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How Long Should You Rest Between Sets?

Hypertrophy made simple by Dr Mike Israetel.

How long should you rest between sets? It’s all well and good knowing how many reps per set you should do, but what about the time between sets, is there a way to maximise results during this down time?

Dr Mike Israetel, PhD in Sport Physiology and cofounder of Renaissance Periodization, explains the best approach in the video below.

How long should you rest between sets?

The answer, it turns out, is not very complicated. Before you start your next set make sure:

  • Your target muscle can do at least 5 reps on the next set
  • Your cardio will not limit you on the next set
  • Your nervous system/psychology will not limit you on the next set
  • No synergists will limit you on the next set

The exact time will depend on your individual circumstances, the exercise you’re doing, and the weight you’re lifting.

Can you rest more? Of course, but you don’t need to, meaning you can condense your training and be super efficient without giving up on any hypertrophy if you want.

Your target muscle can do at least 5 reps on the next set

“Why 5? Because anything less than five reps is just not an efficient use of your time,” says Dr Israetel. “As long as you can do five reps per set, it’s going to be a very stimulative set and cause a lot of muscle growth relative to other sets of other rep ranges as well.”

Your cardio will not limit you on the next set

If it’s your breathing limiting your capacity you don’t want to start your next set. Only the target muscle should be limiting your sets and reps.

Your nervous system/psychology will not limit you on the next set

“Once you feel strong and ready to do another set,” says Dr Israetel, “then it’s time.” If you look at the machine and don’t psychologically feel the next set, then keep resting a little longer between sets.

No synergists will limit you on the next set

You don’t want any of the muscles helping out on the exercise to be the limiting factor of your sets.

athlete fixes muscle imbalances in the gymSource: Arthur Edelmans on Unsplash

Watch the video above for some examples of how long ticking these boxes can take.

Read more: Can You Lose Fat and Gain Muscle at the Same Time?

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