Best Set Rest Time for Muscle Gains

October 10th, 2007 by Paul Johnson

The rest period taken between sets in your training routine, is a controversial debate in bodybuilding. I’ve seen prominent bodybuilders recommended everything from 20 seconds to 3 minutes for maximum muscle gains. Maybe science can help us answer this question.

Workout Set Rest Time Studies:

A study was published J Strength Cond Res. 2005 Aug;19(3):572-82 on 13 recreational strength trained men for 6 months. The purpose was to compare 3 months of 2 minute rests to 3 months of 5 minute rests. What were the results? Not only was there no hormonal change differences between the two groups, muscle and strength gains were the same.

In a fairly recent publication J Strength Cond Res. 2006 Nov;20(4):978-84 JM Willardson made some interesting conclusions.

"When training for muscular hypertrophy, consecutive sets should be performed prior to when full recovery has taken place. Shorter rest intervals of 30-60 seconds between sets have been associated with higher acute increases in growth hormone, which may contribute to the hypertrophic effect."

He however also concluded that rest time is just one piece of the puzzle:

"Prescribing the appropriate rest interval does not ensure a desired outcome if other components such as intensity and volume are not prescribed appropriately."

In other words he is saying, shorter rest times are better for muscle growth, but the number of sets and weight you use is also important part of the equation.