Sets and Reps – Long or Short Rest Periods?

March 25, 2008

People don’t think enough about the amount of rest needed in between sets. Different amounts of rest are needed for a strength workout vs. a mass building workout.

The same goes for the amount of pause in between each rep. Doing non-stop reps affects your muscles in a much different way than pausing a second in between each rep. Let’s address how rest affects the outcome of your workouts.
Sexy Woman Sleeping

The Principle of “Cumulative Fatigue”

Have you ever heard of cumulative fatigue? I’m surprised it isn’t addressed more often in the bodybuilding world, because it is crucial to gaining muscle quickly. I am not into gaining excessive muscle so I do my best to avoid this when working out.

Basically cumulative fatigue is taking short rest periods in between sets, so that the muscle isn’t fully recovered before hitting the next set. Each set builds upon the previous set.

If the rest periods are too long, then less fatigue occurs. If your goal is to build a muscle, then you need to fatigue it with a high volume of sets. Shorter rest periods maximize the fatigue and as a result it creates a great condition for muscle growth to occur.

High Tension NOT High Fatigue for Muscle Definition

Muscle definition is maximized when strength is gained without a corresponding increase in muscle size. Think about that for a second…what must occur if you get stronger without getting bigger?

Well…the muscle has to contract harder. True lasting muscle tone is a result of an efficient nervous system…getting stronger without getting bigger. An example of this type of muscle tone is an Olympic gymnast. They need to have very efficient muscles, not large muscles.

Rest Longer in Between Sets to Generate Maximum Tension

Since you are not striving for maximum fatigue while training for tension, you can rest a bit longer in between sets. When lifting for maximum tension you want your nervous system fully charged up to deliver strong impulses to the target muscle.

Feel free to rest up to 3 minutes in between sets to generate high tension in the muscle. Note: You probably don’t need to rest a full 3 minutes in between sets.

The first few sets of an exercise, you may just want to rest a minute or two. Just let your nervous system rest a bit to charge up for the next set. I sometimes rest up to 3 minutes in between my last set or two on a day I’m lifting heavier than normal.

Cumulative Fatigue Occurs In With “Reps” as Well!

A bodybuilder typically does reps in a non-stop fashion. Each rep builds upon the previous rep and fatigues the muscle. The ideal set for building mass is when a muscle fails around the 6-12 rep range.

Bodybuilders often will do forced reps to fatigue the muscle even further. Another reason bodybuilders like to do continuous reps is that it creates a “pump” in the muscle as well. The combination of creating a pump and fatiguing the muscle is ideal if building muscle mass is your goal.

Pausing In Between Reps for Maximum Tension

If you pause for a brief moment in between reps, you allow your nervous system to charge back up a bit.

This slight moment of rest allows you to contract the muscle a bit harder for the next rep than if you did a continuous set without rest.

You can almost think of a each rep as a separate entity when training for maximum tension…the reps really aren’t building upon each other like in a typical mass building set.

High Tension Training Feels Different Than Fatigue Training

When I first began doing high tension training, I left the weight room and barely felt like I got a good workout in.

My muscles didn’t feel tired and they weren’t really pumped up. They actually felt energized to a certain extent. Also…I didn’t get sore the following day, or the day after that.

This type of training feels nothing like what a typical lifting session feels like. The great thing is that you have a ton of energy to “kill it” with cardio. You will also get stronger at a surprising rate without getting bigger.

Brief High Tension Training & Intense Cardio…a Killer Combo

Since muscle fatigue isn’t part of the equation in high tension training, you don’t have to worry about a high volume of sets and reps. To be honest, you can work a muscle group well with a 6-10 total sets.

Even with slightly longer rest periods, your workout should be pretty brief. This will give you more time and energy to really burn some calories doing intense cardio.

This additional cardio is going to strip away body fat to reveal the dense and toned muscles created by high tension training.

This creates a very impressive physique that is extremely defined without being bulky or “puffy” looking.


----> (New) Facebook Comments..."Cause all the cool kids are doin' it!"

