Something that many people find confusing is whether or not you should rest between sets, and for how long.

Rest intervals

Regardless of your fitness goals, the most common length of time to rest between sets is between 45 seconds and one minute. Giving yourself a break between sets will allow your body to recuperate and restore your energy levels for the next round. At times you may require longer rest intervals - up to two minutes if you’re training larger muscle groups, such as your chest or back. Rest interval times are not set in stone, however, the heavier the weights you lift, the longer your muscles will need to recover, meaning that longer rest intervals will be required (sometimes up to four minutes). Longer rest intervals increase your ability to lift heavier weights and help you to gain strength.


Short rest intervals between sets

As you learn more about supersets, you’ll discover that there are benefits to reduced rest intervals or even to eliminating them altogether. Shorter rest intervals range from between 10 to 30 seconds between each set, while supersets will have you performing exercises back-to-back. The first benefit to this is that you’ll be able to get more done in less time. Another bonus is that it will promote hypertrophy (increased muscle size) due to over-exhaustion of the muscles. When your muscles are fatigued they’ll have to work harder to recover, which will encourage muscle development. One drawback, however, is that you won’t be able to lift weights as heavy as those you would be able to handle with rest intervals, so the increases will be minimal.

In theory, one training program is not superior the other - it pays to promote variety in your programs and switch things around so that you avoid adaptation and plateauing.


Ideally, you should select a training intensity that allows you to lift the first few reps of an exercise without difficulty but that has you struggling to finish your final rep. If you’re able to complete the reps easily - or have even been able to add in more reps - then increase the weight to make it more challenging. Always tell yourself that you’re going to focus on progressing and performing better than in your last gym session. There’s nothing more satisfying than watching your strength levels grow along with your muscle definition.

Training to failure

Training to failure involves lifting until you hit your limit and are unable to do another rep. This might mean 30 reps of a moderate weight, or 12 reps of an extremely heavy weight. There are many benefits that come with pushing yourself to the limit, including reaching a point where muscles are so stressed that hypertrophy is automatically promoted. You don’t have to train until you give out and collapse after a rep to see significant gains in muscle size, however. As mentioned before, train until you have difficulty finishing your final rep. Keep increasing the weight as the exercise gets easier and the weight feels lighter and you’ll certainly be thrilled with your results.

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