Tip: Don't Cut Your Rest Periods Short

Short on time? Don't rest less between sets or you'll interfere with your gains. Try this instead.

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.

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.

  1. Schoenfeld BJ et al. Longer inter-set rest periods enhance muscle strength and hypertrophy in resistance-trained men. J Strength Cond Res. 2016 Jul;30(7):1805-12.
Andrew Heming is a strength coach, professor, and former Canadian University U-Sport head strength coach. Andrew helps athletes and skinny hardgainers get bigger, faster, and stronger. Follow Andrew Heming on Facebook