REST INTERVALS – How long do I have in between sets to scroll though Instagram and still get a 6 pack?!

Let’s talk about rest! Our favorite part of the workout right?! Where we can relax and take a second before jumping back into it.

A rest interval is the time between sets. The amount of time it takes to recuperate between sets or exercises. Don’t overlook rest intervals! They are important and could be making a difference when it comes to reaching your goal!

Rest intervals are important because it allows your body to replenish Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and Phosphocreatine (PC) supplies. Allowing the proper amount of time for your body to replenish these stores is important to reach your fitness goals and optimum performance!!!

The shorter the rest interval, the less resources are replenished within the body. If you use shorter rest periods in between sets, you will have less energy for the next set of exercises. Also, longer rest periods help support proper exercise technique. However, you don’t want to wait too long between sets either. For example we are all guilty of picking up our phone and getting lost scrolling through instagram or swiping on tinder and then thing oh crap! 5 minutes just went by! When you are taking too long you set yourself up for decrease in neuromuscular activity and decreased body temperature. Basically- you want your body to stay warm and ready to go to help prevent injury! Hence the reason behind a warm up!

4 Different Rest Intervals:

  • 20-30 seconds gives the body around 50% recovery of ATP and PC.
  • 40 seconds allows the body about 75% recovery of ATP and PC.
  • 60 seconds provides the body with 85-90% recover of ATP and PC.
  • 3 minutes usually gives the body 100% recovery of ATP and PC.

It’s completely okay to do shorter rest interval as well! We can use them differently depending on what the goal of our workout is! We just want to make sure we have the right amount of time lined up with our goal! Circuits are fun (might not be a popular opinion haha) and has it’s benefits as well. This post it not meant to overwhelm you, but just inform you and give you something to keep in mind and be used as a tool to help you better align with your goals!


If your goal is…

Muscular endurance (Increase lean body mass, increase muscle strength, enhance joint stabilization) you want to focus on 0-90 seconds.

Hypertrophy (Increase muscle size) focus on 0 – 60 seconds.

Maximal Strength (Improve peak performance) 3-5 minutes.

Power (Enhance neuromuscular efficiency, increase strength increase rate of force production) focus on 3-5 minutes.


If you are a future fitness enthusiast and new to strength training, you may want to first try longer rest periods until you are comfortable in the program. This will allow you the energy to focus on your form and performing the exercise correctly. We are all guilty of becoming fatigued and pushing ourselves to get that last repetition in, which then leads to losing our form. That is when we are more likely to get hurt! **Think LONGEVITY. We are in this for the long run! Adding fitness into our lives if a LIFESTYLE change. It’s not temporary! If that last repetition is going to get you hurt, you’re not going to be able to continue to workout!

Hope this helps!

In Summary: Figure out what is your goal and align it with that rest period to give you a range of how long to rest between sets and/or exercises!

References: In Clark, M., In Sutton, B. G., In Lucett, S., & National Academy of Sports Medicine,. (2014). NASM essentials of personal fitness training.

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