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

benjie March 25, 2008 at 3:09 am

hey rusty i know this is a stupid question but i just wanted to ask it for clarification. you say to pause in between reps for better results. would this be at the top or bottom of an exercise (ex. when the arms are straight out at the top when bench pressing or when they are against your chest)? or do you mean to briefly stop at both the top and bottom of the rep? sorry for making an easy concept so complicated i just was curious how you did it. thanks as always rusty another great topic my man!

Gregg March 25, 2008 at 7:50 am

Nice piece, Rusty. I agree that this type of information isn’t talked about a lot. Unfortunately, most training sources haven’t gotten past the erroneous generalization of low reps for mass and high reps for definition.

When training specifically for strength, I experience the same type of post workout effects. You almost feel like you cheated because you don’t feel like you’ve worked out when the session is over. But it all depends on the outcome you are trying to create. Most people don’t think of it in those terms and they just “work out.”

They could make far better progress by deciding exactly what it is they want to accomplish with their workout and then create a training program targeted to those goals.

One important point you make that would help a lot of those that do want to build muscle and are frustrated with their lack of progress is the time under tension. Most don’t get nearly enough with the sets they do (and too many people training for muscle actually train for strength by also pausing between reps, at least on the last few of a set).

For most weight trainers, a typical rep on an exercise will take from 1 – 2 seconds. So 6 reps will only take 6 – 12 seconds to perform.

And if you’re trying to build muscle mass, that is just too short a time under tension for the muscles to ignite hypertrophy.

And this is where people really fail with a high intensity training program like a Mentzer or Jones would advocate because they combine the low time under tension per set with minimal sets. This is a great recipe for strength but not for adding muscle ass.

But Mentzer and Jones advocated a rep speed of at least 6 seconds and sometimes longer.

Using the minimum of 6 seconds per rep, a set of 6 – 10 reps as Mentzer proposed, would last from 36 – 60 seconds.

That doesn’t include the fact that Mike advocated that you hold the weight as long as possible once you can’t complete any more reps.

This can take another 10 seconds or more.

This is far longer than reps done by most people. In fact, the other day in the gym I saw a man perform 12 reps in the seated dumbbell press. It took him a whopping 10 seconds!

He would have to perform 4 sets to approach one 6 rep set the way Mentzer advocates. And those four sets wouldn’t be nearly as effective as the one properly performed set.

Arthur Jones recommended that people use (most of the time) 8 – 12 reps per set.

However, he also recommended a 2 second up and 4 second down cadence. For 8 reps, that would mean that your muscles are under tension (ie, working) for a good 48 seconds.

Arthur also recommended that you push or pull against the weight for another 20 seconds AFTER you’ve reached failure and could no longer perform another rep in good form.

So that’s a minimum of 68 seconds to complete an 8 rep set. How many weight trainers going for muscle mass do you see doing that?

Now, I’m not saying you have to do each rep in 6 seconds.

While I do vary my rep tempo from time to time, I am most comfortable doing “natural” reps without momentum, which take me 2 – 3 seconds. Thus, I should do higher reps to get more time under tension.

But, I enjoy lower reps and I think they are an important ingredient in the muscle building recipe.

So what I do is add end of set techniques like partials, multi-rep rest/pause and drop sets in order to extend the time under tension for the set.

Remember, so many different variables come into play when devising a productive routine, from the number of sets to complete each rep, to how many reps per set, how many sets, how many exercises, in what order you perform them, how hard each set is and on an on.


AFDerrick March 25, 2008 at 8:56 am

When you set rest between reps, should we allow the weight to come to a complete rest where we aren’t holding it at all? I like to pause on each side of lifting for instance when doing my bench press I will pause when my arms fully extended for a brief second and then pause again with the weight just an inch or two above my chest before pressing it back up. Is this what you are talking about or when possible (using a machine) let the weights come down to where you are resting completely?

Jennifer March 25, 2008 at 9:39 am

During the rest period between sets, could I do something like jump rope to add some cardio in during the 3 minute break?
Then, after the lifting session any additional cardio I do would be like a bonus!

shailja March 25, 2008 at 11:34 am

Great Post Rusty!

