How long should I rest during my workout?

 How long should I rest during my workout?

You may or may not know of the importance of rest. That is resting between sets, exercises and training days. The amount of time you rest can play a significant role in both performance and also to how your body adapts. You may have experienced the difference in performance more than the adaptations (probably because you can’t feel the adaptations during your training session).

I know that some people will be in and out of the gym in an hour, 40 minutes and maybe even 20 minutes. Obviously the time spent resting can have an impact on how long you train for. But do you know how long you should rest for?

A study by S. Richmond and M. Godard, (2004) on the effects of rest periods and the effects on performance in a bench press revealed that resting 1 minute between sets halved the amount of repetitions being performed compared to resting 3 minutes and 5 minutes which both indicated a repetition range of 8-12 reps after completing 12 on the previous set and working to failure.

Another study by Willardson, Jeffery. M, Burkett and Lee. N, (2006) also showed that a rest period of 3 minutes showed significant improvement on the number of repetitions on both heavy loads (80% of 1RM) and light loads 50% 1RM)  of the bench press.

These Studies show that the right amount of resting can play a significant difference in how we perform.


I Plan the rest periods to optimize performance with each and every program I send out to my Online Coaching Clients Like Alex. Who Improved his Speed, Strength and body composition.

 Above: Alex- One of My Online coaching clients

The Science

I’m Going to Take you on a little Science lesson with this, (nothing too complicated)

The chemical your muscle uses during exercise is called Adenosine Triphosphate or ATP.

During a muscle contraction ATP which contains three Phosophate molecules is converted into Adenosine Diphosphate, or ADP, which contains only two Phosphate molecules. It is the reaction of the separation and utilisation of that Phosphate molecule which cause the muscle to contract. In order for your body to continue this process of ATP synthesis the body must utilise a series of processes using different ways to synthesise ATP, each one produces ATP at different rates. The way we synthesise ATP depends on how long we exercise for at anyone time.



Our ATP is created by various systems in the body each have a different time scale in how fast ATP can be replenished. Initially ATP is synthesised using Phosphogens which are stored our muscles. This cause ATP to be produced the fastest but on,y for. Short period of time, 0-6 seconds is when this is on,y used for ATP production. A process called fast glycolysis which produces ATP from carbohydrates in the form of blood glucose or muscle glycogen, is then coupled with this production of ATP from the muscle Phosphogen stores to further the fast production of ATP for a further 24 seconds approximately. After this the fast glycolysis process is the primary source of ATP production due to the depletion of the muscle Phosphogens. Once you this our body uses other fuels to perform movements, all of which are slower to cause the muscle to contract due to the less rapid production of ATP. This is why you won’t be able to maintain your top sprint speed for more than 30 seconds.



Glycolysis is the process of creating ATP using Carbohydrates as the source of energy. It happens by using a series of enzymatically catalysed reactions to synthesise ATP. The process is slower to occur than when using phosphates in the muscle as a fuel but can still happen fairly rapidly. Glycolysis has two levels of ATP synthesis, Fast Glycolysis also known as anaerobic Glycolysis and slow Glycolysis also known as aerobic glycolysis.

Fast Glycolysis (or anaerobic Glycolysis) uses the fast readily available Glycogen which is stored in the muscles and also the glucose in the blood stream (glycogen being stored glucose). Although this process is rapid it still takes longer to produce ATP than utilising the Phosphogens already in the muscle. The effects of fast glycolysis last for approximately two minutes maximum. As this process does not require oxygen to produce ATP meaning it is an anaerobic system.

Slow Glycolysis requires oxygen to take effect. When using glycolysis as the form of ATP production, the by produced of this is the formation of Pyruvate. This can be either diverted into lactic acid or if enough oxygen is present it will be shuttled into the mitochondria (special cells in the body with enable the use of oxygen) in the muscles to synthesise ATP through what is known as the Krebs cycle. This process is called Slow glycolysis, or as it is utilising oxygen it is aerobic it is also known as aerobic glycolysis. This process is slow to happen as it is essentially secondary to fast glycolysis which will always happen before slow glycolysis. This means that rapid powerful moments are not possible to be performed as the muscles cannot contract in the manner that they would need to. This process can last for a long period of time, depending on how well trained you are and the intensity of exercise being completed.


When you rest, the body attempts to return to its previous state before exercise began (homeostasis). This means the levels of glycogen, and Phosphogens will restore but at different rates. This also depends on how long you exercise for during each set and the level of intensity.

If your intensity is great and are training for about 10-15 seconds, for example a set of 3 repetitions of the snatch, then the recovery should be approximately 2-3 minutes rest as this would be how long it takes to replenish the Phosphogens in the muscle to enable the same intensity to be completed again. The rest period must be adequate to allow the body to produce the fuels needed to produce ATP for muscle contraction whether it is from glycogen synthesis or Phosphogen replenishment from Creatine-phosphate.

The best way to calculate the rest periods is understanding the work-rest-ratios related to the intensity and length of exercise. This is all based upon the amount of time required for you body to perform in the same manner as previously trained in the previous set and at the same or similar similar.

Use this table to help determine the resting time.

Effort/Intensity %.          Exercise time            Work:Rest                      Rest Time

       90-100                           10-15 Seconds.             1:12 – 1:20                        2-5 Mins

                      75-90                             15-30 Seconds.               1:3 – 1:5                       45 Secs – 2.5 Min

            30-75                           1-3 Minutes.                     1:3 – 1:4                          3-12 Mins

                         20-30                            >3 Minutes                     1:1 – 1:3              Exercise time X Rest ratio

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