If you want to be successful in the gym, you need to master the basics. Such as figuring out how much rest between sets. This seems like a question that should have a simple answer. But it is a little more complex than it might first appear. You’ll need to factor in the type of exercise you want to complete. And consider what your goals are. For example, if you want to improve your endurance, you’ll need a short recovery time. Want to grow your strength? Give your muscles a longer break.

This sounds confusing. But it doesn’t have to be. It all depends on understanding how your body is reacting to the workout. Let’s look at some ways to calculate how much rest between sets.

Why Is Muscle Recovery Important?

Let’s start with the basics. Resting between sets is critical. Allowing your muscles to get rid of the waste products you’ve built up during the set. If you don’t rest, there is a greater chance of being injured. But it isn’t just about protecting yourself from harm. Studies have looked at how people perform based on the amount of rest they get. Those who took the time to rest between sets had significantly better performance later in the workout session.

You don’t just need to rest between sets. Take a longer rest period after your workout. Give that muscle set two to three days to recover. A good workout should tear your muscles. Forcing them to be rebuilt stronger. If you don’t wait long enough, you will strain your muscles. Leading to a painful injury and a long recovery period. Expect to be on the bench for weeks.

How Long To Rest Between Sets

How much rest between sets will depend on the type of outcome you want. To understand this, you need to know the different energy systems that your body has. The system you trigger depends on how intense your workout is and how long the session lasts.

Sprint Sets

This type of activity places a greater load on your phosphagen system. This is what creates your body’s store of ATP. This is the type of energy that you use for intense bursts of activity. Like doing a one-rep max set. It can also be used during some types of cardio, like sprint exercises.

This type of energy is burnt quickly and takes a while to replenish. Because of this, you will need to wait for three to five minutes. By then, your supplies of ATP will have recovered. You can begin your next set.

Regular Sets

This is the most common option among bodybuilders. It occurs when you perform slightly longer sets. Typically, between six to eight reps. Targeting a weight that is about 60 to 85 percent of your one rep max.

In this case, you will be relying on your glycogen stores. This is the preferred option. Breaking down your glycogen, burning through fat. Creating ATP to fuel your muscles. This requires a shorter rest period. Aim for between 30 to 90 seconds between sets. Once your session is over, you’ll need to rebuild your glycogen stores. Eat carbohydrates every two hours. You’ll be ready to hit the gym again within 24 hours.

 Endurance Sets

Perhaps, you want to start building your endurance by doing longer sets. Doing activities that last for longer than two to three minutes. This can be a good option for bodybuilders on a cutting cycle. Cardio will help you create a leaner look. In this case, you’ll be using a mixture of your oxidative and glycogen systems. Burning through carbohydrates and fat for energy. But you need to make sure that you have a good diet. Without the right energy sources, your body can start to burn through protein. Making it harder to produce muscular gains.

The rest period for this type of exercise can vary. Most bodybuilders will do weight training. Creating a workout that consists of sets with 20 to 30 reps, at a low weight. In this case, give yourself around 30 seconds to rest. Then, get into the next set. Another popular option is to do cardio training. Setting out on a long treadmill run. There is no hard and fast rest rule in this scenario. Stop for a rest whenever you need it. Make sure to have plenty of water to stop yourself from becoming dehydrated. Also, check your diet. Give your body the energy it needs to power through a long-lasting exercise session.

Interval Training

This is another way of building your endurance. Pushing yourself hard for a three to five-minute period. Usually, this is done with cardio activities, like stair running or sprints. It’s easy to figure out how much rest between sets. Aim for a 1:1 ratio. If you train for five minutes give yourself five minutes to rest.

High Interval Training (HIT)

This is another common training scenario. Particularly popular amongst those who enjoy CrossFit. This involves breaking your session into a series of short sets. Pushing yourself as hard as you can during those moments. Getting as close to your maximum heart rate as possible. At the end of each session, you’ll give yourself a short rest period.

How much rest between sets will depend on your fitness levels. If you are new to HIT, aim for a 2:1 ratio. For example, if you do an exercise for 60 seconds give yourself 120 seconds to recover. If you are more experienced, you can shorten the recovery period. Aim for a 1:1 ratio. As you continue to push yourself, your body will need to burn through glycogen stores. Making HIT training a great way to burn through fat.

