Resting Between Sets: Muscle Building Workout

Your body consumes a lot of the energy during typical resistance training. The energy comes from the Adenosine Triphosphate Phosphocreatine system. The ATP-PC system uses phosphagen to produce energy and without the use of oxygen. In the hypertrophy phase of your workout, only play with your next muscle building set when you feel 100% recovered from the previous set. Some people suggest resting between sets should be 2-3 minutes, some use 4-5 minutes.

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One study shows that longer resting between sets can enhance muscle strength. However, the drawback of the short resting between sets is that you will be not able to save enough energy, or the weights you can lift will be not enough heavy to help you build muscles. (1)

3 Minutes of Resting Between Sets

If your aim is to grow some serious muscles, lift as much weight as possible to achieve that. There is no way to divide an absolute time of resting between sets. Sure, having a fixed 3 minutes time between sets provides the workout more organized and guarantees you can finish all of your exercises in the targeted time frame, but that’s not the best way to make you’re putting 100% effort into each set. Some sets will use more energy and force you to rest longer, while others will not have an impact. It all relies on what workout you are up to, how much weight you move, and how you feel on that specific day.

The key is to listen to your body and perform your next set only if you feel you have recovered from the previous set. Therefore, you can execute the set with 100% intensity and strength. You may rest for 3 minutes or even rest for 5 minutes at other times. Because your workout should not last longer than 60 minutes, including 15 minutes warm-up. It’s important that you always watch the clock to make sure you are not resting longer between sets.

Related article: The science behind muscle growth in weight training


Some experts recommend a rest period of 2-3 minutes between sets, while others recommend 4-5 minutes. Lift as much weight as possible if you want to pack on some real muscle. You need to move around the gym enough to allow maximum resting between sets. While still completing your workout in less than 60 minutes is important to prevent the beak down of muscles or catabolic state.


  1. Schoenfeld BJ, Pope ZK, Benik FM, Hester GM, Sellers J, Nooner JL, Schnaiter JA, Bond-Williams KE, Carter AS, Ross CL, Just BL, Henselmans M, Krieger JW. Longer Interset Rest Periods Enhance Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy in Resistance-Trained Men. J Strength Cond Res. 2016 Jul;30(7):1805-12. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001272. PMID: 26605807.
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Naeem Durrani BSc
I am a retired pharmacist, nutrition expert, journalist, and more. My interests include medical research, and the scientific evidence around effective wellness practices, which empower people to transform their lives.

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