I'm quite a skinny guy - genetics probably play a part in this, but I'm trying to get more active and potentially gain some more muscle. Since COVID doesn't really allow for gyms to be open, I've started the program documented on this website.

I can only do 24 press-ups in one go, but I would like to get this number up! One question that bugs me (and according to the internet, a lot of people ask this) is what the ideal rest time is. If I rest 2 minutes between sets, I quite simply die on the next set. Since the aim on days 1,4,7,10,... (etc) is to reach (for me) 24*5 = 120 press ups in as little sets as possible, should I take long (5-10 mins) rests or short (1-3 mins) ones, given that I'm definitely a beginner to fitness and I generally get fatigued very quickly with short rest times? With shorter times, it would take a long time (and a very high number of sets) for me to complete the 120 press ups but with longer ones, it still takes a while, but the number of sets taken to complete it would be significantly less... and I can still feel my muscles ache, but this doesn't hinder me in the objective to complete the set number of press ups. However, the internet tends to say that longer rest times aren't beneficial!

Because I'm so new to fitness, I was wondering if I could get any advice? Thanks!

1 Answer 1


Different rest periods correlate to different stimulus to the muscle(-groups). Your question is specifically for "my exercise" so I will refrain from putting in any info about what different rest times do for say, barbell squats.

There are different ways you can approach this but if your overall goal is as little sets as possible in as little time as possible then you should be aiming for progressively reducing rest times. This works because a push-up is fairly low in terms of fatigue inducement and overall strain on the muscle group (it is a 'bodyweight' exercise and because of the movement itself you aren't even using your whole bodyweight) and as a result the time for recovery (in which you get stronger and therefore reduce rest times) is shortened. In practice this would look something like this:
Day 1: all 5 sets with equal rest periods of ~8-10 minutes (or whatever it takes for you to be able to complete each set.
Day 4: set 1 6 minute rest, the rest 4 sets ~8-10 minutes.
So on and so forth so you are continuously progressing towards a shorter overall time period. Anecdotally, when I was trying to progress my push-ups I would include exercise variation for both fun and getting new stimulus to the muscle. This could be doing the downward motion of the exercise very slowly, or pausing at the bottom with my chest touching the ground.

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