So,I can do 2 sets of 6-10 reps each with some rest and get good results?

As I woman I am only looking to get toned should the weights be moderately heavy or light?
for example right now I do 12- 15 reps of dumbell chest press with 10 pounds.
Should I increase the weight?

Thanks March 25, 2008 at 11:45 am

Great information.. I think I’m going to switch to circuit training to really fire my metabolism and keep my reps pretty high.. Not interested in bulkyness @ all, but I also think bulky is diet related.. A muscle either grows or it doesn’t.. Looking toned and ripped is a reflection of bodyfat levels and that typically corresponds to your diet.. I think the key is to keeping your metabolism high is from eating clean and grazing all day (instead of filling up at one sitting), and also picking up the cardio.. No more super heavy weights.. Great article! (& you never let me down with the girl pics at the top of the article..)

Aaron March 25, 2008 at 12:38 pm

Thank you for a good post. Would much rather go for the toning than bulk myself, as I’m sure most of your readers agree.

The 3 minutes between sets though are a pretty long time do be “doing nothing” and the pulse goes down a lot in that time.

What would be a good way to use those resting minutes of the workout. For example, would it be okay to do bicep, tricep exercises intermittently as you’d be resting the active muscles and still be keeping the level of cardio up? Or should I just rest completely between sets?

Also, when trying to put together material from some of your earlier posts, how would a day of
3 High Intensity sets (w/rest)
30 min HIIT
2 High Intensity sets (w/rest)
30 min steady state cardio

I’m thinking if you do the 3 min rests per muscle group with this split you only need 3*3 min, 2 for the first superset and 1 for the second. And getting the benefit of the method in your Bruce Lee post.

admin March 25, 2008 at 1:51 pm


Pause at the point where there isn’t tension on the muscle. So at the top of a bench press with your arms locked out. You can pause at the bottom, but that isn’t necessary. It does stop the use of momentum however.


Awesome comment as always! Note: Gregg’s site is a great resource for those who want to learn a bunch of techniques to gain muscle. Click on his name above his comment to visit his site.


What you described is what I’m talking about. Just a brief pause at the top of a bench press. It doesn’t even have to be a full second…just enough the reset and concentrate on the next rep.


You could give that a shot. It would have a different effect, but sounds like a decent strategy to burn up a lot of body fat.


I would increase the weight a bit and keep the volume low. Make sure you don’t push past the point of failure…and hit cardio afterwards. This will insure that you don’t bulk up.


Certainly getting bulky has a lot to do with diet. I like to lift under a slight calorie deficit and always hit cardio hard. I recommend that people avoid “the pump” in muscles if they want really dense defined muscles as well. This is one of the reasons I don’t advocate the typical 6-12 rep range with those pumping continuous sets to failure. Either…low rep high tension -or- really high rep circuits are the way to go.


I need to make another note in my post. I don’t rest three minutes in between every single set. The first few sets are usually easy and don’t require as much rest in between.

Give that routine you outlined a try. The principles look solid, so you will only know if it works if you give it a shot.


Mark McCullagh March 25, 2008 at 3:13 pm


I always followed the simple strategy of resting longer between sets on heavy basic movements, basically waiting until I had recovered from the previous set to ensure I was able to generate maximum focus and strength.

However, training smaller body parts with single joint exercises, I usually rest less between sets. I found this increases the intensity and promotes gaining lean muscle.

I also advocate shorter workouts, i.e. never spend more than an hour (preferably much less) actually lifting weights.

Bob March 25, 2008 at 9:24 pm

Very interesting article, and like you said, this is much more informative than the standard “high reps for tone and low reps for mass.” I just have one question. Say you are training for high tension to build strength without mass, and you are doing 3 sets of 10 reps on dumbbell chest press. After completing a set and taking a 1 or 2 second pause between each rep, should the 10th rep be one that I can hardly perform (failure), or should I feel that I could still perform another 1 or 2 reps afterwards?


