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Work/rest ratios are one of the most critical exercise factors to have an understanding of.  Work/rest ratios are how much or how long you work within your set compared to...

The goal of exercise is to effectively manipulate variables of training to produce a specific training adaptation.  Simply said, how many reps you do, how much rest, the kind of reps, how many exercises total, what order, all are just the tip of the iceberg in exercise variables you can manipulate in training in order to achieve the desired performance outcome. 

Work:Rest Ratios are one of the most critical factors to have a practical understanding of.  Work:rest ratios are how much or how long you work within your set compared to how long you rest in between sets.  This relationship is always optimized by thinking about the goal you want to achieve in your workouts.  For example, for those focusing on maximum strength, you would pick short, intense bouts of heavier working loads followed by long, complete bouts of rest.  The goal being to recover as much as possible so your body can consistently produce maximum available force on each working set.  This allows you to prioritize your ability to lift the heaviest loads, consistently, which will build strength.

In contrast, those focusing on improving conditioning and maximizing fat loss would pick short intense bouts of work followed by relatively short intervals of rest.  The goal being to work at an intense pace and then allow the body just enough time to recover to a place where you can maintain a similar working intensity, while also not allowing so much rest that you feel completely recovered again before you start your next working set.  You’re trying to hit a happy medium between recovered and fatigued to push your body, but not so much that you can’t safely exercise.


There is no magic formula.  There are general evidence and research-based standards that you start with.  Then manipulate those standards based on how you feel and the results you are getting.  This can get incredibly complex with potential options but for the purpose of this blog, below you will find a simplified chart for reference when you are deciding what Work:Rest ratio is best for your goals.

There is no magic formula. There are general evidence and research-based standards that you start with.


  • Work - Intense, short bouts ranging from 1 to 15 reps or 5 to 20 seconds of work
  • Rest - Enough to recover as much as possible to continue to produce a maximum effort but not so much that you begin to cool down and lose muscular potentiation. Typically this is 2 to 5 minutes of rest


  • Work - Medium to intense bouts ranging from 1 to 15 reps or 5 to 30 seconds of work 
  • Rest - Minimal rest of 10 to 60 seconds, typically the goal is to minimize rest so that you can induce greater muscular fatigue

High-Intensity Training (HIT):

  • Work - Intense shorter bouts ranging from 10 to 20 reps or 10 to 30 seconds of work 
  • Rest - 10 to 30 seconds within a circuit then 1 to 3 minutes in between circuits. Remember if you choose shorter rest intervals you will reach a point of fatigue much faster, therefore you will need fewer sets to achieve your stimulus

Muscular Endurance:

  • Work - Medium effort loads that start the set off as “easy” but are difficult by the end of the set. Typically 10 to 20 reps with a 2 to 4 second tempo on the eccentric portion or 20 to 60 seconds of work 
  • Rest - 30 to 60 seconds of rest. Enough rest to give another good effort for a medium load but not so much as that you are completely recovered before the next set

Cardio/Respiratory Endurance:

  • Work - 5 to 60+ minutes of work at an easy to medium pace 
  • Rest - Typically rest bouts of 2 to 5 minutes in between working bouts or no rest (continuous effort) due to the primary goal being repeated work efforts at a lighter intensity

Regardless of which Work:Rest ratio is right for your workout, we all need to continue to develop strategies to optimize recovery.  The work is an important part but you can not minimize the importance of recovery in allowing your body to adapt and change to the stimulus you are giving it.  No athlete consumes perfect ratios of every vitamin and nutrient they need.  The goal is to get as close as you can and then round it out with a multi-vitamin to ensure you are covered.


The Barbell Brigade Multi-Vitamin was formulated for athletes by athletes to ensure you are getting all of the essential vitamins and nutrients your body needs to recover in conjunction with a nutritious diet.  The more tools you can put in your body’s tool belt the better chance it has of getting it done.  The Barbell Brigade Multi-Vitamin makes it simple to leave no stone unturned in your recovery.  Just consume it with a hearty meal and plenty of water and you are well on your way to jump starting the recovery process.

Dominate Humbly, 

Jacob Ross
Elite Sports Performance Coach
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