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Rest Up to Build Strength

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A recent study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that longer rest periods between sets lead to greater strength gains. Researchers studied men performing leg extensions two times per week for six weeks. Those who rested for 160 seconds between sets generated 2 times as much force as the men who only rested for 40 seconds.

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Allow others to "work-in" with you between sets and you’ll get stronger in the process! While we may not all have the luxury of time (4 times as much rest during your workout can really add up), try to squeeze in a few more seconds of rest when you can, or even during just one workout a week.
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Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
Nicole was named "America's Top Personal Trainer to Watch" in 2011. A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, she loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Her DVDs "Total Body Sculpting" and "28 Day Boot Camp" (a best seller) are available online and in stores nationwide. Read Nicole's full bio and blog posts.

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Member Comments

  • I'm trying to find the source now, but in December I read an article about a recent study: women need to rest significantly shorter periods of time between weightlifting sets than men do, potentially due to improved recovery of our bodies.

    Personally, when I'm lifting heavy, I do a "circuit" of deadlifts, pushups, squats, chin-ups, and at the end of the circuit I rest less than 1 minute. By switching up the exercises (quickly... no waiting between) I am "resting" the muscles I was using between sets, saving time, and not risking losing ground because I'm waiting too long between circuits. If you're lifting heavy (man) the guide is 60-90 seconds between sets of one exercise. As a woman, the article I read (and granted, cannot find) suggested 45-60 seconds between sets.

    Luck! - 1/6/2014 9:48:28 AM
  • Roh, roh........didn't study *WOMEN* - AGAIN :( - 8/12/2013 7:37:55 AM
  • I had read in a different article that you should not take too long a break between sets . - 8/25/2012 7:24:51 PM
  • Please don't encourage those awful people who "nap" on the machines between sets! - 5/26/2012 1:33:53 AM
  • DAVIDJ2009
    I think this years program is extremely difficult to navigate. All I want is a step by step process to track my program. You really have gone off the wall. - 4/17/2012 6:08:11 PM
  • This makes total sense now as for why I used to take so many breaks during circuit training and sculpt classes at first. I thought it was a mental thing, as with time I was able to do everything without stopping. I guess I was just slowly building strength in my legs and arms (with squats, dips etc.) - 10/5/2011 11:31:35 AM
  • What about super sets? I was just reading how it's good to do super sets- with no rest in between. Confused again! - 1/9/2010 7:13:29 AM
  • I usually only do one set anyway. But if I do more than one set, I do them circuit style, for instance, bicep curls immediately followed by tricep dips then run off and do the leg curl, leg extension, military presses, chest press, etc. So my muscles get that longer rest but I'm not really resting at all. - 12/15/2009 4:20:57 PM
  • CATHEITE
    I have found this to be true for myself too. I can always hit my second set a little harder when I take a longer rest. I use the extra time to stretch and prepare mentally. - 11/24/2009 11:19:35 AM
  • CATHEITE
    I have found this to be true for myself too. I can always hit my second set a little harder when I take a longer rest. I use the extra time to stretch and prepare mentally. - 11/24/2009 11:19:35 AM
  • TPDWN59
    I can't find time to work out now. My 30 minute workout takes 1 hour due to warm-up and cool down and now you want to add two more minutes between the reps???? Get real. - 10/13/2009 9:48:54 AM
  • GIANT-STEPS
    You can work alternating muscle groups. For example alternating between bench press and bent rowing allows you to work one muscle group while resting the opposing one.

    Sometimes I do "supersets" hitting opposing muscle groups but to tell the truth I've had better results from a technique called High Intensity Training where you do one very intense set of each exercise rather than multiple. - 3/6/2009 12:39:50 PM
  • Have found this to be true through trial and error--even though it remains difficult to work the longer rest periods in, you're sure to notice the difference. - 4/9/2008 2:18:08 PM
  • Great article. - 12/24/2007 12:45:35 AM
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