these will transfer across. So that pretty much sums it up for muscle growth

If your goal is to burn simply burn the most amount of calories from your workout, stick to circuit training in which you take shorter breaks no longer than 60 sec and for maximal strength, you wanna aim for closure for 5 min breaks. Well, keep in mind that taking a break longer than 7 minutes will lead to muscle cool down less neuromuscular efficiency, and an obvious increase in the risk of injury.
That’s it from my research. I know I have given a lot of information but I hope you find this article helpful. if you still have any doubts regarding the same, please comment below we will try to solve your query soon. Thanks for reading.

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