How Rest Between Exercises Helps Build Muscle Strength

If you’re looking to build muscle, nothing beats strength training. But ask 10 experts how long to rest between repetitions and you’ll hear as many different responses. A new review reveals the reason for this discrepancy: the ideal amount of rest time depends on your fitness goals.

After seeing a variety of recommendations related to strength training rest periods, experts looked at 35 of the most valid studies on the subject to see whether any firm conclusions could be made. It turns out that the best advice all depends on which muscles you’re working out, as well as whether you want the muscles to be stronger, have more endurance, or just look bigger.

Here are the findings:

  • Strength: Rest longer for upper body exercises and less for the legs
  • Endurance: Two-minute rests allowed for longer exercise periods overall
  • Bigger Muscles: Three- to five-minute rest period between sets is optimal

If all of this information seems like too much to keep track of, just remember the overall message: longer periods of rest were beneficial for most fitness goals. While that doesn’t mean to go watch a TV show between repetitions, taking a two-minute break is nothing to be ashamed of, it actually allows your muscles an opportunity to regroup and better handle subsequent exercise.

Unlike cardio where sustained activity is crucial, strength training is just as much about the rest as the exercise itself. Give your muscles the breather they need and you’ll reap the benefits.


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