Jeff March 25, 2008 at 10:21 pm

Rusty, what would you recommend if I wanted to actually put on about 5lbs of muscle but maintain or even slightly lower my current level of BF? Traditional 8-12 and revert back to low rep once enough mass achieved? I am naturally ectomorphic.

Ricky March 26, 2008 at 1:41 am

Rusty, I am going to be working for long periods of time over the summer, possibly 14-hour days. While thinking it over I sort of came up with a routine that can fit a busy person’s life (people like medical residents, bankers, paralegals etc.) I decided that I would do 20 minutes of HIIT cardio in the morning, and 20 minutes of strength training right before bed. What do you think of this?

Helder March 26, 2008 at 9:51 am

It’s a very good post, i agree with it, longer rest periods will make sure you can keep lifting heavy for more sets, while keeping tension, that will improve one’s strength and muscle tone. About hypertrophy Rusty it also depends about muscle fiber type, i can grow easy with very low reps and those longer rest periods, i don´t gain mass with moderate to higher reps, and those higher reps also don’t give me muscle tone, so my trick is to do very few sets to prevent from gaining too much mass.

admin March 26, 2008 at 10:23 am


Good point. I rest less in between dumbbell curls than I would for chin-ups. Different muscle groups recover quickly compared to to others. Nice to hear from ya!


You should try to stop about a rep or two short of failure. If you go to failure too frequently, you will be more likely to build mass…you will also reach a sticking point in strength. Just make sure you get quality reps where you contract the muscle hard on each rep.


Yeah…stick to 6-12 reps and include a brief HIIT workout twice a week. Make sure you eat a fast digesting protein source after working out and then eat an hour after that. Once you gain enough mass, do more of the typical rep range I recommend and increase the cardio.


You need to work less! That being said…just do what you described, but maybe only 3-4 days a week. When I’m too busy to workout often, I focus harder on diet. You can still look very defined, even if you are this busy.


Good point! The idea is to do low volume if you don’t want to gain mass. That is definitely one of the more important variables. Also…strength training like this can add mass, it will just add a little functional type muscle and it will “top out” at a more natural level than high volume bodybuilding. Like you said…watch the volume! Lowering the lifting volume and adding that extra time in the gym to cardio, will help people transform their body.

Have a great one!


ROBI March 27, 2008 at 12:03 am

hey, i was wondering
i’m train up for cricket so i cant put a large amount of body mass on, due to the fact it restricts movement of body parts.
i would like to tone up and also increase in size a bit. is there a way to do both or is it better to tone up first then put extra muscle on or more muscle then tone up. or will i naturally get bigger while toning up?

shane#1 March 27, 2008 at 9:06 am

hey rusty,
im confussed posted a website that talked about the caveman workout.well ive been doing that for a while now,and they do sets back to back with no rest.kinda like super sets i what would you suggest?

soham March 27, 2008 at 9:32 am

What about circuit training Rusty? Do we need to perform exercises say bicep curl at a fast pace like completing one rep in 2 sec for 10 rep along with all the other exercises and then rest?? I want to burn body fat and look toned overall so which is the best option??Actually i just want to follow circuit routine so your advice would be greatly appreciated…

Ricky March 27, 2008 at 11:55 am

Hey Rusty, just stumbled upon a well-written but unintentionally hilarious article from

admin March 27, 2008 at 2:24 pm


I recommend that people build strength in the power rep range and hit cardio hard afterward to get better in their sport. If you want to add a bit of mass while getting stronger, stick with around 5 reps…and do a higher volume of lifts than I normally recommend.


The caveman workout is basically a circuit training workout with no rest in between sets. It is great for burning fat without building excessive mass. It will build a little, but nothing like a typical bodybuilding routine.


Here is a post I wrote about Circuit Training…it works well!


I am slightly frightened by that lady! Her friend has a nice face, but everything else is strange looking. Thanks for the entertainment!