Tips For Tracking The Recovery Process

Getting the right recovery time in the gym is important. But the recovery process doesn’t end there. It’s a good idea to be able to keep track of how intense your workout has been. Here are some methods to do this:

  • Perceived Effort. This is one of the easiest options. But it’s also one of the most subjective. You just need to rank each session on a scale of one to ten. With one being barely breaking a sweat and ten being unbelievably intense. This will give you a gauge of how hard you are pushing yourself in the gym.
  • Measuring load. This is a useful metric for bodybuilders who do a lot of strength training. Simply multiply the number of reps, the number of sets, and the load lifted. For example, imagine you did five sets with five reps in each set, lifting 150 pounds each time. You’ll have lifted a total load of 3,750 pounds.
  • Measure the distance moved. If you are doing a cardio session, you won’t be lifting any weights. But you can still calculate how hard you pushed yourself. Just record the total distance you’ve run. You can also factor in the amount of resistance you faced. For example, how much of an incline your treadmill was on.

Determining How Much Recovery Time You Need

The amount of recovery time required will vary from person to person. Here are some of the factors to keep in mind when deciding what will work for you:

  • As we get older, our bodies start to slow down. We need to take a longer recovery time.
  • Stress levels. Our mental health can impact muscle recovery. Especially when considering the amount of stress we are facing. Those living a high-stress life will require more time to recover.
  • Type of workout. Some workouts place a lot of strain on your body. If you’re pushing your muscles to the brink, you’ll need to take more time.

Most of the time, a good option is between two to four sessions per week. There are lots of ways you can make a schedule like this work for you. For example, if you want to do intense workouts, split it across two days. Start the week targeting the upper body. A few days later, do another intense workout focused on the lower body.  Or you can split your workout across a few muscle groups. Gradually increasing the intensity every day. Climaxing on leg day. Then, give yourself the weekend to recover.

It’s best to let your body be the guide. After an intense workout, the muscle soreness will hit within 12 to 24 hours. Wait for that to die down before you start pushing that muscle group again. If you ignore this pain, you’re setting yourself up for a painful muscle strain.

How To Do Active Recovery

It should be noted that taking time to recover doesn’t mean you can’t go to the gym. In fact, getting the blood pumping is good. It’ll help carry nutrients to your muscles, so they can heal faster. But you will need to pick your exercises more carefully. Here are some tips to help you create an effective active recovery routine:

  • Don’t choose intense activities. Aim for exercises that allow you to make fluid movements. Limiting the amount of pressure you are placing on your muscles. There are plenty of ways that you can do this. You might want to try limiting the amount of weight you are using. Or try changing the activity. Pushing a sled can be a great active recovery exercise.
  • Use something that gives you a full range of motion. Intense workouts are a time to get specific, focusing on particular muscle groups. Doing that during recovery will encourage soreness. Instead, focus on something that engages your whole body. This will get the blood pumping more effectively. Compound exercises are a great option.
  • Focus on blood flow. During recovery, you want to focus your attention on exercises that are going to boost your circulation. More blood flow means more nutrients going to your muscles, and a speedier recovery. That’s why cardio is a great choice during recovery.

Speeding Up Your Recovery Time

Learning how much time to rest between sets is important. But there are a few other ways you can speed up your muscle recovery, these include:

  • Build the right diet. You need to give your body the right nutrients. Make sure to include plenty of protein, to rebuild your muscles. Eat plenty of carbohydrates, to replenish your energy levels. You might also want to consider a steroid supplement, like the ones provided by Crazy Mass. These are formulated to help build muscle quickly while lowering your required recovery time.
  • Drink plenty of water. During exercise, you’ll sweat. Reducing the amount of water in your system. Dehydrated muscles will take longer to heal. Mixing some electrolytes into your water will keep you hydrated longer.
  • Get a massage. This will help improve the blood flow to your healing muscles. This should speed up the repair process. Even if it doesn’t, it’ll help you reduce the soreness.
  • Get plenty of sleep. There are reports of professional athletes that sleep for ten hours a night. That’s hardly surprising. The more strain you put on your body, the longer it takes to recover. During this time, you’ll start producing the hormones that heal the tears in your muscles.
  • Take a cold shower. This is the most uncomfortable option on this list. But it can provide plenty of benefits. The cold water will boost your heart rate. Delivering nutrients to your muscles faster. It can also help you deal with inflammation. Reducing the amount of swelling and pain you’ll face in the recovery period. If you want to take this to the next level, you can try cryotherapy.
  • Try compression clothes. These are said to reduce inflammation. Alleviating muscle soreness. The research is hazy. But the anecdotal evidence seems strong. It’s worth a try.
  • Give your body time. Lastly, don’t be tempted to rush things. Getting back into the gym might seem like the best way to get results. But if you push yourself too hard, you can strain your muscles. Leaving you on the sidelines for weeks as you go through a painful recovery process.


Deciding how much rest between sets can be tough. There are plenty of circumstances to take into consideration. But I’d always recommend erring on the side of caution. Playing it safe might mean your workout takes a little longer. But at least you don’t need to worry about injuring yourself.