Short rest interval lengths between sets optimally enhance body composition and performance with 8 weeks of strength resistance training in older men



To determine if 8 weeks of periodized strength resistance training (RT) utilizing relatively short rest interval lengths (RI) in between sets (SS) would induce greater improvements in body composition and muscular performance, compared to the same RT program utilizing extended RI (SL).


22 male volunteers (SS: n = 11, 65.6 ± 3.4 years; SL: n = 11, 70.3 ± 4.9 years) were assigned to one of two strength RT groups, following 4 weeks of periodized hypertrophic RT (PHRT): strength RT with 60-s RI (SS) or strength RT with 4-min RI (SL). Prior to randomization, all 22 study participants trained 3 days/week, for 4 weeks, targeting hypertrophy; from week 4 to week 12, SS and SL followed the same periodized strength RT program for 8 weeks, with RI the only difference in their RT prescription.


Following PHRT, all study participants experienced increases in lean body mass (LBM) (p < 0.01), upper and lower body strength (p < 0.001), and dynamic power (p < 0.001), as well as decreases in percentage body fat (p < 0.05). Across the 8-week strength RT phase, SS experienced significantly greater increases in LBM (p = 0.001), flat machine bench press 1-RM (p < 0.001), bilateral leg press 1-RM (p < 0.001), narrow/neutral grip lat pulldown (p < 0.01), and Margaria stair-climbing power (p < 0.001), compared to SL.


This study suggests 8 weeks of periodized high-intensity strength RT with shortened RI induces significantly greater enhancements in body composition, muscular performance, and functional performance, compared to the same RT prescription with extended RI, in older men. Applied professionals may optimize certain RT-induced adaptations, by incorporating shortened RI.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3



Analysis of variance


Androgen receptor


Clinical Exercise Research Center


Coefficient of variance


Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry


Effect size


Lean body mass


Repetition maximum


Resistance exercise


Resistance training


Rest interval length in between sets


Star excursion balance test


  1. Ahtiainen JP, Pakarinen A, Alen M, Kraemer WJ, Hakkinen K (2005) Short vs. long rest period between the sets in hypertrophic resistance training: influence on muscle strength, size, and hormonal adaptations in trained men. J Strength Cond Res 19(3):572–582

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. American College of Sports Medicine position stand (2009) Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc 41(3):687–708

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Beaven CM, Cook CJ, Gill ND (2008a) Significant strength gains observed in rugby players after specific resistance exercise protocols based on individual salivary testosterone responses. J Strength Cond Res 22(2):419–425

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Beaven CM, Gill ND, Cook CJ (2008b) Salivary testosterone and cortisol responses in professional rugby players after four resistance exercise protocols. J Strength Cond Res 22(2):426–432

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Campbell WW, Trappe TA, Wolfe RR, Evans WJ (2001) The recommended dietary allowance for protein may not be adequate for older people to maintain skeletal muscle. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 56(6):M373–M380

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Chodzko-Zajko WJ, Proctor DN, Fiatarone Singh MA, Minson CT, Nigg CR, Salem GJ, Skinner JS, American College of Sports Medicine position stand (2009) Exercise and physical activity for older adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc 41(7):1510–1530

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Cunningham DA, Rechnitzer PA, Pearce ME, Donner AP (1982) Determinants of self-selected walking pace across ages 19 to 66. J Gerontol 37(5):560–564

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. de Salles BF, Simao R, Miranda F, Novaes Jda S, Lemos A, Willardson JM (2009) Rest interval between sets in strength training. Sports Med 39(9):765–777

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. de Salles BF, Maior AS, Polito M, Novaes J, Alexander J, Rhea M, Simão R (2010a) Influence of rest interval lengths on hypotensive response after strength training sessions performed by older men. J Strength Cond Res 24(11):3049–3054

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. de Salles BF, Simão R, Miranda H, Bottaro M, Fontana F, Willardson JM (2010b) Strength increases in upper and lower body are larger with longer inter-set rest intervals in trained men. J Sci Med Sport 13(4):429–433

