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One of the important variables that determines the training stimulus is rest period. Yet few studies have determined how altering rest periods affects the quality of a workout. In this study, college men performed a workout that consisted of 4 sets of squat and 4 sets of bench press on 3 separate occasions. The initial load was set at a weight in which subjects could perform 8 repetitions. The only difference between the 3 workouts was the rest period between sets which were either 1, 2, or 5 min. Subjects were asked to perform as many repetitions as possible on all sets. For both the bench press and squat, the least number of repetitions was performed during the 1 min rest period trial. Compared to the 1 min rest period trial for the bench press, total repetitions were 26% higher for the 2 min and 50% higher for the 5 min rest period trial. Compared to the 1 min rest period trial for the squat, total repetitions were 14% higher for the 2 min and 28% higher for the 5 min rest period trial. These findings show that longer rest periods result in considerably greater training volumes to be completed compared to short rest periods. This may translate into better gains in strength and highlight the importance of allowing adequate recovery between sets.

Willardson JM, Burkett LN. A comparison of 3 different rest intervals on the exercise volume completed during a workout. J Strength Cond Res. 2006 19; 23-26.