Many programs that I've come across (e.g. 100 push up challenge, 7 weeks to 50 pull-ups, etc.) prescribe a minimum rest time between sets and mention that you can take longer breaks if necessary, but when is it necessary?

For such program, would it be more beneficial to wait as long as I think is needed to perform every rep, or to keep the resting time as close as possible to that which is prescribed and repeat a week if I fail to perform the minimum number of reps, or some other variation of this?

My goal is mainly to achieve as many reps as possible in one go (training for a fitness test).

  • 1
    Hi @howardh, your question is a little vague. For example, how often would you intend to repeat your exercise if I told to you didn't need rest? Obviously some rest is required, but you're trying to optimize how much. Well that depends on how fit you are, what kind of workouts you do right now and what your goals are. So please add a bit more context, so we can help you better!
    – Ivo Flipse
    Feb 22, 2013 at 9:20
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    worldfitnessnetwork.com/rest-between-sets - I believe that this will answer most of your questions. You also could check out other rest-time related questions on this site. If I find the time for it, ill try to forge an answer for you from these sources
    – K.L.
    Feb 22, 2013 at 11:36
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    Starting Strength does not prescribe a specific rest period between sets. He says it depends on your level of strength, and gives examples ranging from 1 minute to more than 10 minutes. Also, what specific program are you doing? 100 push-ups? Or Starting Strength?
    – user4644
    Feb 22, 2013 at 16:41
  • @IvoFlipse How should I quantify fitness? In terms of number of reps I can perform right now?
    – howard
    Feb 25, 2013 at 5:47
  • @Kate I'm following the 100 push-ups and 50 pull-ups program. I was originally hoping for a more general answer on how much rest I need depending on what I'm training for, but I guess that made the question a bit too vague.
    – howard
    Feb 25, 2013 at 5:47

3 Answers 3


There are different levels of recovery. The one most people think about is the rest between sessions. When your training is arranged well, you will be recovered enough to do the prescribed work the next session.

The one not everyone thinks about is the time between sets. The principle is the same, you want to be recovered enough to do the prescribed sets and reps. The longer the rest the less training density, and the shorter the rest the higher the training density. The minimum rest between sets is there to ensure you can do all the work prescribed for the whole training session. If the minimum rest is 1 minute, and you only rest 15 seconds, chances are you won't be able to complete the final sets.

Rest is your primary fatigue management tool. If you feel like you are more fatigued than usual after a set, extend your rest time. Sometimes we have off days, we can't operate at 100% all the time. Sometimes the work increases a bit more than we are ready for. The rest between sets helps you deal with it better. As a general rule, I tend to have shorter rest times, but there are days where I have to extend the rest a bit more than usual.


I agree with @tridip1931 with regards to training to failure.

Your rest time should probably be somewhere between 1 and 2 minutes (but no more than that).

If you are not sure how long to wait, use your heart rate as a guide. Once it is back down to something sensible (say 70% of your max HR), you are ready to go again.

The number of reps before failure you manage on the following set is also a good guide. If it doesn't fall, you have waited too long. If falls too fast, give yourself more time. After a while you should get a good 'feel' for it.

Note that reducing the rest time to 30secs or 40secs is a good way stress you muscle a little more and also increases the cardio aspect. In my experience, most people rest too long between sets in the gym.


I think its not completing the specific number of reps you are prescribed to do. The main goal here is to do the reps to failure with provided rest time. This helps in giving the much needed shock to your muscle and help your muscle to grow stronger.

So it doesn't count if you do 100 reps with long rest time. Do reps till failure.

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