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Thread: Rest between sets

  1. #1
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    Rest between sets

    I'm looking for some input on duration of rest between sets and the potential impact on hypertrophy, strength and endurance. I have read a few conflicting opinions on this matter already from reputable sources and would love to hear some more opinions.


    "You should take about 1min rest between your work sets. As the weight on the bar
    increases and you start struggling to get 5 reps on each set, start taking up to 5 mins rest
    between sets, this can make the difference between getting 5 reps or not on your next
    work sets. Prevent your workouts from getting too long by not taking any rest between
    your warm-up sets – just load the bar then do your next set. But stay focused." That quote is from StrongLifts5X5, which is a strenght focused program; this seems to suggest that less rest is better, but not mandatory for improvements in strenght... and strenght gains will lead to size gains.


    "Rest periods
    On this you have to listen to your body, autoregulate, but I
    put a hard stop of two minutes between ramping sets and
    thirty-seconds between clusters. If you’re on fire that day,
    make the rest periods as short as you want to." - That's from HCT-12


    Some programs, like the fairly straight forward Barnett training system recommend no more than 45 seconds for hypertrophy.

    So, what's the consensus? How much rest should I take? When is it NOT okay to rest for say 5 min?

  2. #2
    Senior Member BallsWideDeep's Avatar
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    I think this is something that lifters just learn in time. I like 3-5 minutes between heavy squats, deadlifts, and bb rows. Most everything else I like about 2 minutes. Small muscles isolation (bicep and delts) I like to keep around a minute.

    As long as rest stays about the same and reps or weight are added, I think anything you choose is correct.
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    Rob Schilke | GFX Designer thecityalive's Avatar
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    I'll echo that. Especially with high volume and heavy loads. Bench, squat, and deadlift I usually take 2-4 Mins to rest. It seems like forever though. Everything else, is a shorter break.
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  4. #4
    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    The general rule is less rest for hypertrophy (without getting ridiculous to the point it just becomes conditioning work).


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  5. #5
    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    I think it's lift specific. You can recover faster from a set of curls than you can a set of deadlifts. So for heavy stuff, I take between 3 and 5 minutes. For lighter stuff, I take between 1 and 3 minutes.

    Your level of conditioning can also have an effect on how fast you can recover between sets. Better conditioned people recover faster.
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  6. #6
    Moderator joey54's Avatar
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    Lower body between heaviest sets of things like squats and deads should be longest rest periods. Assistance work should probably be the shortest rest periods.


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    Great feedback! Thanks.... I can see the difference between individual lifts, although I seem to notice the need for more rest on bench - maybe that's because I lift heavy on bench proportionally to my other lifts?
    Based on the feedback I guess I should try taking shorter breaks; I had been sticking to the minute limit until I started getting close to 200lbs on my bench and felt more rest (~5min) was allowing me to progress better; perhaps that has become a crutch?

  8. #8
    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    I would guess your lack of hypertrophy progress is more related to your actual training routine than rest periods. What is your training routine?


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    Rory Parker Behemoth's Avatar
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    I've never been one to time my rest intervals. I simply rest long enough that I feel capable of giving 100% on my next set. That may be 90 seconds between a set of pushdowns or that may be 10 minutes between sets of 20 rep squats.
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    Quote Originally Posted by chris mason View Post
    I would guess your lack of hypertrophy progress is more related to your actual training routine than rest periods. What is your training routine?
    I am on Strong Lifts 5X5 right now; planning to start doing HCT-12 soon.... I'd say my hypertrophy progress is okay, I just always want more ...

  11. #11
    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    That program is probably ok, but not optimal for hypertrophy. You need some higher rep counts to do that. What are your current stats?


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    Chris, I'm trying to follow the advice of guys like Off-Road et al, who recommend using a good strength routine before moving on to a hypertrophy program... not sure what my 1 RMs are right now, but I 5x5 B: 200, S: 200, DL: 245, OH: 100, Pendaley row: 200 ... bodyweight: 195lbs, ht: 5'10''...
    I'd love to try DT but don't feel I'm ready, and I don't have a spotter anyway...
    Last edited by NITF; 09-25-2011 at 07:56 PM.

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    You should listen to your body, that's very important.