Trevor March 27, 2008 at 10:21 pm

hey Rusty,
I am 6-5 and about 200 pounds. I have been lifting for quite a while and put on some bulk. I want to go for more size and definition in my muscles but i am a bit confused. On your site i have read that high reps does not tone muscle, and it is better to do like 6-12 reps per set, but i have also read that more reps increases muscle fatigue which then increases size. i was just wondering what you think i should do. Thanks

admin March 28, 2008 at 11:54 pm


Stick with a kind of power-bodybuilding routine of 5 sets of 5 reps. This is a way to build size and density at the same time. You will gain size if you do enough volume…for big muscle groups like chest chose 3 exercises and do 5 sets of 5 reps for each exercise…same with back. For shoulders, triceps, and biceps…chose two exercises and do 5 sets of 5 reps for each exercise.

This is a way to get bigger and stronger while still building muscle density at the same time.

Hope that helps!


Note: For taller guys like us, lower reps are the way to go. Even with reps as low as 3 or 4, the time your muscle is under tension is greater due to the greater range and longer time it takes to complete each rep.

Hassan March 29, 2008 at 2:32 pm

hey rusty, was wondering, how can i develop the chest more using strength training? as i am doing the circuit routine u suggested to me, it doesnt involve any chest movements, so i was wonderin how i can work the chest out more

admin March 30, 2008 at 9:36 pm


Just add 10-15 sets of chest before doing circuits and you will build mass. Stick to 5 sets of reps on 2-3 different exercises.


Kasper April 13, 2008 at 6:37 am

Hi Rusty.

Great website you have here.

I think it all comes down to eat to gain, eat to loose or eat to maintain. You can use many different approaches.

Here are some different styles of training designed to get max hypertrophy.

Uses low volume and avoiding fatique by seperating each rep with a rest period where you put the weight down.

Uses low volume. 4-6 reps for 2-3 sets of 2-3 exercises per musclegroup with long rest periods between sets once a week.

Also uses low volume but a traditional rep scheme of 6-12 reps to failure followed by rest pause reps.

Serge nubret used low weights for an insane volume of lifts.

Many of the old school bodybuilders used the 5×5 system to build them big and strong.

A lot og powerlifters uses low volume and low reps, and they are big if they eat for it.

This is something to think about:

“There was a study some years back which included 3 groups–elite sumo wrestlers who did no weight training whatsoever, advanced bodybuilders and advanced powerlifters–about 20 in each group. Now there is a lot of variables here but they took the lean muscle mass of each group and divided it by their height in inches. Surprisingly the sumo wrestlers came out well ahead of the powerlifters (2nd) and the bodybuilders (very close 3rd). This is a group who did no weight training at all but engorged themselves with food trying to bring their bodyweight up to dramatic levels. How is a group that is doing no weight training having more muscle mass per inch of height than powerlifters and bodybuilders? For anyone that doubts food is the greatest anabolic in your arsenal, you better get up to speed and on the same page as what my trainees have found out. Gee now what would happen if you actually ate to get dramatically larger like a sumo, but actually weight trained like a powerbuilder (which is what we train like), and also did enough cardio/carb cuttoffs etc to keep bodyfat at bay while doing all this”

So what I think its all comes down to is enough calories to support growth and not the system you choose. If you eat enough you will gain muscular weight according to your genetics. No matter what the system.

admin April 13, 2008 at 11:58 pm


I do a TON of reading and research online. I must say…I really like your writing style much more than most of the info that I read. Do you have a blog or website? I’d love to refer people if you do…I really think that if you do not, you may want to consider starting one. Thanks for the compliment.

Outstanding observations!


Kasper April 21, 2008 at 7:35 pm

Thanks for the compliment Rusty – it means a lot to me. Im from Denmark so I do my best with the english languae.

What I like about your website is that you just don’t take anything for granted and think outside the box and not afraid to go against all the “rules”. Im a lot like you in that regard.

I also read a lot and do lots of research, but mostly im a BIG observer of what is happining around me.

