Facebook Pixel
Brookbush Institute Logo
Dr. Brent Brookbush cues Melissa through multi-planer dumbbell press on bench
Continuing Education3 Credits

Acute Variables: Rest Between Sets

Optimal recovery between sets, inter-set rest interval, rest periods, cluster set intervals, and intraset rest, for improving stability, increasing muscle endurance, gaining muscle and hypertrophy, increasing maximal strength, and improving power. Effects of interset rest intervals, inter-repetition rest periods, cluster sets, drop sets, circuit training, rest periods between sets, intra-set rest, and inter-repetition rest (IRR) on hormones (testosterone, growth hormone, cortisol, IGF-1), cardiovascular fitness, blood pressure, and performance. Using inter-repetition rest periods/rest between sets period for improving adaptations.

Course Description: Rest Between Sets

This course discusses optimal rest between sets (a.k.a. rest period, rest interval, rest time, inter-set rest interval, rest between exercises), as well as strategies including rest between reps (a.k.a. intra-set rest, cluster sets, rest redistribution). This course details the evidence-based optimal rest between reps recommendations for muscle endurance, muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth), strength training, power, athletic performance, functional training, and corrective exercise. The topics discussed in this course include the effects of rest periods on muscle adaptations, short-term and long-term hormone concentrations, post-exercise protein synthesis, muscle growth, muscle fiber type proportions, EMG activity, fatigue, rate of force development, muscle strength, and power performance.

Some findings from the included systematic review resulted in counter-intuitive, or at least less conventional recommendations. For example, the most important finding from our systematic review is that recommendations for rest between set durations should be based on sets/exercise (volume), and not load or training goal. General recommendations include moderate (2 min) rest between sets if performing 2 sets/exercise, long rest (3 min) if performing 3 sets/exercise, and very long rest (> 4 min) if performing 4 sets or more/exercise. Additionally, based on all performance measures, circuit training with 30-60 seconds between exercises is as effective as conventional training but may decrease session lengths by 40-60%, especially when longer rest between sets of the same exercise is adopted.

Movement professionals (personal trainers, fitness instructors, physical therapists, athletic trainers, massage therapists, chiropractors, occupational therapists, etc.) should consider acute variables essential knowledge for optimal exercise programming, and rest between sets is one of those acute variables. This course is part of our continued effort to optimize “acute variable” recommendations.

Additional Courses:



  • Long (3 min) rest between set durations


  • 2 sets/exercise: Moderate (2 min)
  • 3 sets/exercise: Long (3 min)
  • 4 or more sets/exercise: Long (3 min) or very long (> 3 min)
  • Alternative: Circuit training with short (1 min) rest between exercises
  • Additional Strategy for Power: Inter-set rest of 10 - 20 seconds (sec)

Inter-set Rest Periods (Rest Between Reps): Inter-set rest periods of up to 20 seconds may be beneficial for maintaining average and peak velocity/rep during the second half of sets. This strategy may be particularly beneficial for optimizing power (high-velocity) training.

  • Inter-set Rest Period Example:
    • Set 1: Box Jumps 5 reps, 10-sec rest, 5 reps
    • 3 min rest between sets
    • Set 2: Box Jumps 5 reps, 12-sec rest, 5 reps
    • 3 min rest between sets
    • Repeat for the desired number of sets

The dumbbell bench press exercise targeting the upper body muscles
Caption: The dumbbell bench press exercise targeting the upper body muscles

Webinar: Acute Variables: Rest Between Sets

Study Guide: Acute Variables: Rest Between Sets


Research Summary

Systematic Review: Hormones, Immune Response and Metabolism

3 sub-categories

Protein Synthesis

4 sub-categories

Electormyographic Activity and Cardiovascular Changes

2 sub-categories

Hypertrophy, Strength and Power

4 sub-categories


5 sub-categories

Variable Rest

3 sub-categories

Inter-set Rest (a.k.a. Cluster Sets, Rest Redistribution, or Rest Between Reps)

4 sub-categories

Circuit Training

3 sub-categories


© 2024 Brookbush Institute. All rights reserved.




1. Introduction

00:00 00:00