Rest Interval and Bench Press Performance

Rest Interval and Bench Press Performance

Dr. GJohn Mullen Blog, Competition, Dryland, Training Leave a Comment

Rest interval is a manipulated variable in resistance training. Rest intervals effects intensity, volume, exercise order, repetition velocity, and depends on an individual’s training goals, fitness levels, and energy system targeted for a response.

Past studies have found reset interval length between sets and exercises has been shown to affect metabolism, hormones, and cellular immune response to an acute bout of resistance exercise.

Studies have shown that during sets performed near muscular exhaustion, repetition number and total volume load decrease with each set in succession when 30-sec to 2 minutes rest intervals were used. The acute reduction in resistance exercise volume
observed with short rest intervals (less than 2 minutes) result in a slower rate of strength gains compared to longer reset intervals (2 – 4 min).

Women have lower decrements in force output and faster recovery ability during moderate- to-high-intensity exercise than men. Women have reduced ATP depletion, faster ATP recovery, lower blood lactate, lower epinephrine, lower respiratory exchange ratio, and lower glycogen breakdown in type I fibers in response to maximal sprint exercise. Women are believed to recover faster than men following resistance training.

However, these previous studies have been scrutinized as strength, not gender, may be the reason for differences noted above.

The goal of the study was to investigate the effects of rest interval (RI) length on bench press performance in subjects with the disparity in maximum strength.

What was done

Two subject cohorts with a significant disparity in maximum muscular strength were investigated. Subjects performed three bench press protocols in random order consisting of 3 sets of up to 10 repetitions with 75% of their one repetition-maximum using either 1 (1RI), 2 (2RI) or 3 (3RI) min rest interval. The first cohort consisted of twenty-two men and women and was studied to investigate the possible influence of gender on acute bench press performance.

In the second cohort, twenty-three men were tested for 1RM bench press strength and placed into a low or high 1RM group.


Significant main effects in set repetition performance were observed during 1RI where repetition numbers decreased during 1RI, 2RI, and 3RI. Women had a significantly high number of repetitions performed during set 2 and set 3. Repetition performance over three sets of the bench press did not differ during 1RI, 2RI, or 3RI when 1RM bench press or relative strength was used as covariates.


Manipulating the RI lengths during bench press produces difference performance effects in subjects with great disparity of maximal strength. An acute bench press with 3RI results in inconsistent performance, bar velocity, and power, but is compromised in 1RI. This is believed to result from the length of recovery for the energy system.

Practical Implication

For power and strength, rest intervals of 2 or 3 minutes are typically suggested. However,
the present study indicates that acute resistance exercise performance varies among
individuals with the disparity in maximal strength.


  1. Ratamess NA, Chiarello CM, Sacco AJ, Hoffman JR, Faigenbaum AD, Ross RE, Kang J. The
    Effects of Rest Interval Length on Acute Bench Press Performance: The Influence of Gender
    and Muscle Strength. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 May 3. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2012
    May;56(5):741-52. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201100695.

Originally Posted July 2012

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