Determining Your Rest Period

You know that guy? The guy that is decked out in top of the line clothing, has his shaker bottle in hand, and cell phone in the other? Yeah, the guy that does 1 set, then rests about 8 minutes. Please don’t be him.

But how long should you rest?

Determining your rest period depends on a couple of things. It depends upon what your goal is behind your program, and what your total volume (wt X reps X sets) is. The less reps you do, the more you want to rest. Huh? Yeah I know seems weird, but hear me out.

First of all you have to take a look at what your goal is. And you must have just that. A goal, and not 20 goals, one main goal you want to achieve this program. Is it power, strength, hypertrophy, or endurance? Once you determine your goal you can then put a proper rep rang to it following this outline.

  • Power-1-4 Reps
  • Strength: 5-8 Reps
  • Hypertrophy: 9-12 Reps
  • Endurance: 13+ Reps

So, what that means is if you have a goal of strength, why would you be doing anything more than 8 reps? Anything more than that you are not going to be able to lift a heavy enough weight to elicit strength, and you would be more into the hypertrophy, or size range. Same goes for endurance. If you are doing an exercise for 13+ reps you are working  on your endurance, not your strength.

So, now that you have your reps determined, now you have to determine how long you should rest in between each of those sets of reps. Do that by following this general outline:

1-4 Reps: 3-5 Minutes

5-8 Reps: 60-120 Seconds

9-12 Reps: 45-60 Seconds

13+ Reps: 30 Seconds

So, as you can see the more reps you do the less you rest. Because, if I am going 13+ reps of something it is probably going to be a fairly light weight. Where as if I am doing 5 reps of something it is probably going to be a heavy weight, so I want to rest enough so that I can go back in the next set and more that weight or heavier. And finally, power has the longest rest. Power is strength X speed. So, not only are you lifting a good amount of weight, you are trying to do it fast. This is the rep range Olympic lifts should be completed in. If you are not moving fast during this motion, you are taking the speed component out of the power equation, thus only working strength. You want to rest long enough so not only can you move that weight, but you can move it fast.

This is just a general outline on how to determine your rest periods. We could of course go into a lot more detail. However my goal with this post is for people to realize they are really not going to benefit if they do 10 reps of a bicep curl, the go spend 5 minutes at the water fountain with the pretty girl in yoga pants.



About Spurling Training Systems

At Spurling Training Systems, our focus is on providing a superior athletic conditioning experience. The combination of expert training, time spent understanding your specific goals and customized program development is what makes Spurling Training Systems a unique and effective training experience for athletes of all ages, levels and abilities. Doug is the founder and owner of Spurling Training Systems. He graduated from University of New England with a Bachelor of Science in Applied Exercise Science. He has several years of experience as both a personal trainer for general fitness and a strength and conditioning coach for athletes. His certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) include Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and Certified Personal Trainer (CPT).
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