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    Senior Member tom183's Avatar
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    I've always followed the "when you're ready, you're ready' principle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Behemoth View Post
    I've never been one to time my rest intervals. I simply rest long enough that I feel capable of giving 100% on my next set. That may be 90 seconds between a set of pushdowns or that may be 10 minutes between sets of 20 rep squats.
    I used to do the same but since I've been using my android phone for music I also started using this program called Jetfit. It logs all your lifts and gives you a timer in between each set. You set the timer up in your routine it's really great. The Iphone might have it to.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Behemoth View Post
    I've never been one to time my rest intervals. I simply rest long enough that I feel capable of giving 100% on my next set. That may be 90 seconds between a set of pushdowns or that may be 10 minutes between sets of 20 rep squats.
    Wouldn't this be a bad idea since if you are increasing the weight week by week but your rest times are going up, you might not actually be gaining muscle/strength?

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    Rory Parker Behemoth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by greemah View Post
    Wouldn't this be a bad idea since if you are increasing the weight week by week but your rest times are going up, you might not actually be gaining muscle/strength?
    The day that I can work so hard that my rest periods deem my workout worthless will be the day I have the most successful workout of my life.

    Meaning I'll take more overload vs less rest time anyday if it's a legitimate trade. Yeah, obviously there's going to be a threshold where one will offset the other. One more rep on my calf raises probably isn't going to be worth 7 extra minutes before the next set. But for me it's just always been easiest to progress by way of giving it my all as frequently as I'm capable of. That pretty much has went for not just sets but workouts also.

    This is just me, I'm not saying that maybe if I sacrificed a little work on certain sets it may not have netted me better results for that workout. I really don't know and I really don't think anybody conclusively does so I just subscribe to give it your all as frequent as you can.

    Hope that cleared up what I meant.
    Last edited by Behemoth; 09-27-2011 at 06:51 PM.
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  18. #18
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    It depends on how you measure progression and what program you are running.

    If doing a set amount of reps/sets week to week and only increasing weight, it doesn't make much sense to measure rest periods. Take a 5x5 for example...as long as you hit 25 reps with said weight, you go up 5 pounds next time. Take 5 minutes before your last set if that is what it takes.

    But if you are on a program where you are, many times, only increasing reps...or trying to hit a rep threshold before increasing weight, it makes sense. Take a routine like DC training or hct-12 for example....

    In both cases, you do a set, then rack the weight for 30 secs, do another, rack 30 secs, do another, etc. Your total reps are what you are progressing on week to week...so if I took that 30 secs and turned it into 90, then I am cheating on my log book.

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    Quote Originally Posted by greemah View Post
    Wouldn't this be a bad idea since if you are increasing the weight week by week but your rest times are going up, you might not actually be gaining muscle/strength?
    If you are increasing your max weight lifts, then you are gaining strength ...
    Last edited by NITF; 09-27-2011 at 06:41 PM.

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    Thanks Behemoth I see what you mean. I guess I was just thinking going that way might be bad on a cut trying to maintain your lifts, because if you keep the same weights but slowly let your rest times increase you may be slowly losing strength.

    Quote Originally Posted by NITF View Post
    If you are increasing your max weight lifts, then you are gaining strength ...
    That's true if you are talking about a 1rep max or a single set, but if you are talking about multiple sets it's not. If your max 3x5 squat is 300lbs with 2 minute rest periods, then next week you squat 3x5 320lbs with 10 minute rest periods, you haven't necessarily increased your strength

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    isolation work about 60-90 seconds, compound exercises 2-4 minutes. also depends on the workout of the day for squats today i took 60% of my max, did 5 sets of 15 lowering the weight by 10 pounds once and only took 90 seconds of rest in between sets.

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    Quote Originally Posted by greemah View Post
    That's true if you are talking about a 1rep max or a single set, but if you are talking about multiple sets it's not. If your max 3x5 squat is 300lbs with 2 minute rest periods, then next week you squat 3x5 320lbs with 10 minute rest periods, you haven't necessarily increased your strength


    Well I think that's pretty obvious... also obvious you shouldn't be letting rest periods increase DIRECTLY proportional to your RMs... I suppose those are all distinctions worth noting, but this was not what I was getting at.
    Last edited by NITF; 09-28-2011 at 05:08 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NITF View Post
    I suppose those are all distinctions worth noting, but this was not what I was getting at.
    I may have misinterpreted your post - what were you meaning exactly?

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    Quote Originally Posted by greemah View Post
    I may have misinterpreted your post - what were you meaning exactly?
    No problem... i.e.,No problem... i.e., no linear progression of rest periods, but rather, linear progression of RMs and adjusting rest periods slightly only if progress stalls... and you only increase your rest periods to some set limit.

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    Overthinking to the max right now. Just go in the gym and progress in some way, shape or form. Whether it is doing the same reps/weight with shorter rest periods, more reps, or more weight...just progress! It does not matter, as long as your constantly on the up and up.,

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