How Long To Rest Between Sets To Build Muscle

Handsome young man resting after workout in gym

The first thing that comes to mind after hearing the word ‘bodybuilding’ is lifting heavy weights and every part of the body bearing them to increase muscle mass. However, what most of the people neglect or ignore is the aspect of resting peroids between lifting, which is equally beneficial and crucial.

Professional bodybuilders know the importance to rest time between the sets as well as the exercises. The lines below give the importance of rest in bodybuilding along with how much it must be.


Resting Periods:

After an intense exercise, the muscles require time to recuperate. Therefore, the resting period is very crucial  if you want to keep the same intensity throughout your entire workout. The resting period is of the same importance as lifting of weights. The guide lines below discuss the ways in which you can evaluate the resting period between  sets.

Standard Rule:

The standard rule pertaining to resting period between sets is that whenever a repetition reaches 1-RM the resting period between the sets must also increase. In other words, as your strength gain increase, more time shall you give to the muscles to help them recuperate. This phenomenon is also referred to as relative training intensity. Therefore, the more weight you lift the less repetitions will you need to perform, as a result higher time will be required for the muscles to recuperate.


Understanding The Needs Of Your Body:

Besides the general rule, one needs to understand the nature and requirements of the body as well to find out the right time required by the muscles to recuperate. If the standard rule for recovery time be kept in mind, then the following resting period is advised as per the requirements of the body:

  • ATP (Adenosine triphosphate), which are the primary energy source of the body requiring 3-5 minutes to recover. As ATP is primarily used in performing short and intense exercises, therefore requiring this much time to rest.
  • Carbohydrates are the secondary source of energy to the body as they require up to 8 minutes recovering. Carbohydrates are primarily used in the long but light intensity exercises therefore; after a long set you need a bit longer time for the carbohydrates to recover.

Another reason why you should give proper rest to your muscles after high intensity exercises is because hydrogen ion and lactic acid are accumulated during high intensity exercise. This intensity then disrupts minerals, necessary protein and phosphate ions as a result of which the intracellular pH level falls. Therefore, to avoid the resulting fatigue, you need to give time to your muscles to recover.


Sets and Resting Period:

The evaluation of resting period is also dependent upon the sets performed of any particular exercise. For instance:

  • When lifting heavy weights with 3 to 6 repetitions the resting period must be at least 3 to 6 minutes between every set.

Similarly, when you are training heavy the number of sets must stay between 6 to 10 reps. For example, if you are lifting heavy weights on the chest, then the sets performed must be between 6 to 10 and the number of reps each set must stay between 3 to 6 and the resting period between the sets must also be 3-6 minutes.

On the other hand, if you are working out for definition, then you needs to lift lighter weights with more reps. In this regard, the resting period between the sets must be from 1 to 4 minutes and the number of sets performed may range from 10-14.


Bottom Line:

A professional body builder needs to consider the importance of rest period. The duration of the rest period depends upon the body requirements and the kind of intensity and type of exercise performed.