Weight and Resistance Training - How long do you rest between sets?

07-24-2011, 10:43 PM
Hey, everyone! I've started weight training again in the last week (so excited!), but I have a question about rest time in between sets. I'm training for endurance, so I do 3 sets of 15 reps with a weight that makes it difficult to complete my final 2-3 reps. I've been resting 15-30 seconds, but that's mostly because I feel obnoxious sitting on the machine for longer than that (not that our gym is packed right now or anything). Any advice would be much appreciated! Thanks! :)

07-25-2011, 01:02 AM
I don't know about generalities, but I'm doing New Rules of Lifting 4W and stage 1 has 60 second breaks between all sets (and it starts with 2 sets of 15 and works to 3 sets of 8). I'd think 60 seconds is a good general place to start--you can decrease the breaks as you get stronger.

07-25-2011, 04:13 AM
Katie, that's about the same amount of time as I take between sets (also for endurance)... sometimes - and I don't know if this is any good for you, but it keeps the gym time down when I'm a bit short on time - I'll do one set of something, rest for about 15-20 seconds, and then do a set on something else, rest for about 15-20 seconds, and then go back to the first thing.

The first trainer I had also told me that I should do a 10-15 second stretch on whatever muscle I'm working on, on both sides (20-30 seconds total) between sets. So that often takes up a good amount of time and looks like you're consistently working with the machine so you don't get that 'obnoxious' feeling just sitting there (and I do know what you mean by this, haha!).

07-25-2011, 07:55 AM
The general rule here is the more reps you do at a lighter weight, the less rest time needed between sets. 15 rep sets require a rest of about 30 secs when you're not a beginner. I agree with Dietvet about newbies requiring more rest for the first few weeks.

The other unspoken rule in the gym is, do NOT sit on the machine while you rest! You feel like you're hogging the machine because you are.

Most folks at least stand up and look to see if someone may be watching for you to be done. Some just get up and get a drink of water or stretch. Someone could be across the entire gym waiting for that machine and you'd never know it. It's super easy to rotate sets with another gym member. And if someone else is on a machine that you want, all you have to do is wait until their set is done, and if they're still sitting there, ask them, "Would you mind if I worked in a set while you rest, please?", almost always they'll not only say "Sure!" but you've now opened dialog and you may make a friend.

07-25-2011, 07:57 AM
Ericann, your method is exactly what I do to save time at the gym. Just make sure your working an entirely different group of muscles than the ones that are supposed to be at rest.

I vary between upper body and lower body exercises. I do three sets of each pair. There's a cardiovascular bonus to this as well - your heart rate never slows - and you actually get the same cardio benefit as if you jogged for that amount of time.

To get back to the OP's q: I lift heavy - a weight I can only do 10 of first set, last set I'm lucky to get to 8 or 9, and I rest about 60-90 seconds in between.

07-25-2011, 10:18 AM
My unsolicited advice would be to work towards the goal of not using machines and towards free weights. You'll be getting a better workout plus easier to transition to different exercises.

I am currently working out at home and the program I am following has warmup sets of increasing weight and then the workout sets. For the warmup sets, the only break I take is the amount of time to switch weights. For the workout sets, I just make a judgement call on how I feel. If I think I am ready to finish the set, I go for it.

07-25-2011, 04:46 PM
Thanks for the advice, everyone! It sounds like I'm doing about what I should be.

fitness4life Maybe our gym is different because it's a school gym, but I never see others get up during their set break. I've been watching people this week, and the only ones I see get up are the guys who do the HEAVY weights for a few reps. They usually walk off for a while - presumably to get water - and then they come back, but I figured that's just because they take a longer break than I need to. (And, even then, they leave their stuff on the machine so no one else will get on it.)

Of course, if someone was standing by the machine, I'd feel differently, but our gym is so sparsely populated in the summer that there are plenty of machines to keep busy with if someone is using the machine you want on next. (This is what I do if a machine is taken.) And our gym has a rule that, if people are doing circuit training, you should get off the machine to let them work through.

nelie I am terrified of doing free weights at the gym. On the machines, you're in an area with only people on machines, they've got stickers showing you what to do. The free weights section of our gym is dominated by men standing in front of a long wall of mirrors watching themselves pump with these gigantic muscles. I'm so intimidated, though I know that free weights are better than machines.

I'm trying to branch out at the gym and try areas that I haven't tried before (mostly out of fear of the unknown), but free weights are definitely something I'd prefer to try alone in my home with no one there to see me. :)

07-25-2011, 05:50 PM
Katie, I understand but be brave! Most of those guys don't know what they are doing anyway. And I've never had an issue with guys in the free weights section.

The thing with machines is they work muscles in isolation which isn't how the human body works. If you want to get good at a machine, then using a machine will get you there. If you want to get good at using your muscles, then a machine is not good. Machines can also create imbalances and can even cause injury.

If you need to practice at home, then do so but I encourage you to make the move.

07-25-2011, 06:40 PM
Take Nelie's advice, and "be brave." Those guys do not own the gym; it's your space also. Like Nelie, I've never had a problem with the men. Most of them are polite, even helpful. Just go over there and lift those weights!

07-25-2011, 09:09 PM
Oh, yeah, difinitely try the free weights. Actually, those big guys are putting up a front for the other big guys. You asking one of them to help you feel comfy with free weights, will not only stroke their ego, you may just get a bit of personal training from them. Everyone who knows what they're doing in the gym would help you just once. Take a chance. They've ALL been the new guy at the gym, they all remember their mentor, they know how to pay it forward. DO NOT BE AFRAID! :)

07-29-2011, 11:02 PM
nelie I am terrified of doing free weights at the gym. On the machines, you're in an area with only people on machines, they've got stickers showing you what to do. The free weights section of our gym is dominated by men standing in front of a long wall of mirrors watching themselves pump with these gigantic muscles. I'm so intimidated, though I know that free weights are better than machines.

ditto! i go to the Y and the free weight room is like all guys all the time...so i grab my free weights and head to another room to try to work out without an audience... it is intimidating!

07-30-2011, 01:56 AM
When I work out with my trainer, he has a pesky stopwatch set at 20 seconds for rests between sets ... so it is about 30 before I actually begin .. occasionally I can get him talking ...

When I'm by myself ..... it is probably a bit more 40-50 seconds ...

I've moved from the machines to mostly the freeweights .... on the advice of my trainer ... good to see that looks like the right advice ..

07-30-2011, 05:29 PM
general rule of thumb is to increase rest time with increase in weight/less reps...
ie; if you are lifting HEAVY (sets of 3-6 reps) you need at least 2 minutes, sometimes 3 in between.. if your working your one rep max, you could need 3 to as much as 5 minutes, for ONE LIFT.... bring a book... the lighter the weight, the more reps, the less rest.......30 secs to one minute... i do 90 seconds for the 8-12 range..... 30 seconds for anything over 15,.......which i almost never do, because it doesnt build strength at all.........i understand boardom, believe me ;) use the time between sets to work on mobility and dynamic stretching (ie; leg swings, scapular wall slides, pass throughs with wookd bar, OVERHEAD SQUATS with warm up bar, inchworms, starfish.....) increasing mobilty and flexibility is a key component overlooked by the majority.....