Rest, Breathe & Take a Selfie

Rest times heavily contribute to the success of any strength training program.

Ok, so you don’t have to take a selfie (although they are good for measuring progress!) but rest times are critical in reaching your fitness goals and unfortunately are often over looked.


Rest times heavily contribute to the success of any strength training program. If you have been overlooking rest times during your workout chances are you are not getting the most out of your training session. 


So what is the ideal rest time? Well, like anything when it comes to training, it depends on your individual goals and what you are training for. Here are the recommended rest times for the most common training goals.





If your goal is to get stronger, the best rest period is 3 to 5 minutes between sets.


This is because during traditional strength training of heavy weight - low reps, our body uses energy very quickly and without the use of oxygen. Our body has only a very small window of opportunity to effectively use energy without oxygen, which lasts about 15 seconds. It then takes your body about 3 minutes to fully replenish these oxygen stores. 


Both your muscles and central nervous system need time to recover from the effort of lifting very heavy weights, and failing to rest long enough will prevent you from lifting heavy on your next set-and even slow your recovery for your next workout.


Therefore giving your body at least 3 minutes to recharge means you'll lift more weight and get stronger faster. On the flip side, if you rest longer than 5 minutes you will cool down too much and increase your chances of injury, so be sure to stick to between 3 to 5 minutes of rest.





If your goal is muscle growth and to get bigger (or appear more toned), the best rest period is 1 to 2 minutes between sets.


Shorter rest periods lead to an increased release of anabolic hormones (human growth hormone) and an increase in waste production both which are recommended for muscle growth. Short rest periods also cause other muscle building factors like increased lactate production and blood flow to the targeted muscles. It has been shown that the increased blood flow to your muscles helps the protein get there quicker.


Therefore if muscle growth is your goal, then keeping your rest times to under 2 minutes will see you get the best results from your workouts.





If your goal is to increase muscular endurance, the best rest period is 30 seconds to 2 minutes between sets.


Classic endurance training of light-moderate weight and approx. 15-20 reps, draws much of its energy from aerobic metabolism. This means your body burns carbs and fats in the presence of oxygen.


Endurance training is aimed at making your muscles more resistant to fatigue. One of the biggest contributing factors of fatigue in endurance activities is lactic acid build-up. Regularly lifting weights in a 15-20 rep cycle boosts your body's hormonal and vascular systems making it more efficient at clearing lactic acid from the muscles.


To increase your body's lactate threshold, coaches of endurance related sports usually recommend a 1:1 or 1:2 work-rest interval. For example, a strict set of 15 to 20 reps should take between 45 seconds and 1 minute to complete with a rest period of between 45 seconds and 2 minutes. Stick to these rest times if muscular endurance is what you are training for.



And remember to breathe! Adequate breathing throughout every rep as well as during rest times is another important factor that is often overlooked. Try remember this breathing technique for best results - exhale while pushing, inhale while pulling!