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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Effect of Rest Interval Length on the Volume Completed During Upper Body Resistance Exercise

Brent Brookbush

Brent Brookbush


Research Review: Effect of Rest Interval Length on the Volume Completed During Upper Body Resistance Exercise

By David Boettcher MSc, BA, NASM CPT, PES, CES & NPTI

Edited by Brent Brookbush DPT, PT, COMT, MS, PES, CES, CSCS, ACSM H/FS

Original Citation: Miranda, H., Simão, R., Moreira, L. M., de Souza, R. A., de Souza, J. A. A., de Salles, B. F., & Willardson, J. M. (2009). Effect of rest interval length on the volume completed during upper body resistance exercise. Journal of sports science & medicine8(3), 388. - Full Text

Why the Study is Relevant: The recommended duration for inter-set rest intervals during strength training varies from 30 seconds to 5 minutes (1). These recommendations are based mostly on hormonal responses after volume-based training (repetitions x resistance x sets) (2). This 2009 study by Brazilian researchers used five common upper body exercises to compare 1- and 3-minute rest intervals based on total volume of exercise completed. The findings suggest that longer rest intervals should be considered by human movement professionals who can prioritize optimal performance over total session length.

Dr. Brookbush instruct Laura DeAngelis on proper form for a Bench Press
Caption: Dr. Brookbush instruct Laura DeAngelis on proper form for a Bench Press

Study Summary

Study Design  Randomized crossover design
Level of Evidence  IB Evidence from at least one randomized controlled trial
Participant Characteristics
  • Age: 24 +/- 2.5 years
  • Gender: Male
  • Number of participants: 12

Inclusion Criteria:

  • 2+ years of resistance training
  • No cardio-respiratory risk factors
  • Recreational resistance training experience

Exclusion Criteria:

  • N/A
  • Participants received standard instructions for exercises: The barbell bench press (BBP), incline barbell bench press (IBBP), pec dec flye (PDF), barbell lying tricep extension (BLTE), and tricep pushdown (TPD).
  • Each participant's 8 repetition max (8-RM) was determined for all exercises using three attempts with a 10 minute rest between exercises.
  • The 8-RM weight was used on all sets of exercises.
  • The warm-up for all exercise sessions was controlled. It consisted of barbell bench press at 2 sets of 12 reps, at 40% of the 8-RM.
  • One training session used 3-minute rest intervals and the other used 1-minute intervals.
  • All participants took part in both sessions, 48-72 hours apart.
  • The overall completed volume (sets x resistance x repetitions) was recorded and compared between sessions.
Data Collection and Analysis
  • Statistical analysis was conducted using SPSS 17.0.
  • Shapiro-Wilk normality and homoscedasticity tests were used to confirm normal distribution and homoscedasticity.
  • A one-way ANOVA was conducted for each exercise, comparing the total volume completed during the rest interval conditions.
  • A confidence interval of p < .05 was used to determine statistical significance.
Outcome Measures
  • Repetitions completed for each exercise
  • Total workout volume completed with the 3- minute rest interval
  • Total workout volume completed with the 1-minute rest interval
  • Differences in repetitions completed for each set during the 2 rest conditions
Results 1-minute Rest Data Set:
  • There were significant reductions between the first and second set in 3 of the 5 exercises:
    • BBP (reps): Set 1= 8.40 (.22),         Set 2= 6.42 (.51)
    • BLTE (reps): Set 1= 6.50 (.91),       Set 2= 4.92 (.90)
    • TPD (reps): Set 1=4.75 (.62),          Set 2= 3.08 (.79)

3-minute Rest Data Set:

  • No significant differences in repetitions completed between the first and second set
  • Greater consistency of repetitions over all sets for each exercise

3 Minute vs. 1 Minute Rest:

  • The total volume and number of repetitions completed in all exercises was significantly greater for the 3-minute rest interval than the 1-minute condition.
  • BBP (kg): 1 min = 1334 (405)                         3 min = 1527 (468).
  • IBBP (kg): 1 min = 691 (241)                          3 min = 1118 (329)
  • PDF (kg): 1 min = 506 (202)                           3 min = 776 (252)
  • BLTE (kg): 1 min = 460 (190)                        3 min = 619 (227)
  • TPD (kg): 1 min = 394 (145)                           3 min = 655 (246)
Our Conclusions The findings of this study support the use of longer inter-set rest intervals during strength training; however, the increase in training volume that may be achieved must be weighed against the additional time added to a training session.
Researchers' Conclusions Longer rest intervals allow for completion of a greater volume of exercise. If time allows, a 3-minute rest interval should be used for optimal performance in strength training.

Horizontal Pull-up
Caption: Horizontal Pull-up

Review & Commentary:

This study adds to a significant body of research used to develop protocols for recommending acute variables during resistance training. The researchers used five common upper body exercises to compare the volume completed during two inter-set rest conditions, demonstrating that longer rest intervals (3-minutes) allow for a higher volume of exercise. This research offers human movement professionals guidance in designing a strength training program.

