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How many seconds should I rest between reps and sets?

Quick answer

The recommended rest time between sets is 2-5 minutes for compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench press. For isolation exercises, rest 1-2 minutes between sets. Resting for the right amount of time allows your muscles to fully recover and enables you to lift with maximum strength and power again.

What affects rest times?

Several factors affect how long you should rest between sets:

  • Exercise type – Compound lifts need longer rest periods than isolation moves.
  • Training goal – Rest periods are shorter when lifting for muscle endurance versus strength/power.
  • Load/intensity – Heavier lifts require more rest between sets.
  • Number of reps – Higher rep sets need slightly longer rests.
  • Number of sets – As you progress through your workout, you’ll need longer rests.

Let’s look at how each of these factors impacts optimal rest time.

Exercise Type

The type of exercise you’re doing affects how long you should rest between sets. Exercises are often divided into compound and isolation moves:

  • Compound exercises involve multiple joints and muscle groups, like squats, deadlifts, bench press, rows, and pull-ups.
  • Isolation exercises involve just one joint and target more specific, smaller muscle groups like bicep curls, tricep extensions, and leg extensions.

Because compound exercises use more muscle mass and demand greater coordination between muscle groups, they require longer rest periods between sets.

Aim for 2-5 minutes of rest for compound lifts. This allows full recovery so you can lift heavy again with good form.

For isolation exercises, rest 1-2 minutes between sets since the movements are less taxing on the body. This shorter rest still provides enough recovery time for smaller muscle groups.

Training Goal

Your specific training goal also impacts optimal rest time. The main goals include:

  • Muscle strength/power – Lifting heavy loads for low reps like 3-5 per set.
  • Muscle hypertrophy – Moderate weights for medium reps like 8-12 per set.
  • Muscular endurance – Lighter weights for higher reps like 15-20+ per set.

When training for sheer strength and power, you need longer rest periods between sets. This enables you to fully recover and lift heavy loads with maximal force again. Aim for at least 2-5 minutes rest when strength training.

For hypertrophy, moderate rest periods of around 1-2 minutes allow muscles to recover enough to sustain lifting moderately heavy loads for 8-12 reps.

When training muscular endurance with high reps, take shorter 30-90 second rests. This keeps your heart rate up and muscles pumping while still providing some recovery between sets.


The amount of weight or load you use is directly tied to how much rest you need between sets. Heavier loads require longer rest periods.

As a general guideline:

  • 2-5 minutes rest for 85%+ of 1 rep max lifts
  • 2-3 minutes for 70-85% of 1 rep max
  • 1-2 minutes for 50-70% of 1 rep max

The heavier the loads, the longer your muscles need to fully recover and replenish energy systems so you can produce max force again. With very heavy loads near your 1 rep max, allow a full 2-5 minutes of rest between sets.

Number of Reps

The number of reps you perform also influences how long to rest between sets. In general:

  • Lower rep sets (1-5) need longer rests (2-5 minutes)
  • Moderate rep sets (6-12) need moderate rests (1-2 minutes)
  • High rep sets (15-20+) need shorter rests (30-90 seconds)

When training with heavier loads for strength and power, you’ll perform lower rep sets of 1-5 reps. Give your muscles ample time to recover by resting 2-5 minutes before the next set.

For moderately heavy loads and medium rep ranges like 8-12, rest 1-2 minutes between sets to recovery.

With lighter loads and higher reps of 15 or more, you can get away with just 30-90 seconds of rest before the next set since the loads are less demanding. But don’t sacrifice good form by going too short on rest times.

Number of Sets

As you progress through your workout and perform multiple sets, your muscles will naturally fatigue more and require longer rests.

For example, if you are doing 3 sets of squats:

  • Set 1 – Rest 2 minutes
  • Set 2 – Rest 3 minutes
  • Set 3 – Rest 4 minutes

Allow your rest times to gradually increase as you perform more sets. This prevents excessive fatigue and deterioration of form.

If doing just 1-2 warmup sets, start with shorter 1 minute rests initially. But for your heavy working sets, allow 2-5 minutes as needed.

Rest Time Recommendations

Here are some general recommendations for rest times based on the type of exercise and training goal:

Compound Lifts

Training Goal Recommended Rest Time
Strength 2-5 minutes
Hypertrophy 1-2 minutes
Muscular endurance 30-90 seconds

Isolation Exercises

Training Goal Recommended Rest Time
Strength 1-2 minutes
Hypertrophy 30-90 seconds
Muscular endurance 30 seconds

Use these rest time recommendations as a general guide. You may need to adjust based on the specific exercise, load, reps and your recovery ability. Record your sets and rest times to determine what works best for you.

Active vs. Passive Rest

You can take your rest periods in two main ways:

  • Passive rest – Doing nothing, just sitting or standing still.
  • Active rest – Performing light activity like walking, cycling, foam rolling or mobility work.

Active rest periods can enhance workout performance compared to just passive sitting:

  • Keeps muscles warm and blood pumping to active areas
  • Helps remove metabolic waste from muscles
  • Prevents stiffness compared to complete inactivity

Aim to keep moving during your rest times by:

  • Walking around the gym
  • Light cycling on a stationary bike
  • Foam rolling tight muscles
  • Doing targeted mobility drills

This will improve blood flow and mobility while still allowing your muscles to recover.

How to gauge proper rest time

It can take some trial and error to find the optimal rest periods for you. Here are some simple ways to gauge if you’re resting long enough between sets:

  • Check your heart rate – If it’s elevated above normal, rest longer.
  • Monitor breathing – If you’re still breathing heavily, take more time.
  • Evaluate readiness – Do you feel capable of lifting heavy again with good form? If not, extend your rest.
  • Watch performance – If reps/power decrease on subsequent sets, you need more recovery time.

If you lift heavy but reps fall dramatically on following sets or you feel fatigued, that’s a sign to increase your rest periods.

It’s better to err on the side of too much rest versus too little when strength training. Wait until you feel fully capable of performing the next set with good form and power again.

Shorter Rests for Cardio Benefits

While longer rest periods are better for pure strength development, shorter rests of 30-60 seconds can also be beneficial.

Taking just 30-60 seconds between sets will keep your heart rate elevated, providing a greater cardiovascular training effect. This can improve muscular endurance and burn more calories.

Use shorter rest periods if you want to increase the metabolic, cardio-based benefits of weight training in addition to building strength and muscle. Just be prepared to use lower weights and higher reps with shorter rests.


To maximize strength and muscle gains, allow 2-5 minutes of rest for compound lifts and 1-2 minutes for isolation exercises as a general guideline. Resting for the right amount of time enables full recovery so you can lift heavy loads again with good form and power.

Adjust your actual rest periods based on the specific exercise, intensity, number of reps/sets and your personal recovery ability. Finding the right rest time for your unique needs and goals will lead to better gains.