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How long can I wait between reps before I can't count the rep?

This isn't specific to deadlifts, but when I've watched lifters deadlift, they start the next rep immediately after. When I deadlift, after a couple reps I take a longer break (2-3 seconds). Should I count these reps?

Should I start the next rep immediately after the previous one, or can I take a short break?


I am doing the SL 5x5 program.

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With the deadlift (and other lifts that begin with the bar at a dead stop on the floor, such as the Olympic lifts), then taking a second or two between reps is usual, and arguably safer than doing the reps touch-and-go style (where you pretty much "bounce" the bar off the floor).

The main reason, again, pertaining to deadlifts mainly, is to allow you to reset your body and pull with decent form (i.e. not rounding your lumbar spin overly much).

With other lifts where you support the bar (i.e. bench, squat, overhead press), my opinion has always been that if you're supporting the weight of the bar, then you're still working in the same set, because your body is still working. During high rep sets of squats, I've stood gasping for air for several seconds before doing another rep. During the bench press I consider it normal to take a breath between reps with the bar at the top, which can take a second or two, with the overhead press, I rest the bar at my shoulders for a second to kill any momentum before I press again.

The best way to think about it is to be honest with yourself and not worry about it too much. If you walk away from the bar, then the set is over (I used to say if you let go of the bar, but I've seen some powerlifters stand up to take a deep breath between reps), if, in your head, you're still in deadlift mode, but need to shake our briefly, then I'd say it's the same set.

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  • Just a FYI related to your answer, you should rest the bar on your clavicle when doing OHP/Military press, not shoulders. – John May 9 '16 at 11:54
  • I'm using shoulders as a general term there, not an exact one. I basically rest it in the bottom position for a second, then press again. – Dark Hippo May 9 '16 at 11:59
  • I understand, not knocking your answer. I have just heard about a fair number of injuries from people doing OHP from squat bar position. – John May 9 '16 at 12:01
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    Good answer. Details like one or several seconds between reps are really not the deal-breaker in an exercise's effectivity. I often switch from regular to hook grip on deadlifts mid-set and it can take a few seconds. – G_H May 11 '16 at 7:58
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    During a press i prefer to pause at the top vs the bottom (just like in a squat) since at the bottom you can utilize what M. Rippetoe refers to as "stretch reflex", because "The stretch tells the neuromuscular system that a contraction is about to follow. This signal results in more contractile units firing more efficiently, enabling you to generate more force than would be possible without the stretch reflex." – RusI Oct 21 '16 at 3:59
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How to Deadlift with Proper Form: The Definitive Guide

Proper Deadlift form starts with the weight on the floor. Pull the bar until you’ve locked your hips and knees. Return it to the floor by moving your hips back first and then bending your knees. Rest a second between reps and repeat. Do five reps total on the StrongLifts 5×5 program. Read more: http://stronglifts.com/deadlift/

Between Reps

Start each rep from a dead stop. Rest the bar for a second on the floor between reps. Don’t cheat your Deadlifts. Read more: http://stronglifts.com/deadlift/#Between_Reps

SL says to rest a second between reps to reset yourself, but this one is subject to opinions at which points it becomes a 5x1 instead of 1x5. Since you're following a program and it is defined within that program, I would adhere to its definition. (Realistically up to 3sec)

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In "Occam's Protocol", Tim Ferriss advises to not pause between reps:

Do not pause at the top or bottom of the movements.

Perform every repetition with a 5/5 cadence (5 seconds up, 5 seconds down) to eliminate momentum and ensure constant load.

One-Set-To-Failure: Follow Arthur Jones' general recommendations for one-set-to-failure (80-120 seconds of total time under tension per exercise set), for 7 or more reps (the leg press is to be performed at 10 or more repetitions at the same cadence). Do not just drop the weight when you hit failure. Hold it at the limit for 5 seconds. Then slowly lower it for 5-10 seconds. "Do not underestimate the severity of complete failure. [Failure is pushing as if] you had a gun to your head." The last rep is the one that matters. If you feel you could do another set a minute later, you didn't reach failure.

Side note expanding on that last rep, from the Wikipedia page on progressive overload:

Contrary to widespread belief, this is not the point at which the individual thinks they cannot complete any more repetitions, but rather the first repetition that fails due to inadequate muscular strength.

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