What is the optimal rep, set, rest and recovery for your training?

What is the optimal rep, set, rest and recovery for your training?



Reps or repetitions is defined as the collection of a full single motion or movement (one full concentric contraction and eccentric elongation of a specific muscle or muscle group) that is performed.

Below shows how many reps a specific training goal requires.


Endurance – 13-35 reps

Muscle development – 6-12 reps

Strength and power – 1-5 reps




Set is defined as how many reps you do in a row between periods of rest, for a single given exercise.

Below shows how many sets a specific training goal requires.


Endurance – 3-4 sets

Muscle development – 4-5 sets

Strength and power – 5-6 sets



Optimal rest time during workouts is from around 30 seconds to 5 minutes, depending on the type of training, training load, as well as training intensity.

Recovery days or non-training days would depend on the frequency of training (days of training), as well as the type of training.

Low to moderate intensity or endurance training – This includes lean muscle building or endurance training/marathons.

High intensity – This includes Interval training, CrossFit and/or High-Intensity Sport (Rugby, Basketball, Netball, 100m – 1500m sprints).

High Load based Training – This includes Olympic Weightlifting, and/or Bodybuilding.


For muscle hypertrophy (muscle building) rest is typically 30 – 90 seconds in between sets, and/or exercises, and for endurance, training rest is typically ≤30 seconds in between sets, and/or exercises. The general work to rest ratio on the above two is 1:1. So if one works for 60 seconds then their rest would be 60 seconds. However, for longer endurance training, marathons, or activities the ratio may differ – 1: 0.5 or 1: 0.25.




The phosphagen (Creatine Phosphate / ATP-PC) recovers halfway at 30 seconds in the body. Full recovery for this is at 90 seconds. Some individuals and athletes may still feel fatigued at 2 minutes. This may be due to their type of training they do, or the training programme they follow. The ATP-PC is dominant in high-intensity athletes or High-intensity interval training.

Strength and power exercises or absolute strength athletes take around 2 – 5 minutes to recover after each set or exercise, depending on the intensity of the strength or power exercise being performed. This includes CrossFit Training, and any exercise or sport at high intensity, as well as heavyweight loading on the body.



Rep & Recovery Guide

Training goal Weight load Rest interval length (including in-between sets / exercises) Recovery between workouts*
Muscular Endurance (Including Marathon athletes)
≤70% 1RM
13+ reps (up to 35 reps)
Light – moderate ≤ 30 seconds 24 hours
71-80% 1RM
6-12 reps
Moderate – heavy 30-90 seconds 24-72 hours
81-85% 1RM
1-5 reps
Heavy – maximal 2-5 minutes 48-72 hours
≥86% 1RM
1-5 reps
Maximal 2-5 minutes 48-72 hours
Source:  NSCA Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (3rd ed.) 2008.
*Before training the same muscle groups.




% 1 Repetition Maximum


(%1RM) The maximum amount of weight you can lift for 1 repetition (or a 1 repetition max). Example: Your 1 repetition maximum for a deadlift is 100 KG (meaning that that, is the maximum amount of weight you can do for 1 rep).

How to calculate training weight from % of 1RM: Value examples: Deadlift 1RM = 100 kg Required training load = 80% of 1RM

Formula: 1RM / % of 1RM required training load x 100 = total of weight needed for the exercise e.g.: 100 kg (1RM dead lift weight) / 80 (% of 1RM required training load) x 100 = 80 kg final training weight.