This study had many methodological strengths, including:

  • The crossover design reduced the influence of confounding variables such as individual differences in nutrition and sleep habits.
  • The exercises used in the study are commonly performed in recreational strength training programs increasing applicability.
  • The weight chosen for each participant was individualized based on an 8 repetition max, allowing an accurate representation of each participant's abilities.
  • The findings aligned with previous research that used similar procedures, tested similar variables, but investigated shoulder extensors and elbow flexors (3). This suggest a trend supporting longer rest-intervals is accumulating in the body of research.

Weaknesses that should be noted:

  • Only upper body exercises were used, limiting the generalizability to lower body protocols that use a similar methodology.
  • The small sample size (12) of a select population reduces the generalizability of the findings.
  • Exclusion criteria were either not included, or were not documented in the publication.

How This Study is Important:

Inter-set rest periods have a large impact on performance during a training session and may affect gains achieved via adaptation to training. This study was one of the first to investigate the effect inter-set rest periods have on training volume during a session. It is hypothesized that increases in training volume may lead to larger increases in performance. This study demonstrated that 3 minute inter-set rest periods resulted in a larger training volume per session than 1 minute inter-set rest periods.

How the Findings Apply to Practice:

The findings of this study support the use of longer inter-set rest intervals during strength training if an increase in training volume per session is advantageous to the patient/client's goals. This study supports a trend toward longer rest periods in the body of research (2 - 13) Consideration should be given to the benefit of increased training volume that may be achieved when compared to the additional time added to a training session. Further, research should investigate whether 3 minute inter-set rest periods between working similar muscle groups, using a circuit training format, would allow for the same increases in volume without significantly increasing the time of a session.

How does it relate to Brookbush Institute Content?

The Brookbush Institute (BI) encourages practitioners to consider all variables of program design and to individualize training programs according to the needs and goals of the client. The common range for inter-set rest intervals is 1- to 3-minutes depending on the training phase. Based on results from this and other studies, the Brookbush Institute may have to consider increasing inter-set rest intervals for lower intensity training (Endurance and Hypertrophy phases) and potentially separate recommendations for upper and lower body exercise (2 - 13). Again, the BI acknowledges that longer inter-set rest periods must be considered relative to the time available for a training session. Currently the BI recommends circuit training in most situations to shorten session times while maintaining inter-set rest intervals per muscle group - 3rd party research is needed to support this recommendation.

The BI will continue to refine recommendations and training protocols as new research becomes available. Sample strength training videos can be seen below.

Bench Press:

Dumbell Press:

Kneeling Cable Pull Down:

Horizontal Row:


  1. Baechle T.R., & Earle, R.W. (2008). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (3rd ed.). Champaign, IL; Human Kinetics.
  2. Henselmans, M., & Schoenfeld, B. J. (2014). The effect of inter-set rest intervals on resistance exercise-induced muscle hypertrophy. Sports Medicine44(12), 1635-1643.
  3. Miranda, H., Fleck, S. J., Simao, R., Barreto, A. C., Dantas, E. H., & Novaes, J. (2007). Effect of two different rest period lengths on the number of repetitions performed during resistance training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research21(4), 1032-1036.
  4. Willardson, J. M., & Burkett, L. N. (2005). Acomparison of 3different rest intervals on the exercise volume completed during a workout. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research19(1), 23-26.
  5. Ratamess, N. A., Falvo, M. J., Mangine, G. T., Hoffman, J. R., Faigenbaum, A. D., & Kang, J. (2007). The effect of rest interval length on metabolic responses to the bench press exercise. European journal of applied physiology100(1), 1-17.
  6. Richmond, S.R. & Godard, P.M. (2004). The effects of varied rest periods between sets to failure using the bench press in recreationally trained men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 18 (4), 846-849.
  7. Larson, G.D. & Potteiger, J.A.A. (1997). Comparison of three different rest intervals between multiple squat bouts. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 11 (2), 115-118.
  8. Rahimi, R. (2005). Effect of different rest intervals on the exercise volume completed during squat bouts. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 4 (4), 361-366.
  9. Fink, J., Schoenfeld, B., Kikuchi, N., & Nazakato, K. Acute and long-term responses to different rest intervals in low-load resistance training. International Journal of Sports Medicine. Int J Sports Med. 2017; 38(02): 118-124
  10. Jambassi Filho, J., Gobbi, L., Gurjao, A., Goncalves, R., Prado, Alexandre, and Gobbi, S. (2013). Effect of different rest intervals, between sets, on muscle performance during leg press exercise, in trained older women. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, (12), 138-143 .
  11. Schoenfeld, B.J., Pope, Z.K., Benik, F.M., Hester, G.M., Sellers, J., Nooner, J.L., Schnaiter, J.A., Bond-Williams, K.E., Carter, A.S., Ross, C.L. and Just, B.L. Longer interset rest periods enhance muscle strength and hypertrophy in resistance-trained men. J Str Cond Res. July 2016; 30(7): 1805-1812
  12. Senna G, Willardson JM, Salles BF, Scudese E, Carneiro F, Palma A, Simão R. The effect of rest interval length on multi and single-joint exercise performance and perceived exertion. J Str Cond Res. Nov 2011; 25(11): 3157-3162
  13. Hernandez-Davo, J., Solana, R., Marin, J., Fernandez-Fernandez, J., and Ramon, M. (2016). Rest interval required for power training with power load in the bench press throw exercise. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 30(5), 1265-1274.

© 2018 Brent Brookbush

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