strength training

Appropriate Rest Ratio's for Strength Training

Lift weights, get stronger. The equation is simple, right?

Well, there is more to it than that.

Strength training comes in several different packages that rely on the application of appropriate sets, reps, and rest. Your specific goal for strength training (I want to get huge, I want to be stronger, I want to create more power) needs to be defined, and then apply the appropriate strength training parameters to see real progress.

Before you read any further, know this: If you are a novice lifter (roughly one year or less of regular strength training), just about any kind of strength training you do is going to make you stronger. Your body is rapidly adapting to the demands you’ve imposed upon it, because you’ve never put these stressors on it before.

The information below will apply more directly to the intermediate to advanced lifters who use the principles of assessment based progressions and Specific Adaption to Imposed Demand (SAID).

Understanding Basic Strength Training Rep Schemes

The chart below shows the effect of reps on the various strength developments. We’ll break is down a little further. (Note: These rep ranges are averages across a wide sample base. It’s widely accepted as a good guideline, but your specific genetic make-up also plays a role in how your body reacts and adapts.)

NSCA Basics of Strength Training

NSCA Basics of Strength Training

Strength & Power - This means training to be able to lift the maximum amount of weight, or training to generate the maximum amount of power. Weight percentages are not the same for strength and power, but the rep scheme is generally the same. (Max strength = 80-95% 1RM, Max Power = 60-75% 1RM)

Ideal Rep Range for Strength is 1-8 reps for each set. Ideal rep range for Power is 1-5 reps for each set.

Hypertrophy - This is the growth at the cellular level of your muscle. While maximal strength will increase muscle size, it’s significantly less than hypertrophy training. Inversely, hypertrophy training will get you stronger, but not at the same rate as maximal strength/power training. 70% 1RM is the sweet spot for hypertrophy training, although it can go up or down dependent on the amount of reps in each set (more reps = less weight, less reps = more weight).

Ideal rep range for Hypertrophy is 8-13

Muscular Endurance - This allows your musculature to become more resistant to fatigue over longer periods of time. You’ll often see this style of strength training applied to endurance athletes such as runners and cyclists, whose training and competition are over much longer periods of time. The musculature is trained to clear lactate/acidosis at a faster rate, delaying and reducing fatigue. Loading for muscular endurance is much lighter - around 50% 1RM.

Ideal rep range for Muscular Endurance is 13+ reps per set.

How Long to Rest Between Sets?

The amount of rest you take between sets plays an important role in developing whichever version of strength you’re developing. The rest period is determined by its relationship with the energy system that is being harnessed to actually fuel your body to lift the weight.

Strength & Power - For lower rep, heavier load lifting, your body relies on the Adenosine Triphosphate Phosphocreatine System (ATP-PC). This fuels your body for very short duration, explosive movements. For strength training, we want to allow the body to fully recover so that you’re able to fully contract your musculature to lift the heavy load.

Ideally, take 3 minutes between sets for strength/power training.

Hypertrophy - As we shift to hypertrophy training, a few things shift. First, we now have of a mix of ATP-PC and Glycolytic energy systems fueling your body. While ATP is good for 10-15 seconds of body jet fuel, the glycolytic energy system takes over after that to provide the majority of the energy (until you shift to a aerobic state). With both energy systems in the mix, you need less rest time. Additionally, less rest time during hypertrophy training has a excellent anabolic hormonal response which triggers muscle growth.

Ideal rest for hypertrophy training is 1-2 minutes

Muscular Endurance - Because these sets will take much more time, we’re now drawing energy in a mix of glycolytic and aerobic. Aerobic energy systems can be utilized for much longer since it oxygen based, which is readily and constantly available (Think of the difference of your pace in a 200m sprint and a 5 mile run). Since we’re training the body to reduce acidosis/lactate, we want to shorten the rest period even further to enhance the results.

Ideal rest for muscular endurance 1:1 work:rest. So if your set took 45 seconds, take between 45 seconds-60 seconds of rest.


Strength training can truly be fine tuned to provide the adaption that you want your body to make, but you need the information to get it there. The key to all of this information is utilizing a progression to continuously challenge your body to adapt.

Will you not see any results if you take 2 minutes instead of 3 minutes for strength training? No… this doesn’t need to be exact unless you are really fine tuning your strength for a powerlifting meet or a bodybuilding show. The information above should give a tool to put in your tool belt to enhance your training and optimize work.

Enjoy nice training!

What's the Best Time of the Day to Train?

Training in the gym usually falls to a secondary priority for most of our athletes when compared to work, family, etc. It’s an understandable prioritization. Work pays the bills, family time is wonderful, and the occasional happy hour is needed every now and then.