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Fleck SJ (1999) Periodized strength training: A critical review. J Strength Cond Res 13(1):82–89

    Google Scholar 

  12. Goto K, Nagasawa M, Yanagisawa O, Kizuka T, Ishii N, Takamatsu K (2004) Muscular adaptations to combinations of high- and low-intensity resistance exercises. J Strength Cond Res 18(4):730–737

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Hakkinen K, Pakarinen A, Kraemer WJ, Newton RU, Alen M (2000) Basal concentrations and acute responses of serum hormones and strength development during heavy resistance training in middle-aged and elderly men and women. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 55(2):B95–B105

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Hertel J (2000) Functional instability following lateral ankle sprain. Sports Med 29(5):361–371

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Hunter GR, McCarthy JP, Bamman MM (2004) Effects of resistance training on older adults. Sports Med 34(5):329–348

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Izquierdo M, Hakkinen K, Anton A, Garrues M, Ibanez J, Ruesta M, Gorostiaga EM (2001) Maximal strength and power, endurance performance, and serum hormones in middle-aged and elderly men. Med Sci Sports Exerc 33(9):1577–1587

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Kraemer WJ (1997) A series of studies: the physiological basis for strength training in American football: fact over philosophy. J Strength Cond Res 11(3):131–142

    Google Scholar 

  18. Kraemer WJ, Ratamess NA (2004) Fundamentals of resistance training: progression and exercise prescription. Med Sci Sports Exerc 36(4):674–688

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Kraemer WJ, Ratamess NA (2005) Hormonal responses and adaptations to resistance exercise and training. Sports Med 35(4):339–361

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Kraemer WJ, Marchitelli L, Gordon SE, Harman E, Dziados JE, Mello R, Frykman P, McCurry D, Fleck SJ (1990) Hormonal and growth factor responses to heavy resistance exercise protocols. J Appl Physiol 69(4):1442–1450

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. Kraemer WJ, Hakkinen K, Newton RU, Nindl BC, Volek JS, McCormick M, Gotshalk LA, Gordon SE, Fleck SJ, Campbell WW, Putukian M, Evans WJ (1999) Effects of heavy-resistance training on hormonal response patterns in younger vs. older men. J Appl Physiol 87(3):982–992

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  22. Kvorning T, Andersen M, Brixen K, Madsen K (2006) Suppression of endogenous testosterone production attenuates the response to strength training: a randomized, placebo-controlled, and blinded intervention study. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 291(6):E1325–E1332

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Margaria R, Aghemo P, Rovelli E (1966) Measurement of muscular power (anaerobic) in man. J Appl Physiol 21(5):1662–1664

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. Marsh AP, Miller ME, Saikin AM, Rejeski WJ, Hu N, Lauretani F, Bandinelli S, Guralnik JM, Ferrucci L (2006) Lower extremity strength and power are associated with 400-meter walk time in older adults: the InCHIANTI study. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 61(11):1186–1193

    PubMed Central  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Matuszak ME, Fry AC, Weiss LW, Ireland TR, McKnight MM (2003) Effect of rest interval length on repeated 1 repetition maximum back squats. J Strength Cond Res 17(4):216–221

    Google Scholar 

  26. McCaulley GO, McBride JM, Cormie P, Hudson MB, Nuzzo JL, Quindry JC, Travis Triplett N (2009) Acute hormonal and neuromuscular responses to hypertrophy, strength and power type resistance exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol 105(5):695–704

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Prestes J, Frollini AB, de Lima C, Donatto FF, Foschini D, de Cassia Marqueti R, Figueira A Jr, Fleck SJ (2009) Comparison between linear and daily undulating periodized resistance training to increase strength. J Strength Cond Res 23(9):2437–2442

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Richmond SR, Godard MP (2004) The effects of varied rest periods between sets to failure using the bench press in recreationally trained men. J Strength Cond Res 18(4):846–849

