Nothing firms and defines a body like resistance training. Aerobic exercise tones the heart and burns fat, but to change the shape of your body you need some form of resistance training – whether it’s hand weights, weight machines, resistance bands, or, the newest craze, kettle balls. Resistance training works well because it causes muscles to contract against resistance. As the muscles adapt, your body changes. To get maximal benefits from resistance training, how long should you rest between sets?
How Much Rest Between Sets: Sculpting and Strengthening
How long you rest between sets depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If your main objective is to build muscle, resting for ninety seconds between sets is optimal for most people. Your muscles need time to recover, and ninety seconds is usually enough recovery time to allow your muscles to lift ninety percent of what they’re capable of lifting on the next set. If you force your muscles to work again before they’re completely recovered, you won’t be able to lift as much weight or do as many sets, which can affect the results you achieve.
Some experts recommend a recovery time of three to five minutes to maximize the amount of weight you can lift on the next set, but this is only necessary if you work with heavy weights – primarily to build strength and bulk. If you find after resting for ninety seconds that you’re not able to lift as much weight, increase the time you rest between sets a little.
How Long to Rest Between Sets for More Fat Burning
If your primary motivation is to firm and burn fat, rather than build bulk, decrease the rest time between sets to thirty seconds. This forces the heart to work harder and increases fat burning hormones such as epinephrine and growth hormone more than a full ninety second rest between resistance training sets. You’ll burn more calories and fat this way, but the amount of weight and number of reps you’ll be able to do will be lower since your muscles have less time to recover.
This is the best method for people who don’t want to build significant lean body mass, but want to preserve strength – while still burning body fat. Although this increases the heart rate more than resting longer between sets, it’s still a good idea to do aerobic exercise on alternate days – especially if you have a lot of body fat to lose.
How Long Should You Rest Between Sets: The Bottom Line?
How you long rest between sets depends on your goals. Shorter rest intervals between resistance training sets burns more fat but limit your ability to build big muscles. Longer rest intervals allow you to build more bulk, but you’ll get less cardiovascular benefit. Make sure you know what you’re trying to achieve before doing resistance training sets, so you can maximize your results.
Fitness Prescription. February 2004. pages 152-153.