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How Long Should You Wait Between Sets?

How Long Should You Wait Between Sets?

      More people are adding resistance training to their workout to build strength and add more muscle definition. Weight training has the additional benefit of building strong bones and giving the metabolism a subtle boost. Ever wonder why men are able to eat more calories than women and not gain weight? It’s because they have more metabolically active muscle tissue to burn the extra calories in that chocolate chip cookie.

      The good news is men (and women) who increase their muscle mass by only a modest amount will boost fat burning and enjoy the added benefit of building strength and definition. One of the best ways to do this is through the power of weight training. One question that often arises when training is how long to wait between weightlifting sets. How long is enough if you want to build maximum strength?

How Much Time Between Weight Lifting Sets to Build Strength?

      A new study looked at this issue. Brazilian researchers put weightlifters through a four month strength training program where they varied the length of time each group rested between weightlifting sets – either one minute, three minutes, or five minutes. The results? The group who rested three or five minutes had greater gains in strength than those who only relaxed for a minute between sets.

      This should come as no surprise since the muscles need time to recover between weightlifting sets before they can, again, muster up the force to work hard. If you don’t allow muscles their full recovery time, you won’t be able to do as many repetitions on the next set which will limit strength gains. If you’re trying to build strength and muscle mass, it’s important to maximize the amount of weight used – ideally a weight that allows you to do a maximum of eight repetitions before reaching fatigue.

What About a Toning Workout?

      On the other hand, if your primary goal is weight loss and you want to tone as opposed to building strength, circuit training is a better option. This involves using a lighter weight and doing more repetitions (twelve to fifteen) with little rest between sets. Limiting the rest period between sets to a minute or less stimulates greater fat burning and gives more cardiovascular benefits.

Another Option to Build Strength and Burn Calories

      Doing sets where you work both upper and lower body at the same time also maximizes fat burning. This involves doing sets that use compound movements such as biceps curls while simultaneously doing squats. This is one of the most effective ways to burn calories while still getting an effective toning workout.

The Bottom Line

      How long you rest between weightlifting sets depends upon what your training goals are. To build strength and lean body mass rest three to five minutes between sets. If your primary goal is toning and calorie burning, rest a minute or less between each weightlifting set.


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