What is the Best Rest Time Between Sets to Build Muscle?

If your goal is muscle growth, you might be overlooking your break time. Here's what a recent study says is the best rest time between sets to build muscle.

Rest breaks have been a topic of debate for years. Those who are trying to build muscle often take shorter rest breaks of 30 to 60 seconds while power lifters will give pause for several minutes.

Whether you want to get big, get strong, or simply improve your overall fitness levels, a recent study suggests that longer rest breaks might be the ideal way to achieve your goals.

Short or Long Rest Breaks? Science Says…

With the number of intense and fast-paced workouts such as CrossFit, it may seem counterintuitive to give yourself more rest time. A study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research demonstrated that longer rest breaks equated to more muscle, more strength , and better overall health. [1]

Subjects performed the same workout schedule. For eight weeks, subjects performed three total body workouts each week. The workout contained seven exercises of three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions. In other words, your standard muscle building workout. The difference was in the rest breaks: Group A was assigned the classic one-minute break, while Group B rested for three minutes. The results?

Group B showed greater improvements in overall strength and lean muscle mass than Group A.

Rest Time Between Sets and Building Muscle

In regard to muscle hypertrophy, or muscle growth, the initial idea is that the muscle responds best when placed under a consistent amount of resistance, and this is followed up by a short resting period. 8 to 12 repetitions at a tempo of 2 seconds in the concentric phase, 0 seconds in the isometric phase, and 2 seconds in the eccentric phase is followed by a rest break of no more than 60 seconds.

Given the study mentioned above, it’s clear that a longer rest break will induce more muscular hypertrophy, but why? Let’s say you are only resting for 30 to 60 seconds between sets: Yes, you’re over-loading the muscle and triggering a degree of hypertrophy, but not as much as you could be.

Think about it: You’re selecting a weight that you can move for 8 to 12 repetitions based on what? Not your true strength; it’s based on that short rest break. Giving yourself a chance to rest longer will allow you to move more weight for that same set of repetitions. This is going to improve both your muscle mass and strength levels.

The Ideal Rest Time Between Sets

Based on what we learned from the study mentioned above, the ideal rest break for muscle seekers or power enthusiasts is going to be no more than three minutes. This is especially true if you’re utilizing a training methodology such as super sets or pyramid sets.

As you’re resting, be sure to stay active and keep moving. Don’t just sit on a bench and wait.


  1. Schoenfeld BJ, Pope ZK, Benik FM, Hester GM, Sellers J, Nooner JL, Schnaiter JA, Bond-Williams KE, Carter AS, Ross CL, Just BL, Henselmans M, Krieger JW. Longer Interset Rest Periods Enhance Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy in Resistance-Trained Men. J Strength Cond Res. 2016 Jul;30(7):1805-12. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001272. PMID: 26605807.
Scroll to Top