Rest Periods and Gains

When you're pressed for time, you'll be tempted to cut your rest intervals short. Resist the urge! While it may seem like a time-saver, it's actually a results-killer.

Consider that research shows that 3 minutes between sets is optimal for gaining strength and size (1), so when you short-change your rest times, you reduce the amount of weight you can lift and/or reps for your subsequent sets. As a result, you lower your volume load and decrease your gains.

But I'm Busy and Need a Faster Workout!

Instead of using insufficient rest intervals, try the late Charles Poliquin's method of alternating between non-competing exercises. This system has been around for a long time, yet few people use it. That's too bad, because when done correctly, you can cut your training time in half.

Instead of doing a set of bench press and then playing around on your phone for 3 or 4 or more minutes, place a heavy dumbbell next to the bench press. Then do this:

  • A1. Bench Press: Rest 45 seconds
  • A2. 1-Arm Dumbbell Row: Rest 45 seconds

Repeat for your desired number of rounds

If you prefer whole body training, you can also pair lower body hinge movements with upper body movements:

Hinge and Push Example

  • A1. Trap Bar Deadlift: Rest 60 seconds
  • A2. Dips: Rest 45 seconds

Squat and Pull Example

  • B1. Front Squat: Rest 60 seconds
  • B2. Chin-Up: Rest 45 seconds

This style of training only gives you time to record your set in your training journal, grab a quick swig of water, and get ready for your next set. This keeps you off your phone, which will improve your mental focus and create a better flow to your training session.

Related:  9 Hacks for Streamlining Your Workouts

Related:  13 Set-Rep Schemes for Brand New Growth


  1. Schoenfeld, BJ., et al. Longer inter-set rest periods enhance muscle strength and hypertrophy in resistance-trained men. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 2015, 30(7):1805-12. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001272.