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6 Ways Rest Between Sets Can Boost Results

Rest Between Sets for Muscle Growth

So you work out hard at the gym, but what do you do between sets? If it is just browsing your phone then you may not be making the most of your gym time.

While the rest between sets is important it does not have to be wasted time.[toc]

Here are a few ways that you can use the time you rest between sets to boost your muscle and strength building results:

#1: Stretch Out Opposing Muscles

Research has shown that if you stretch out the opposing muscles to the ones you are using to lift between sets then you can experience faster gains in both muscle and strength.

For example, if you are working your back, then while you rest you should stretch out your chest.

Other opposing muscle groups include:

  • Shoulders and back
  • Thighs and hamstrings
  • Biceps and triceps

During a study published in Research in Sports Medicine [1], saw 2 groups of subjects asked to perform 3 sets of seated rows. This exercise primarily works the lats.

The participants were allowed a 2 minute rest period between sets, with 1 group asked not to do anything, with the other groups having their pectoral muscles stretched for around 40 seconds.

The conclusion of the study revealed that those who stretched did not lose reps due to fatigue, plus saw more of an increase in muscle activity than those who did not stretch.

It is believed that stretching the opposite muscle help to relax the muscle that has been worked, therefore helping to aid recovery.

#2: Get Some Cardio

If you want to build endurance or burn fat, or both even then the time between sets could be the perfect time to do a little cardio.

You could do bodyweight cardio such as jumping jacks, or use a kettlebell or cardio machine. Just make sure you do not choose an exercise that competes with the workout you are doing.

For example, avoid the treadmill if you are doing squats.

#3: Breathe Deeply

While our other tips advocate doing something between sets, sometimes the time is best for complete rest.

To aid your recovery ready for another set, sit and take a deep breath in. Make sure to exhale slowly and to ensure it takes twice as long as your inhale.

This simple act can help to slow down your heart rate and restore normal breathing.

#4: Do Some Mobility Drills

While you are resting between sets is a great time to do some mobility drills.

For example, if you are struggling to make depth when squatting you could put your back to a wall, before lowering yourself down into a lunge. Next, use the wall to raise your lower leg off the floor, bringing your back heel as close to your backside as possible.

#5: Prepare For The Next Lift

To lift heavier you can perform some preparation and visualisation techniques.

Before lifting you may want to go through a checklist of what you need to do. So for deadlifts, for instance, you will want to think about your foot position, the angle of your spine, recruiting your lats and bracing your core.

Going through this checklist may ensure a better lift with proper form.

#6: Ignore Your Phone

Nowadays we are all on social media, and while it is tempting to update your Facebook account, or to post your latest gym selfie to Instagram I would recommend against it.

Not only will checking your phone between sets takes away the intensity of the session if you get distracted while browsing your phone you could become distracted and end up resting for longer than you should.

How Much Rest Between Sets Is Recommended?

The NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) [1] have provided the following approximate recommendations for rest periods between sets:

  • For muscle gains = 30-90 seconds of rest
  • Strength gains = 2-5 minutes
  • Endurance = Less than 30 seconds

How Important Is Rest Time Between Sets?

The time taken to rest between sets is important, as without it you are not going to be able to perform to your best ability for the next set, or any that come after.

If you are lifting particularly heavy for example, if you have no rest between sets then chances are you are going to be fatigued much earlier than you should be.

Is It Bad To Take Long Breaks Between Sets?

It is not necessarily bad to take long breaks between sets, depending on your goals.

If you are training for strength then long breaks are recommended in fact, while endurance will be gained from much shorter rest periods.

Of course, you don’t want to allow your muscles to go cold between sets so active recovery, or stretching might be a good idea to keep your muscles warm.

Warmer muscles are less likely to suffer from injury [2].

In Conclusion: Is Rest Between Sets Important?

Resting between sets is incredibly important, and the time taken to rest will have an impact on your training and your goals.

Remember though that just because you are not lifting weights does not mean you have to do nothing between sets.

Hopefully, with some of our ideas provided, you will leave your phone one side and do something that will benefit your training between sets.


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