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Timing Rests Between Sets

Curious about your guys’ experience with timing your rest periods during workouts. Like say being pretty strict with a timer for like 3 mins between sets.

I’m guessing the exact time will vary depending on a lot of stuff but I’m more after how the practice itself in general goes.

I’m mostly interested in time efficiency of my workout because I’m real generous on rest times and working my jaw muscles talking to people.

What other benefits are there to timing or being stricter with rest times?

Increased work capacity, more hypertrophy if you do cluster sets. Less time wasted too.


The Tactical Barbell program uses a strict 2 minute rest between all sets, even if circuiting. I’ve done this for a while and can say:

  • Workouts get done in a predictable time. I often read between sets and sometimes I get caught up
  • 2 minutes sometimes isn’t enough, so you learn your limits a little better when it comes to work capacity. I like this quite a bit.
  • I think hypertrophy increases as a result, but can’t be too sure

I’ve been finding recent success in employing rest times as another means of progression, specifically observing this with my benching.

I still attempt to increase weight or reps per session, but each session I shave 30 seconds off my rest intervals. I start at 4 minutes, and once I get down to 2, I restart the cycle.

I observe pretty solid growth in ability resetting back to that 4 minute mark, and typically bypass any previous sticking point, at which time I try to hold on and grow as much as I can while the rest times drop before starting it all over again.


That’s pretty interesting.

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Thanks. Stole it from Deep Water, and really been enjoying it as a new training paradigm. Also nice, because it makes my training sessions shorter as time goes on, which allows me to find room for more assistance work.

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I’ve had a hitch that sometimes my “need” for x amount of rest time (usually 3 to 5, sometimes even 7+ minutes for heavier weights on squat) was just all in my head. Nice way to measure progression. I’ll try it one of these days.


I take long rest periods on squat days when I’m in full gear, but it’s not 20 minutes of sitting on my ass.

I load more weight, roll my wraps, spot 1-3 people, then rest a few before wrapping my knees and starting all over.

If I could get my non-wrapped sets to under 3 minutes on ME day that’d be awesome.

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I take 5 minutes between my main lift work sets (squat, bench, DL and OHP), 3 minutes between supplement lift work sets and do my assistance lifts circuit style as fast as I can. I’ve found that at meets it takes about 8 minutes between attempts, assuming 10-12 lifters in the flight, and I’m plenty recovered if I’m used to 5 minutes in training.

I don’t time rests during normal training, unless its written specifically that they have to be a specific time (which is usually around 10 seconds). What I do is hit a set and wait for my breathing to just slow down and I go again.

This kind of ties into what @T3hPwnisher has said already, but maintaining rest periods helps keep me honest about progress.

What I mean is that if I add volume and/or weight, but I add rest time I haven’t really progressed. By timing myself I know the progress is real.

I’ve also learned that for me personally, there’s a very strong correlation between my work capacity with weights and my absolute strength levels.

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