Bodybuilding: How much should I rest between sets?

Conventional bodybuilding wisdom a.k.a. the special kind of stupidity found in muscle magazines says that 60-90 seconds rest periods are optimal for “hypertrophy training”.

As always, the ghost writers “forget” to tell you that steroids are the actual driving engine behind modern growth. Honestly, the rest periods between sets make no difference whatsoever.

Besides, resting only 1-2 minutes between sets is too little unless you are doing some sort of circuits or assistance exercises. Any weight that’s remotely heavy will require you to rest at least 3 minutes, which in my eyes is the actual “bodybuilding” rest period if such thing was to exist.


3 minutes allow you to lift heavier weights and prepare you mentally for what’s about to come. When you are resting only 1 minute, you can’t possibly lift anything heavy. Therefore, you are building endurance with a lighter load.

Furthermore, when it comes to the big lifts, 1 minute doesn’t work. Just assuming a proper position before a compound exercise may require more than one minute.

Don’t be afraid to rest a little longer. 

Mainstream bodybuilding propaganda still has a negative effect on the minds of many. People think that if they were to rest a minute more than what the bodybuilding broscience suggest, their “gains” will disappear. That’s not true at all. At the end of the day, there is only one thing that matters – the amount of quality work that you are doing. An extra minute or two will not sabotage your gains.

Resting too much

Back in the day, when I was squatting heavy, I needed 15 minutes of rest between the sets. Why? Because I was doing sets across with a heavy weight. Honestly, it was an overkill. 7-8 minutes seem like a better upper threshold. If you go beyond that, you risk getting cold and stiff.

Moreover, I don’t recommend sets across precisely for this reason – they require exceptionally long rests.


Rest Periods (a general guideline)

Assistance exercises (usually done for high reps) – 1-5 minutes

Conditioning work – 1-3 minutes

Heavy barbell lifts – 5-10 minutes

Isometric holds (front lever..etc.) – 1-5 minutes

Skill work – If strength related, 3-10 minutes of rest may be needed. If not strength related, go by feel.

Hypertrophy – 3 minutes


P.S. Check out my re-edited post on natural potential.

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