I work as a fitnessinstructor and personal trainer (I think you are a little hard on us in some of your posts :o)) and have done so for 15 years. I have competed in 7 fitnesscontests (Not bodybuilding. A fitnesscontest consist of 3 rounds to find the ultimate athlete. 1. a symmetry round – a symmetric athletic physique. 2. a strength round – max pullups and dips. 3. a endurance round – 500 meters of ergometer rowing) so I do have a little experience and not just a internet warrior :o)

I don’t have a blog but I have website that’s a presentation of myself. It needs a serious update though. I have thought a lot about starting a serious fitnesssite or blog. If you have some advice I would really appriciate it.

Have a great day.


admin April 22, 2008 at 10:22 am


I know there are great personal trainers out there for sure. I’m mainly clowning on the little robotic personal trainers at the big gyms that basically don’t have a mind of their own. They just repeat and rehash what they were taught and don’t have their own methodology. I respect personal trainers that think “outside of the box” and develop their own training style.

I’ll get back to you on creating a blog. I have a great recommendation for anyone who wants a strong web presence and to get listed all over Google. I should have your e-mail address.

Have a great one!


PS: You have a better command of the English language than 90% of the people in the U.S…seriously, I’m amazed that this is a second language for you.

Kasper April 25, 2008 at 5:37 pm

Hi again Rusty,

Thanks for the compliment – is it really that bad in the U.S? I do a lot of my reading on english websites so its second nature to me. There are so many terms in the english language that just sounds and gives better meaning than in danish when it comes to training and nutrition.

I would really appreciate it if you would give me some recommendations. Im looking forward to your response.

Have a super weekend.


Kali May 10, 2008 at 10:46 pm

“Rusty…I NEED YOU”

I’m down to 3 weeks until I go on vacation (lots of bikini time). I’m trying to drop as much body fat as possible within my last few weeks. I’ve been trying to get to my goal for a few months and it’s going but I think you may be able to give me some better ideas. I’m a small to med framed chick, 5’6 and 130 on the scale right now but I’m definately gaining muscle or I would be less for sure. I’m thinking of changing my calories to 1150 because my goal (on the scale) weight is 115lbs but more concerned with my body fat. I have been training 6 days a week usually an hour of weight lifting then 20-30 mins of HIT cardio, two days of just cardio during the non weight lifting days, I do 40-60 mins of cardio. I have been eating 5-6 times a day, meat veggies and protein shakes (muscle milk) (no fruit, bread, sweets and only water to drink) I am eating 4-5 oz of meat each meal. I’m not dropping the fat fast enough…tell me what do PLEASE?


Kali May 10, 2008 at 10:51 pm

What is your opinion on (Muscle Milk) protein? I take in 2 shakes a day and it’s the only one that doesn’t make me sick and that I actually like the taste of but it’s so good that I feel like it must not be “ya know?”. Give it to me straight…is it good or do you have some better suggestions?


admin May 13, 2008 at 1:07 am


I’m going to give you a bit of different advice than you normally hear.

Let’s say you are aiming for 1,200 calories per day. If you ate 6 meals per day, that would mean you would only be able to eat 200 calories per meal! That is nearly impossible in my opinion and it is just too easy to get above the 1,200 calorie mark if you are eating so often.

Instead…how about you just eat 3 meals per day. Meal number one could be Muscle Milk, so would meal number two. Each serving has 300 calories and the carbs are moderately low. So now you have eaten 1/2 of your daily calories.

I want you to workout about 4-5 hours after the shake you eat for lunch. This will ensure that you are carb depleted a bit before you hit cardio. When you do workout you will burn body fat as your energy source, NOT energy from food…this is another HUGE reason to not eat every 2-3 hours…you will get much leaner training without immediate food energy in your system.

For your workout, why don’t you limit your lifting to 30-40 minutes, followed by HIIT for 15 minutes, ending with 30 minutes of steady state cardio. The HIIT is great at releasing Fat energy from your fat cells and the steady state cardio will then use this fat for energy. This is a really basic version of Lyle McDonald’s Stubborn Fat Protocol…for a more detailed version check out his course… The Stubborn Fat Solution.

