Is It Bad To Rest Too Long Between Sets?

June 1, 2023 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “is it bad to rest too long between sets?”. Rest time is a variable that can be manipulated in your training, just like any other.

However, many people don’t really pay too much attention to how long they are resting between sets. This article will explore this topic in detail and present some useful insights.

You will find this article both interesting and informative.

Is It Bad To Rest Too Long Between Sets?

There are various factors that have to be taken into consideration. If you are training for strength then you need longer rest periods between sets for maximal strength.

For hypertrophy, shorter rest periods can work better to increase cumulative fatigue and potentially increase growth hormone. If you are training under time constraints then resting for too long will be counter productive.

If you rest for too long between sets then the workout time will also be increased by a lot. Ultimately you need to find the right balance and assess things on a case by case basis.

When you are keeping records of each workout you should make notes of how each set feels. You can use this to inform your judgement and tweak rest times accordingly.

Longer Rest Is More Beneficial To Strength Training

When it comes to strength training, longer rest times between sets is more beneficial. As the weights are heavy you will need more time to recover between sets.

Each heavy set will take a toll and require a lot of effort. If you only rest 2 minutes between heavy sets, you will find that you won’t be able to get as many reps on subsequent sets.

For very heavy training, taking longer rests is essential. You need to ensure that you are as strong as possible to complete the required reps for each set. A good example of a common strength program would be a set and rep scheme of 3 sets of 5.

This is the blueprint often used in Starting Strength. Sets of 5 have been proven to be incredibly effective at building strength. Longer rest periods are beneficial for replenishing ATP as well as recovering the phosphagen system.

Lifting heavy weights is all about exerting maximal force for short durations. The longer rest period is critical in achieving this when doing multiple heavy sets.

heavy deadlift

Increased Workout Duration

Resting for too long also can lead to increased workout duration. This may seem like an obvious consequence, however it is not beneficial if you are training under time constraints.

If you only have an hour to get your workout in, resting too long between sets will hinder the quality of your workout. You may not be able to fit it all in in the allotted time. 

Or you may have to sacrifice some of the exercises that you were doing in order to complete the workout. This is not ideal, by keeping a close eye on rest times you will be able to ensure that the workout gets completed on time.

Working out for excessive amounts of time can also be counter productive with the increase in cortisol levels. It can also eat into your overall recovery. 

Previously I have discussed whether it is bad to workout for longer than 1 hour.

Listen To Your Body

Listening to your body is important in general when it comes to lifting weights. It can also help to inform how long you rest between sets.

It is critically important to keep track of all your workouts. Track all the exercises, weights, reps and sets. In addition you should note how sets felt and the rate of perceived exertion (RPE).

This information can be very valuable when it comes to tweaking things. For higher intensity and heavier blocks of training you could increase rest times between sets slightly where needed.

For lighter bodybuilding assistance exercises you can look to reduce rest times between sets when you can. This will help to increase muscular fatigue and be beneficial for hypertrophy.

Controversial Alphadestiny View

Alex Leonidas of the Alphadestiny channel has a very controversial opinion. He claims that resting longer between sets actually increases size!

He talks about high threshold motor units and how you need adequate rest to reactivate the motor units on subsequent sets. Insufficient rest can hinder this and result in sub optimal gains.

So resting too little between sets is counterproductive. You have to get the balance right and you need to ensure that you are prepared for the next set. Alex raises a good point and that is that there are other ways to improve work capacity.

Cardio and GPP work are important in this regard and will serve to improve your conditioning. It’s also true that isolation exercises that you place little importance on should have you resting for less time between sets.

Final Thoughts

Is it bad to rest too long between sets? It is important to define what “too long” means. If you are resting for 10 minutes between sets then this is clearly too long.

A general rule is that you should rest longer between sets when you are training heavy. If you rest for too little time between sets this can actually hinder your muscle growth.

It is also important to define what is meant by “too little”. Resting for less than 30 seconds between sets could be ineffective for some isolation movements and assistance exercises.

You do need to ensure that adequate motor units can be recruited on your subsequent sets. If you are circuit training then this is different, the rest intervals will be very short.

It is also important to look to improve your conditioning via other avenues. This can include GPP work as well as cardio. 

If you have any comments on this topic please leave them below. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!

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