In a strength program (e.g., 3x5 or 5x5) where one warms up to their work weight with non-taxing sets, say:

2 x 5 x 20% work weight
1 x 5 x 40% work weight
1 x 3 x 60% work weight
1 x 2 x 80% work weight

would one require resting between warmup sets beyond what it takes to change the plates?


Typically, no. What I've been doing is getting through the warmups as quickly as I can without rushing. When I'm done with the warmup work, I allow myself a proper amount of rest before the first work set.

How much rest you need really depends on you. If you have a head cold, or are running on too little sleep, you may need an extra few seconds after loading the bar. Sometimes, it's just a matter of how much weight you are working up to.

When it comes to warmups:

  • Go by feel. If you feel fresh, just power through. If not, rest a bit.
  • Give yourself a couple minutes between the last warmup and your first work set.

When it comes to assistance work, it really depends on your goals. Usually assistance work is lower weight and higher volume, and limiting rest periods can actually help you get stronger. However, I do recommend taking as much rest as you need for your work sets.

  • Makes sense, however I would have thought that limiting rest periods on assistance exercises would bring fatigue on earlier, ultimately meaning lower work weights and thus lower strength gains, despite greater mass gains?
    – jontyc
    Jan 9 '13 at 22:48
  • 3
    @jontyc It's assistance work, the goal of which is not mass gain or whole-body strength (like the main exercises) but rather endurance of small muscles and other physical traits like work capacity. Jan 9 '13 at 23:11
  • Ah yes, I was getting the term assistance exercises mixed up with what GreySkull call "additional" exercises. Biceps curls for example, my goal is mass and strength here with 10-12 rep sets.
    – jontyc
    Jan 10 '13 at 0:01
  • Right. The assistance work can pre-hab or rehab otherwise more easily injured muscles like rotator cuffs, or provide better joint stability. For example, curls help elbow stability for bench presses, and keep tendinitis at bay. Jan 10 '13 at 3:37
  • My earlier comment is stunningly wrong. Often the main point of assistance exercises is mass gain! May 18 '16 at 6:45

If I find myself wanting more time between warm-up sets than it takes to change the plates, I know something is wrong. Most likely I'm not recovered enough, indicating my program or eating or sleeping or stress is messed up. It's not a big problem, but it's something to note. I should be getting warm and mentally ready for my work sets, not getting tired.

Between work sets, I calculate time in minutes, or at a minimum, 30 second chunks. So for heavy sets of five I'll try to stay at three to five minutes of rest, whereas for heavy triples I'll try to keep it to two or three minutes, and for singles I sometimes go on the minute or 30 seconds.

Between warm-up sets, I count time in thirty-second blocks at a maximum. If I need a breather, I'll take ten or twenty seconds to write something in my training log, but I'll also take a mental note to get myself psyched up, because being winded after a 50% warm-up set is not something I want to do. This generally helps.


For warm-up sets, no. Warm-up sets would imply that they shouldn't be taxing your body that much. Warm-ups are just that, warm-ups! It should be used to "lubricate" your muscles and joints as prep for your larger lifts.

For me, for example if I'm going through my warm-up sets for bench-press, I use the warm-ups mainly to check if I have any problem going-through the benching process - aka: avoiding injury.

So it wouldn't hurt to take more time, but it might be a bit excessive.

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