After this workout, eat a 400-600 calorie meal. Your body will be starving for the nutrients, so NONE of it will be stored as fat.

You need a better approach to lean out. This will do the trick! Muscle Milk is great stuff, by the way. Good choice.


Kali May 13, 2008 at 1:58 am


BC June 7, 2008 at 11:27 am

Rusty, enjoy the reads, just came across your site. I wanted to know how familar you are with Vince Gironda and some of his principles and teachings. I see many similarities (besides the cardio stance) from what little bit I have read of yours. Recently, I have come across many Gironda “teachings” and would like any thoughts if you have them.

admin June 8, 2008 at 3:15 am


I LOVE YOU TOO…Spreading the love all around 🙂


Gironda has some great teachings. He didn’t like squats or dead-lifts either. He doesn’t like flat bench presses and has a strong emphasis on inclines presses. I read his stuff back in the early 80’s and I forgot about him, but now you mention it…I agree with a lot of his philosophies. Obviously a quality source of info.


BurritoKid July 1, 2008 at 2:28 pm

do you not do supersets then? say 1 chest exercise and then 1 back imediately following then rest for 1 min.

i feel like this saves a lot of time but is it not ideal for muscle tone and strength?

BurritoKid July 1, 2008 at 2:43 pm

i have muscle milk at home, it says that it helps the body not store fat and it’s about getting lean. so it sounds like a good mix for this website.

the nutrition facts are a lil off to me though, theres a lot of fat, calories and sugar in it. anyone know how it works?

admin July 3, 2008 at 3:33 am


If you are strength training I would avoid supersets. I don’t have Muscle Milk in front of me right now, but from what I remember…it is one of the better protein shakes. You do need some fat and carbs, so I wouldn’t sweat it. Many people use Muscle Milk with success.

If you are worried at all, then drink it 30-60 minutes after your workouts…that is when your body is starving for sugars.


Jeremiah July 6, 2008 at 4:05 am

Hey Rusty, I stumbled upon your website by accident about a week ago, googling information about how to increase muscle definition. I’m an ectomorph, and absolutely prefer a naturally lean look to a bulky muscular one. Considering that I have yet to disagree with any of your personal philosophies on this blog, I plan to follow your advice as well as I can. To this end, I want as much clarity and guidance as possible, so I don’t waste any time practicing ineffective methodologies.

Anyhow, here’s why I’m writing: Would it be much of a bother for you to post a few strength training routines that you’ve personally used? I’m trying to gather the pieces you’ve written in different posts, but it’d be nice to have one post to refer to. Or, even better, maybe you could post exercises you find effective for each major muscle group, highlighting not only why you like them, but also why you find certain exercises (e.g. squats and deadlifts) undesirable. I’ve been performing squats and deadlifts regularly, thinking they would improve my overall physique, but you’ve stated that you don’t use them. It’d be great to have a list of “recommended” and “advised-against” exercises and why they are in their respective categories.

Thanks for sharing info that actually makes sense!

nik July 12, 2008 at 5:14 pm

Ciao Rusty, I`m interested in high tension exercise routine, involving push ups(30max), chin ups(20max), squats(200max),abs(500max) and rope jumping. i`ve been doing cardio, driving bicycle(50min per session) and running for last ten years but had difficulty with building mass. I`ve tried doing it but don`t feel like it. what i`d like is to increase strength not mass by doing only these exercises. is it possible without inflicting 3 times per week cardio routine?thanks

eric July 31, 2008 at 1:25 am

hey rusty what do you think of isometric training? Bruce Lee practiced this and his body was amazing. Do you think it could totally replace a regular strength training routine (reps, sets, increased weight) if you want a lean body? Or should it just be another part of your workout?

salman November 9, 2008 at 1:08 pm

hi rusty,I had been reading ur blog from 2weeks.after which changed my workout routine,but sometimes I get confused like 2-3 excersize per body part 3-4 set n 2-3 min rest and u say to follow brief lifting .by this sets n reps my lifting part is about moreover 40min,n then
15 min high intensity
n 30 min low intensity .thus this way of cardio can be done evry day as u said not to do high intensity cardio evry day.I workout evry day [sunday]off but my workout become lengthy,so plz help
by the way I love ur blog.
thank u.

