RECOVERY – during and after exercise

8th December 2016



Resting periods between sets is key to the success of any strength training program and to get the best out of your workout. These can vary from 30 seconds (or less) up to 5 minutes. It all depends on your training type and goals.

Your body needs somewhere between 2 to 3 minutes for the energy (ATP molecule) stores to fully recover from a set of intense exercise. This amount of time will allow a complete recovery, however it is not is not optimal for all type of players.


If you are training for explosive activities of short duration to improve your speed, agility and power, then building big muscles may not be one of your primary goal. In this case your ideal rest period range between sets is 3 to 5 minutes, simply because full recovery allows you to exert the utmost muscular force for each set. It has also been proved that longer resting periods combined with strength have an impact in your testosterone hormone levels which is linked to greater gains in strength.


If on the other end, if you are training for muscular size and wish to increase your ability to exert near maximal muscular force, then your optimal rest period range is between 30 to 60 seconds.  That will give an approximate work-rest ratio of 1:1, meaning that you spend the same amount of time resting as it took you to complete the previous set. When you follow this rest interval technique, it creates high lactate levels in the working muscles. This in turn forces your body to get better at buffering the accumulating lactate. It will also improve your ability to exert almost maximal muscle contractions over a given time.  It has been shown that high volume combined with short rest period training, increases human growth hormone levels. Therefore a work-rate ration of 1:1 combined with high training volume and weight loads that allow you to perform somewhere between 8 to a max of 12 repetitions, will get you there.


You may be wondering where circuits, high intensity short classes or sessions with very short period of rest may fit into. This category of workouts fall into a ratio lower than 1:1 since the resting period may be less than 30 seconds. Because the rest intervals are very short, there is a modest gain in strength. This type activity is ideal for those who may have limited time at their disposal, wish to include some variety to their training and want to achieve a modest balanced strength and cardiovascular endurance level.

Different training goals, entail different training loads and resting periods between sets. To gain optimal results, it is ideal to understand how these can be combined to get you closer to your fitness goal every day.


Your body needs adequate amount of time to heal and recover before it can function at its best capacity again. When you don’t allow your muscles to rest, they tend to take a rest their own, meaning you will eventually get injured. In sports medicine this phenomenon is referred to cumulative microtrauma.

There is no specific way to calculate which days should be assigned to training and which days to rest. It all comes down to the individual differences of ones fitness level, exercise intensity, frequency and load. These are some considerations which can bring some light, before you can workout the rest between your workouts.

How often can you workout each week?

2 times for maintenance

3 times for beginners

5 times for serious fitness enthusiasts

10 times for athletes

How hard should a workout be?

If training 2 or 3 times weekly, train with high intensity

If training 5 or more times weekly, split the program into different intensity variations to avoid undertraining and overtraining.

How long per each session?

For anaerobic objectives (strength), train less than an hour each workout.

For aerobic objectives (cardiovascular endurance), train for up to one and a half to two hours each session.

What type of exercises?

Beginners training 2 or 3 times weekly should choose a selection of exercises and methods to ensure that all major muscle groups are covered and nothing remains neglected.

Athletes can also focus on all major group muscles however, they only do that during their off-season. Pre and in season their training must be highly specific to the skills needed for that particular sport.


As a general rule, you should not intensively exercise the same muscle group two days in a row, and usually not more than three times a week. Doing so, your body will eventually become fatigued and reach an overtrained state. This can lead to injuries, other health issues and side effects.

After you train big muscle groups such as chest, back or legs you may need two days of rest if your training is intense and your loads are heavy.

When you are focusing on smaller muscle groups such as shoulders, biceps and triceps you will need one day to rest.

Either way, your body will feedback you on this issue. When you experience a severe muscle soreness you must take a break from training those muscles for at least 2 days. It has been shown that light aerobic activities such as walking or power walking, performed after 24 to 48 hours from its occurrence, can help the body to flush out any byproducts of training accumulated in the muscle, therefore assisting faster recovery.


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