Somewhere inbetween those big blocks of time we schedule our training. For those who work a standard work-day schedule, that means ass early in the morning or right after leaving the work place.

We train when we can, not when it’s optimal. It’s understandable, but the differences in when we time our training are significant.

This article by Bayesian Bodybuilding provides an excellent overview of the literature on timing and training based on multiple studies of testosterone production, muscle growth result trials, and your sleep cycle.

Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): The best time of the day to train is the window of 6 hours to 12 hours after waking from a complete sleep cycle. So if you falls asleep at midnight and wake at 8am (luck you), 2pm to 8pm is your optimized training time.

From a performance perspective, the increase in strength and/or endurance was negligible between morning and evening training in the studies cited below.

However, the prime example of the benefits of the evening training was in muscle size growth. The majority of the these studies found greater mass gains with evening training, and most of them were not structured strength programs but rather assessments of a certain kind of muscle-specific contraction.

Küüsmaa et al. (2016) studied the effectiveness a training program performed in the morning between 06:30 – 10:00 h or in the evening between 16:30 – 20:00 h for a 24 week period. While strength and endurance performance improved similarly across the groups, the men training in the evening gained notably more muscle mass: see the graph below.

In line with the increased muscle growth, muscle anabolic signalling after a workout is higher in the afternoon than in the morning  

Laczo et al. also presented the following data at the 7th International Conference on Strength Training in 2010: more leg muscle growth after an afternoon training program than a morning one.

Malhotra et al. (2014) studied how training in the morning vs. the evening affected strength development. Strength gains were significantly greater in the evening for eccentric exercise: 29% vs. 23%. For concentric training, the trend was the same but less pronounced in favor of evening training with 23% vs. 21%.

Tim Scheett performed a study in bodybuilders on the best time to work out. Half of the participants trained before 10 AM in the morning, the other half after 6 PM in the evening. While the results never got published outside of the 2005 NSCA conference and didn’t reach statistical significance because of having only 16 participants in the study, look at the data below: the evening training group had much more favorable body composition changes.

Sedliak et al. (2009) studied trained men working out around either 8 AM in the morning or 6 PM in the evening. While again there were no statistically significant changes in strength development or muscle growth, look at the data of muscle growth. It’s likely the difference in muscle growth did not reach statistical significance because of insufficient statistical power, considering there were only 7 and 9 men in the training groups and the study only lasted 10 weeks.

Not all research shows benefits to training later. Sedliak et al. (2017) found similar anabolic signalling, hormonal effects, muscle growth and strength development in untrained men over the course of a training program performed either in the morning or the afternoon. However, with only 7 and 11 subjects in the 2 groups, this study was statistically underpowered to detect even a medium effect size. They couldn’t even find significant correlations between the different measures of muscle growth, so if there were benefits of training in the afternoon, as the other research suggests, they may well have been masked by the large variation in the data and this study simply wasn’t powered enough to detect it. Plus, the former study by these researchers only detected the effect after week 11, but this study was only 11 weeks in duration.

 core body temperature

For those of you who train at different times of the day, you’ve probably noticed a signifiant difference in how you feel between a early morning session and a mid-afternoon session.

The morning feels slow. Joints creak to life and it’s far more challenging to get everything firing up quickly. This one hits close to home for me… my morning sessions need a lot more time to warm up and get ready to go, while my afternoons feel significantly better.

This is due to the natural rise of your body temperature throughout the day. Simply put, when your core temp is higher, your body is stronger, faster, and more flexible. This is what any warm up is designed to achieve, but as you can see by the graph below, the afternoon to evening time frame is ideal for natural core body temperature and exercise.


application of timing your training

The bottom line is for those of you who have hectic schedules, you train when you can. If that means 6am, so be it. I’d rather see you then than never. For whatever it’s worth, I’ve found that I do my best work after a good morning training session; my brain just seems to function better.

The additional benefit of morning training is that very few things will get in the way of morning training. No surprise appointments or dropping the kids at soccer practice. Just you, an alarm clock, and the barbell.

The science clearly support training in the afternoon-evening for the optimized performance and results, but getting in when you have no distractions is a powerful thing.

Setting Strength Standards

Setting Strength Standards

Strength requirements differ depending on the athlete's pursuit. The Police SWAT Officer needs to be stronger than the competitive Stand Up Paddleboarder. The collegiate football player needs to be stronger than the track and field high jumper. We can break this down so that athletes of all varieties have the appropriate standards to ensure sport specific success, not gym-based success.