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. Robinson JM, Stone MH, Johnson RL, Penland CM, Warren BJ, Lewis RD (1995) Effects of different weight training exercise/rest intervals on strength, power, and high intensity exercise endurance. J Strength Cond Res 9(4):216–221

    Google Scholar 

  30. Schlicht J, Camaione DN, Owen SV (2001) Effect of intense strength training on standing balance, walking speed, and sit-to-stand performance in older adults. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 56(5):M281–M286

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Schroeder ET, Wang Y, Castaneda-Sceppa C, Cloutier G, Vallejo AF, Kawakubo M, Jensky NE, Coomber S, Azen SP, Sattler FR (2007) Reliability of maximal voluntary muscle strength and power testing in older men. J Gerontol Series A: Biol Sci Med Sci 62(5):543–549

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Smilios I, Pilianidis T, Karamouzis M, Tokmakidis SP (2003) Hormonal responses after various resistance exercise protocols. Med Sci Sports Exerc 35(4):644–654

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Spiering BA, Kraemer WJ, Vingren JL, Ratamess NA, Anderson JM, Armstrong LE, Nindl BC, Volek JS, Hakkinen K, Maresh CM (2009) Elevated endogenous testosterone concentrations potentiate muscle androgen receptor responses to resistance exercise. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 114(3–5):195–199

    CAS  PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Villanueva MG, Lane CJ, Schroeder ET (2012) Influence of rest interval length on acute testosterone and cortisol responses to volume-load-equated total body hypertrophic and strength protocols. J Strength Cond Res 26(10):2755–2764

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Vincent KR, Braith RW, Feldman RA, Magyari PM, Cutler RB, Persin SA, Lennon SL, Gabr AH, Lowenthal DT (2002) Resistance exercise and physical performance in adults aged 60 to 83. J Am Geriatr Soc 50(6):1100–1107

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Vingren JL, Kraemer WJ, Ratamess NA, Anderson JM, Volek JS, Maresh CM (2010) Testosterone physiology in resistance exercise and training: the up-stream regulatory elements. Sports Med 40(12):1037–1053

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Walsh M, Woodhouse LJ, Thomas SG, Finch E (1998) Physical impairments and functional limitations: a comparison of individuals 1 year after total knee arthroplasty with control subjects. Phys Ther 78(3):248–258

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  38. Willardson JM (2006) A brief review: factors affecting the length of the rest interval between resistance exercise sets. J Strength Cond Res 20(4):978–984

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  39. Willardson JM, Burkett LN (2005) A comparison of 3 different rest intervals on the exercise volume completed during a workout. J Strength Cond Res 19(1):23–26

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  40. Willardson JM, Burkett LN (2006a) The effect of rest interval length on bench press performance with heavy vs. light loads. J Strength Cond Res 20(2):396–399

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. Willardson JM, Burkett LN (2006b) The effect of rest interval length on the sustainability of squat and bench press repetitions. J Strength Cond Res 20(2):400–403

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. Willardson JM, Burkett LN (2008) The effect of different rest intervals between sets on volume components and strength gains. J Strength Cond Res 22(1):146–152

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors would like to thank the study participants, University of Southern California Clinical Exercise Research Center staff, and Adriana Del Padilla for their contribution to the successful completion of the experimental protocol. This study was funded by the National Strength and Conditioning Association Foundation (NSCAF). The results of the present study do not constitute endorsement by NSCA.

Conflict of interest

For all authors, there are no conflicts of interest, which might lead to bias in this manuscript.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to E. Todd Schroeder.

Additional information

Communicated by Michael Lindinger.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Villanueva, M.G., Lane, C.J. & Schroeder, E.T. Short rest interval lengths between sets optimally enhance body composition and performance with 8 weeks of strength resistance training in older men. Eur J Appl Physiol 115, 295–308 (2015).

Download citation


  • Hypertrophy
  • Maximal dynamic strength
  • Sarcopenia
  • Acute hormonal responses
  • Physical function