Calisthenics Training: How Long To Rest Between Sets

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When it comes to calisthenics training, not everyone’s methods are the same. We all have our own styles, preferences, and types of training within the calisthenics discipline. You can’t really categorize a calisthenics athlete as one specific “type” of athlete and, therefore, every calisthenics athlete’s goals, methods, and even rest times will be different. 

With that being said, the ideal amount of rest time in between sets will depend on what specific goal you’re training for. Some athletes will need more rest time, whereas others need much less.

Because of that, we first need to identify different calisthenics training methods and styles that you are practicing:

  • Reps and Sets – a training style that focuses on muscle growth using bodyweight exercises. It is split into two categories: pure bodyweight and weighted calisthenics.
  • Statics – also known as statics holds or isometric holds, where one remains in the same position under intense muscle contraction (think of human flag, planche, and front lever)
  • Dynamics – this is also called freestyle calisthenics where athletes showcase their creativity via a flow of different skills in quick succession. This combines both statics and dynamics elements.

Your rest will differ in each calisthenics category mentioned, and depend on whether you are training for muscle hypertrophy, strength, endurance, or power. Let’s dive further into each training method and determine the ideal rest time for you.

How Long Should I Rest Between Sets?

Put simply, calisthenics athletes should rest anywhere between 20 seconds and 5 minutes between sets. Athletes doing more physically demanding heavyweight training should rest longer, toward the upper limit of this range, whereas “freestyle” and pure bodyweight training merits rest times in the sub-minute range. 

Reps and Sets Calisthenics

Weighted Calisthenics 

Weighted dips

If your goal is to build muscle, you will need to continually place your muscles under a higher level of tension to create muscle damage and metabolic stress, that ‘pump’ feeling after doing an intense round of squats. The body responds by repairing damaged muscle fibers by fusing them, which increases the thickness and muscle.

In reps and sets, the most effective way to build strength through weighted calisthenics is to do a rep range that is less than 6 reps between 3-6 sets of heavyweight. In between these sets, you would rest between 2-5 minutes. Examples of weighted calisthenics are weighted pull ups, and weighted push ups.

When lifting heavy weights, your muscles will produce a larger force, which would require a longer time to recover to be able to repeat the movement with the same force. This will give you more volume in your workouts since you are better rested.

A 2018 study supports the claim that a 2-5 minutes interset rest interval may produce the greatest strength-power benefits, however, rest intervals may differ depending on your age, muscle fiber type, and genetics. 

Pure Bodyweight

Push ups

This method of training strictly uses only your bodyweight such as pull ups, push ups, dips, squats, and different bodyweight variations to either develop muscular hypertrophy or muscular endurance.

In order to maximize hypertrophy, you should perform between 6-12 reps for 3-6 sets, while resting between 1-2 minutes in between sets. A systematic review concluded that the use of longer interset rest duration (60 seconds or greater) allows training with a higher overall volume load. This has been demonstrated to enhance both the acute anabolic response and long-term muscular adaptations

And of course, if your goal is to develop muscular endurance, you should perform your workouts with over 12 reps for 3-5 sets with rest intervals between 20-60 seconds. This is usually practiced via HITT circuit training. For example, this follow-along abs workout where you work for 45 seconds, followed by resting for 30 seconds.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association suggests that training for endurance combines high repetition ranges with short rest periods to create high levels of metabolic stress usually with lighter loads to complete the prescribed number of repetitions. 

Although this form of training is under ‘pure bodyweight’ training, the volume and recovery time also applies to those advanced athletes who can practice calisthenics with weights added on top. You can train for either or both hypertrophy and endurance with weighted calisthenics. 

Calisthenics Statics

Back lever

Statics is an isometric-based training that is highly popular in the world of calisthenics. It involves static isometric skills such as the front lever, back lever, human flag, planche, and handstands. This takes a high level of muscular strength, endurance, and proprioception to be able to stabilize yourself and maintain the position without becoming fatigued easily. 

The most effective way to improve static holds is to do either 6-12 reps or perform isometric holds at different progressions between 8-20 seconds with 2-5 minutes rest in between sets. This style of training will stimulate hypertrophy along with strength and endurance gains.

Due to the nature of statics calisthenics, you will need to rest between 24-48 hours between working for the same muscle groups as it takes high levels of stress on the tissues, tendons, and joints. This recovery period will allow your body to adapt to the stress and recover. 

Freestyle Calisthenics

This training style is composed of different tricks and tumbling on the bar where various skills are combined in quick succession. The core of freestyle is to create a routine that ‘flows’ smoothly between each skill. This involves different dynamic combinations of tricks, flips, swings, and spins on the bar with static holds.

With that said, this discipline requires strength, endurance, technique, and lots of practice to be able to land a combination of freestyle moves. The most practical way to develop calisthenics dynamics strength is to practice a dynamic flow between 5-12 reps, at around 10-30 seconds per-flow with rest time between 2-5 minutes rest in between sets.

Calisthenics Rest Times Explained

We now know the different disciplines within calisthenics, you should be able to identify which category suits you best. Below is a table displaying different training goals and their accompanied reps, sets, and recovery periods. 

The Takeaway

As you might be aware, there is no universal approach when it comes to rest time because we all have different goals that we want to achieve, and each goal falls into different disciplines within calisthenics.

Longer rest periods are associated with lower rep range used in weighted calisthenics, which typically results in greater strength gains. Whereas shorter rest periods are linked with pure bodyweight calisthenics with training goals of hypertrophy or endurance. Put simply, calisthenics athletes will want to rest between 20 seconds and 5 minutes between sets, depending on their individual goals. 

Hopefully, you have some insights as to how to integrate interset rest intervals into your own routine. If you are looking for a step-by-step program to demonstrate how to train effectively to transform your body in an injury-free way, then book a consultation with one of our experienced coaches to get started.

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