Rest is often a carefully thought-out variable in strength training routines. Rightly so, suggests research published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (2015; 29 [11], 3079–83). The study found that resting too little or too much can negatively impact ratings of perceived exertion and the number of repetitions exercisers complete.

This study aimed to determine how rest intervals of different durations—1, 2, 3 or 5 minutes—would affect a subject’s 3-repetition maximum (3-RM) bench press. Sixteen trained men, aged about 24, attended four exercise sessions, each time completing five sets of bench presses. Each session featured a different rest interval.

The subjects performed more repetitions with 2, 3 and 5 minutes’ rest than they did with 1 minute of rest. Performance diminished more quickly with the 1-minute rest than it did with the other rest intervals. The subjects reported higher levels of perceived exertion after each set in both the 1-minute and the 5-minute
rest interventions.

“These findings indicate that when utilizing an absolute 3-RM load for the bench press, practitioners may prescribe a time-efficient minimum of 2 minutes rest between sets without significant impairments in repetition performance,” the authors suggested. “However, lower perceived exertion levels may necessitate prescription of a minimum of 3 minutes rest between sets.”

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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