T Nation

Rest Between Sets


I just started Total Body Training last week and I really like the program and the whole concept. I'm coming off a Lifting for Fat Loss program where I rested 2 to 3 minutes between sets. TBT prescribes 60 seconds between sets on 5 rep days, 90 secs on 8 rep days and 120 seconds on 15 rep days and that's what I did this last week. I know there are reasons for this (time under tension?) but was wondering if it would hurt my progress to add 30 to 90 secs when I feel I need it.

The reason I ask is because a couple of times my muscles have failed when I felt like I had moire juice. Lying on the bench press with the bar on my chest looking around for some help kind of sucked. Then on sitting military dumbell presses I couldn't even do the third set of 5 on Monday. I usually do 55 pound dumbbells (don't laugh) and completed 2 sets of 5. For the third set I couldn't even get them up after waiting 60 seconds. I went down to 50's and couldn't get one rep out of those either. Should I just stick with the program's rest intervals and get a spotter or is it OK to to wait a little longer on some sets?


Rest betweem sets doesn't pertain to time under tension, as that is only applicable while moving the weight.

Rest between sets is overrated IMO. While, I give people a general guideline of how long to take, in the grand scheme of things it's not an exact science.

Granted, I wouldn't want someone taking a 10 min chat session between sets. During endurance training they'll take shorter rest periods, during strength phases, longer rest periods.

You'll also find that rest periods between large muscle group exercises will need to be longer than say a bicep curl.

I'm sure others will chime in with varying opinions.


nicely stated. I agree. Given life demands, you can't expect to be at the top of your game each and every time you lift. Feel your body and respond accordingly. In the grand scheme, an extra 15-60 sec. between sets means little to nothing.


Thanks for the clarification guys. I think it will help me with my intensity if I take some extra time when I feel I need it--especially after the big lifts.


This is true but sometimes I think it is better to drop weight and the rest intervals a little shorter. It's a nice change of pace.


I think it goes without saying that altering sequences is a good thing. He was referencing a very specific workout and asking if he could alter those specs. Your inference would be a different workout.


The only problem with changing rest periods is you are (in a way) changing how much work you do each workout. For example, it's obviously easier to do another set 5 minutes later than 30 seconds later. I haven't really read this program, but it could be that the author is trying to increase endurance qualities by not allowing full recovery. Additionally, I know that GH is supposed to be maximized with rest periods of 60-90 seconds. Just a thought.


The program calls for anywhere from a 60 sec to a 120 sec rest period depending on how many reps you're doing (60 sec for 3x5, 90 sec for 3x8 and 120 sec for 2x15). My idea is to try to stick to the plan but adding in 20 to 60 or so seconds when I feel I need them--especially near the end of the workout--mostly so I can actually do the set. I would not wait anywhere close to 5 minutes though--maybe 2 1/2 minutes at the very most.


Now I have a totally different question.

What if I do push-ups( between lower body sessions) or crunches (between upper body sessions) between sets to keep up my heart rate??


Brown Sugar,

Why would you want to do that? I honestly can't see that really having any benefit.

Various rest times have various purposes. When working on improving maximal strength or power, rest periods of 3-6 minutes are optimal in my opinion. When trying to stimulate hypertrophy or endurance qualities, I think 60-90 seconds is best.