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The appropriate rest between sets in a gym session can vary depending on several factors, including your fitness goals, the type of exercise, your fitness level, and the intensity of your workout.

Here are 5 general guidelines to consider:

  1. Strength Training (Low Reps, Heavy Weight):
    • Rest between sets: 2-5 minutes
    • Since heavy lifting taxes the central nervous system, longer rest periods are usually needed to fully recover and perform at your best for the next set.
    • The rest period when strength training is more about making sure you can 100% focus on the next set, and not be out of breath/hot/shaky from the previous set.
  2. Hypertrophy (Moderate Reps, Moderate Weight):
    • Rest between sets: 45 seconds to 1.5 minutes
    • This range is usually used for building muscle size. It allows for some recovery while keeping the muscles under tension for a longer time – and making them work harder set by set, as they haven’t *quite* recovered fully before being asked to work again.
  3. Endurance and Conditioning (High Reps, Light to Moderate Weight):
    • Rest between sets: 30 seconds to 1 minute
    • Shorter rest periods are usually used to improve cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance. This approach can also increase short-term calorie burn, but not to any really noticeable effect.
    • You’ll feel a “burn” training this way – that’s the waste products generated by lifting not getting a chance to be flushed out of the muscle by blood flow.
  4. Power and Explosive Training (Plyometrics, Olympic Lifts, etc.):
    • Rest between sets: 2-3 minutes
    • These exercises require a combination of strength and speed, so adequate rest is needed to maintain proper technique and power output – you can’t be worrying about being out of breath more than thinking about your technique.
  5. Isolation Exercises (Accessory Work):
    • Rest between sets: 30 seconds to 1 minute
    • Shorter rest periods can be suitable for isolation exercises targeting specific muscle groups – the body isn’t as tired, the nervous system doesn’t have to get involved, and you can recover quickly between sets.

Remember that these are general guidelines, and you may need to adjust them based on your individual preferences and how your body responds. As you get stronger, rest breaks between sets become much more fluid and individual – it becomes about knowing when you are safe to lift again, rather than risking injury because a clock told you to start again!

Here’s a more scientific, in-depth article if you want to dive deeper into rest times.

Additionally, it’s essential to stay hydrated and fuel your body properly before and after your workout to optimise your performance and recovery. Chat with a great fitness professional to provide you with personalised guidance tailored to your goals and needs.

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