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Weight Training: Knowing How Long to Rest between Sets

The amount of rest you take in between sets during a weight lifting routine is a variable that you can toy around with. In general, you should follow these guidelines when strength-training:

  • If you’re a beginner, rest about 90 seconds between sets to give your muscles adequate time to recover.

  • As you get in better shape, you need less rest — only about 30 seconds — before your muscles feel ready for another set.

If you follow a chest exercise with, say, a thigh exercise, you typically need less rest than if you do consecutive exercises for the same muscle group, such as two chest exercises in a row.

After the first few weeks of training, you can fine-tune the amount of rest you take between sets according to your goals. If you’re using really heavy weights and doing fewer reps in order to bulk up, you can take up to 5 minutes between sets so that your muscles can pump out their greatest effort each time.

If you’re short on time or you like a fast-paced workout, try circuit training: You move quickly from exercise to exercise with little or no rest at all. Circuit training does a decent job of building strength, and can be a good substitute for an aerobic workout, especially if you start and end with a fairly long aerobic warm-up and cooldown.

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