Cindy January 14, 2009 at 4:18 pm

I am so confused. I am trying to understand the concept of this :High Tension method and I just don’t get it…

I’ve got a HIIT program going for cardio and everything

I’m just so confused on what to do with weights/machines, there is so much conflicting info out there.

john January 16, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Great information. Well researched and documented.

My question is: I have limited time, so would I be better use this method with only free weights or machines?

Krissy January 18, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Hey Rusty,

I’m 5ft 8 and 122 lbs and have always been skinny. I was just wondering since I have very little muscle should i concentrate on building the muscle first and then focus on toning?

Pete March 11, 2010 at 5:28 am

Hey Rusty

I started to read your site a few days ago. REALLY good stuff I must say!
I’ve been working out for 2 years the “regular” way tried a lot of excersises but never got the lean ripped shape as I wanted.
I’ve started the high tension low reps kind of lifting along with HIIT this week. (I usually done the high reps kind of thing earlier)
Have a question about the lifting though. Sorry if it is a dumb question, just want to make sure I’m doing right what I do.
4 sets 5 reps per excersise and a fully of 4 different excersises for each muscle part are good enough? One muscle part per day 5-6 days per week.
I tried it out and i read that it’s good not to feel sore the next day, but after the lifting part I don’t even feel that I worked out. During the excersises I feel the tension but after I put down the weights it’s like I did nothing.
After I’m done with the HIIT part (or the crazy 8 body weight circuit) then I’m really exhausted but in my muscles I still don’t feel any kind of tension or that they are tired. Is that good so or I’m doing something wrong?

Thanks: Pete

Ruth August 26, 2010 at 4:01 pm

I hope you can help…this article seems to be the closest to addressing my issue.

I am 41, 5’5″, 125lbs, and always have been slender & fairly strong for my size. I was a swimmer growing up until I was 30. I have not had an exercise regime for the last 11 years.

I recently started exercising again as I noticed cellulite and overall ‘soft/floppiness’ of my body. I need to tighten up.

Here is the problem ~ I was happy with my size, and did NOT want to add any mass to my body. I do 2 days/week of 30 minute cardio (Mix 3 machine, HR 140-160) followed by full body light weight circuit (no sore muscle next day). I watch my diet, and even cut out some carbs & cheese I always ate. I don’t eat sugar, and use whole grains/foods.

In the 2.5 months I have gained 5-7 pounds! My thighs, hips and waist/belly have all gotten BIGGER (and seems fattier almost), not tightened up. This has dicouraged me to the point of quitting & going back to atrophy for the look I want.

I hope you have some input as to why my body is reacting this way, and what I could do differently.

Most forums I’ve found are aimed towards losing weight &/or bulking up, not much direction for thin people who want to stay small and get ‘tone’.

Thank you:)

Ruth August 26, 2010 at 4:10 pm

I’d love to know if you’ve discovered any good info on exercise regimes for people who start out thin:)

Kevin October 20, 2011 at 10:38 am

for building muscle you need continuous tension and full ROM. So on the squat, for example, you descend down. As soon as you are in the lowest position, forcefully move upward. Don’t lock out your knees,as this releases tension from the muscle. Flex for half a second hard like your posing for a photo and descend again for the next rep. If you watch all pro BB’s they never pause at the top or bottom of the rep. Like Rusty said, this is bad for strength but essential for building bigger muscles.

Stanley September 20, 2012 at 7:01 am

Hey rusty,

Thanks for a great read. Helped me a lot in deciding how to do my workout.

Buy Power Pump XL April 19, 2013 at 6:16 pm

And that’s the only reason we’re in the gym, right. While they are struggling to pack on
any muscle at all, you. Figuring out how much protein you should be eating can
be tricky.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: