infinite_labs, rest duration, strength training
infinite_labs, rest duration, strength training

What is the Optimal Rest Period Between Sets? 1, 3, or 5 Minutes?

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What is the Optimal Rest Period for Strength Training?

by: Robbie Durand
Strength training is any type of movement or exercise that causes an overload to your muscles and central nervous system causing an adaptation. According to scientific research, rest or recovery time between sets is a key element of success in any exercise program. Recovery is time dependent process that removes exercise induced fatigue. Fatigue caused by various activities is a multi-factorial process depends on intensity, duration, type of muscle contraction, procedures and the properties of the motor units involved in activity and other factors. It has often been said by many researchers and strength coaches that 2-5 minutes is the optimal rest period between sets for strength training. In sum, the higher the rep range/lower the intensity (light weight) , the less rest you need between sets of that exercise. Whereas the the lower the rep range/higher the intensity(heavier weight), the more rest you need between sets of that exercise.When you’re training to improve strength, you’re going to be lifting heavier weights and your sets will feature six or fewer repetitions. Rest period


These definitions come straight from this article on Wikipedia:

ATP-PC System (Phosphogen System) – This system is used only for very short durations of up to 10 seconds. The ATP-PC system neither uses oxygen nor produces lactic acid and is thus said to be alactic anaerobic. This is the primary system behind very short, powerful movements like a golf swing or a 100m sprint. Translation: Best for short bursts of intense lifts, like in power lifting or strength training.


Anaerobic System (Lactic Acid System) – Predominates in supplying energy for exercises lasting less than 2 min. Also known as the Gylcolytic System. An example of an activity of the intensity and duration that this system works under would be a 400m sprint. This is what you’ll partially use for bodybuilding and creating muscle mass, size.

Aerobic System – This is the long duration energy system. By 5 min of exercise the O2 system is clearly the dominant system. In a 1km run, this system is already providing approximately half the energy; in a marathon run it provides 98% or more. You use this when doing aerobic activity, so this system doesn’t really apply to our discussion here.

Muscular Man Lifting Barbells, What is the Optimal Rest Period for Strength Training?So whats the optimal time to rest between sets if your looking to increases strength? Researchers from the Islamic Azad University in Teheran, Iran. examined optimal rest periods for strength training. They tested the effects of inter-set rest-periods (90 seconds, 150 seconds, 240 seconds) in physically active male students.The subjects performed identical workout routines consisting of six exercises, i.e. 3x upper body movements such as the bench press, biceps and front shoulder and 3x lower body movements leg extensions, leg presses, back leg presses. All exercises were performed for 4 sets of 10 repetitions (at 70% of the 1RM max, w/ 5% increases every week) three times per week over the 8 weeks study period. The subjects were required to adhere to at least 48 hours of rest between the workouts and 4-6 minutes between exercises. The only difference between the workouts was thus the inter-set recovery time which was either 90 seconds, 150 seconds, or 240 seconds. The results of this study showed that there is no significant difference of different rest intervals between periods of exercise (90 seconds, 150 seconds and 240 seconds) on the ability to replicate in the upper and lower extremities. In conclusion, if the improve of muscular strength be the main goal, when the workload is sub maximal and the muscular endurance be the goal, the best time for rest and recovery can be suggested 90 to 150 seconds.

As seen in this graph from SuppVersity, 150 seconds seemed to be the optimal time to rest between sets for strength, but the there was no statistical difference between the groups.

Rostameyan, Ali Reza, Jamalodin Alvani, and Bahman Tarverdi Zade. “Comparison of different rest intervals between resistance training sets on motor and physical variables and body composition in active men.” (2015).

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