The effect of self-paced and prescribed interset rest strategies on performance in strength training

Posted on September 18, 2019 by

The purpose of this study was to compare the kinetic, neuromuscular, and subjective responses between self-selected rest period conditions and prescribed 3 and 5 minute rest conditions in strength-trained athletes, during heavy back squat resistance training.

At a glance:

  • Quality of training performance may be enhanced when athletes self-select rest periods when compared to prescribed 3min rest periods
  • Self-selected rest periods are more time efficient when compared to 5min rest periods, but does not enhance performance
  • Self-selected rest periods allow athletes to adopt a pacing strategy which appears to manage their accumulated fatigue


Ibbott, P., Ball, N., Welvaert, M. & Thompson, K. G. (2019). The effect of self-paced and prescribed interset rest strategies on performance in strength training. International Journal of Sport Physiology and Performance. 14(7):980-986.

Purpose: To assess pacing strategies using prescribed and self-selected interset rest periods and their influence on performance in strength-trained athletes.

Methods: A total of 16 strength-trained male athletes completed 3 randomized heavy strength-training sessions (5 sets and 5 repetitions) with different interset rest periods. The interset rest periods were 3 min, 5 min, and self-selected (SS). Mechanical (power, velocity, work, and displacement), surface electromyography (sEMG), and subjective (rating of perceived exertion) and readiness-to-lift data were recorded for each set.

Results: SS-condition interset rest periods increased from sets 1 to 4 (from 207.52 to 277.71 s; P=.01). No differences in mechanical performance were shown between the different interset rest-period conditions. Power output (210 W; 8.03%) and velocity (0.03 m·s-1; 6.73%) decreased as sets progressed for all conditions (P<.001). Participants reported greater readiness to lift in the 5MIN condition (7.81) than in the 3MIN (7.09) and SS (7.20) conditions (P<.001).

Conclusions: Self-selecting interset rest periods does not significantly change performance compared with 3MIN and 5MIN conditions. Given the opportunity, athletes will vary their interset rest periods to complete multiple sets of heavy strength training. Self-selection of interset rest periods may be a feasible alternative to prescribed interset rest periods.

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