T Nation

Rest Periods for Fixed Rep Method

What are considered reasonable rest periods for a) strength and b) hypertrophy for fixed rep set/rep schemes. E.g. where there is a specific rep goal (e.g. 25 reps) that you try to complete in as few sets as possible.

Many coaches have written about this method but have either not specified rest periods or have specified unintuitively short rest periods. Waterbury’s “40 Reps Method for Growth” is a good example of the latter where he outlines 40 rep and 20 rep variations - using an 8RM/4RM load and very short 45s/30s rest periods.

Edit: Added a link to Waterburys article for ease of reference:

I like taking 12 deep breaths ala DoggCrapp

Edit: to clarify, I thought this was talking about rest pausing.


@T3hPwnisher is as big as a house and as strong as someone who is as big as a house, so you should give his suggestion serious consideration. That said, breaks from just a few seconds to a couple of minutes are reasonable; find the one that works for you.

Speaking of (un)reasonable:

Given 30-45s breaks between sets, I am deeply skeptical re the possibility of someone successfully completing 40 reps with their 8RM, and/or 20 reps with their 4RM. (Edited to say, I’m assuming the primary set of the regimen involves completing 8 reps and 4 reps, respectively.)


I checked this 40 reps for growth out.

Let me level with you - the rep schemes given in the t-nation article are not representative of going to your absolute max.
If I go to my 4 rep max on a lift - 30 seconds later I’m not going again.
In fact Thursday I got to my 4 rep max in front squat. I took 30% off the bar and then struggled to get sets of 5 reps out. There is no way I’d be able to get 3 reps out after 30 seconds rest. Just no.

I’m not calling the idea out. Its solid enough. BUT there is a big difference between an absolute 4rm where you need to grind out the last 1/2 of a rep. And technical 4rm. Where you CAN squeeze out another rep. But you know you have another 16 reps, so you save yourself.

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This is an important point, and one that explains how people can hit the seemingly impossible rep numbers employed by some of these extended-set routines. (Which is not to say such programs can’t be effective–they most def can.)

This brings up a fundamental question regarding extended-sets work: Is it more effective to seek out fatigue (eg, the DC method), or to manage it (eg, the myo-rep method)? I for one am unsure as to which approach is better.


In general, Long rests for Strength. Louie said to rest 6 minutes between max-rep sets of DB bench. Give yourself time to recover if the weight is important.

And in general, short rests for Mass. Dorian said rest 1 minute, build the fatigue to exhaust the muscle. When you’re just trying to kill the muscle, the weight is irrelevant.

In general, it will get better to Seek Out Fatigue for Mass. And Manage Fatigue for Strength. But after 6-8 weeks, the gains will slow down for either style. At that point, switching to the Other method will produce better results.


Thank you all for your responses which have ultimately confirmed two things:

  • The standard principles for rest still apply - e.g. 30s-120s for hypertrophy and 120s-forever for strength (ballpark figures only)
  • Waterbury has either overstated the loading, is actually referring to a technical RM (or perhaps based on velocity drop off) or is training superhumans.

FYI the specific version I’m interested in is Dan John’s Goldilock’s Method - 25 reps performed in as few sets as possible with 3-6 sets being the “sweet spot”. If the 25 reps are performed in <3 sets then the load is increased.

A perfectly reasonable program to follow.

That said, if you’re interested in exploring density training (which is really what you’re talking about here), consider simply using time to total as your measure. Using a weight somewhere around your 10RM, do 25 reps in as short an amount of time as you can manage. Then, at your next workout, you have to beat that time. Repeat until your time falls below some pre-determined parameter (eg, a 25% reduction from the original time), then bump the weight and start the process over. Maximally minimalist.


I remember the days when I was starting out, and reading every single thing I could find. I got caught up in actually bringing a stopwatch to the gym with me so I would ensure I was utilizing the optimal rest periods between sets.

Man, what a ridiculous sight I must have been -lol.

I’ll give you my thoughts, and some will agree and others wont.

How long to rest on most sets? Long enough so that I can honestly feel that I’m attacking my next set with as much focus and ferocity as I can possibly muster on that given day.

Sure, some times I might be utilizing a certain exercise with the focus of stimulating more of a metabolic approach to muscle growth, and it’s more of feeling mentally ready to attack than physically, but my bottom line is that while I can realistically tell you that I usually wait about 2-3 minutes between heavy training sets, my actual “ok, let’s do this” signal is going by feel, physically and/or mentally. There’s no magic time frame regardless of how long some training manuals will tell it it takes for full ATP replenishment.



Haha I did the same thing - then I bought a $5 wrist watch… then I dropped the watch.

Shaking my head as I typed that out.

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First: I declare this comment to be an extension of the Flame-free confessions thread, and therefore subject to its rules.

With that out of the way…I confess I use a Timex wristwatch to measure rest breaks. Ironically, this is (at least in part) the fault of @The_Mighty_Stu . He was the one who convinced me it’s important to take 2-3 minutes between heavy work sets. (I’m impatient, and have a tendency to rush things if left to my internal clock.)

Remember: Flame free, or you’ll be hearing from my internet lawyers.


Although I don’t wear a watch, my gym has digital clocks all over and I try to keep a rough eye on it and stay under a minute. Not anal about it, but I am somewhat of a time watcher too. At a commercial gym 1 minute goes by insanely fast, slot of times I’ll give in around 20-40 seconds, yet at home I’ve caught myself sitting there for 2+ minutes thinking it’s been 15 seconds :joy:. Peer pressure man.


Lol all about quality vs quantity my friend :wink: