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The No-rest Workout Program to Burn More Fat and Boost Size

Boost your size and strength—and burn more fat—by slashing your rest periods between sets.

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  • 8 weeks

  • 76

  • Yes

No Rest For The Wicked
Dustin Snipes
No Rest For The Wicked
Dustin Snipes

There are many factors to consider when designing the perfect program—sets and reps, exercise order, and weights are all important. But when’s the last time you paid attention to your rest time? Typically speaking, we don’t give too much thought to the downtime during gym work. Taking a minute or two to recover before knocking out your next set of biceps curls or back squats is standard, and it normally works, so if it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right? Wrong. It’s time to rethink this strategy. Because, by playing with your rest times—specifically, making them shorter—you can improve the results of your training in terms of size, strength, and fat burning without having to alter any other part of your program. It doesn’t get more hassle-free than that.

On the one hand, longer rest periods equal more recovery time for fatigued muscles, which allows you to complete more reps on successive sets. The more reps you can do with a given weight, the stronger you’ll become and the more muscle growth you’ll stimulate. In fact, one study comparing a 2½-minute rest period between sets with a one-minute period reported that novice lifters using the longer rest periods for 10 weeks increased their biceps size by 12%, while the shorter-resting group had only a 5% increase. However, novice lifters’ muscles respond much differently to training than do those of the more experienced, so while this study may hold water for newbies, it’s not as pertinent to seasoned gym rats. 

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When it comes to muscle hypertrophy and strength gains, other factors come into play, such as the biochemical changes in muscle that are triggered by fatigue. Such fatigue can lead to higher growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) levels, which can encourage better gains in muscle size. One study of trained male lifters in Brazil had one group training for eight weeks using an eight- to 10-rep range with a two-minute rest period between sets. Another group started out using a two-minute rest, then reduced it by 15 seconds each week until they were down to 30 seconds between sets in the eighth week. Researchers found that those dropping their rest times each week increased their arm size by 21% and leg size by 28%, while the group keeping rest constant at two minutes increased by only 14% and 19%, respectively. These results are mainly due to the fact that, as rest periods decrease, chemical stress increases. That chemical stress activates biochemical pathways that signal muscle growth, such as higher IGF-1 production, especially within muscle cells.

The gradual reduction in rest periods also trains the muscles to recover more quickly between sets, which results in greater strength and endurance. This ability to do more work in less time also triggers changes in the muscle that encourage growth. Fat burning is enhanced, too—yet another benefit of shortened rest periods.

These findings are precisely why M&F created the Time Out program below. You’ll start off resting two minutes between sets, and each week you’ll shave off 15 seconds until you’re down to just 30 seconds of rest in Weeks 7 and 8. This will lead to more muscle, more endurance, more strength, and less fat—all while shortening your training time.

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In addition to changing rest periods, this program delivers variety in every workout. Each exercise performed for a muscle group uses a different rep range; you’ll start with low reps and go up from there, which will bring you better gains in size, strength, and endurance, not to mention enhanced fat loss. Most muscle groups start off with a multi-joint exercise or two, done with heavier weight and low reps (six to eight for the first exercise, eight to 10 for the second) to place more overload on the target muscles before you get too fatigued. Then you’ll switch to single-joint moves, with higher reps using lighter weight (12 to 15 and 15 to 20 reps on the third and fourth exercises, respectively).

The program uses a four-day split in which opposing muscle groups are paired. For example, you’ll train chest and biceps together in Workout 1 and back and triceps in Workout 4. This will ensure that smaller muscle groups don’t get too fatigued early in the workout. On Day 1, because biceps won’t be affected much by your chest workout, they’ll be relatively fresh when you train them; same goes for triceps on Day 4. With longer rest periods, this may not be as much of an issue. But once you get down to 30 to 45 seconds between sets, the intensity of your workouts will be such that you’ll want to give every muscle group ample opportunity to recover and reap the strength, size, and fat-burning benefits of the Time Out program.

Rest Periods

 

Week Rest Periods Between Sets
1 2:00
2 1:45
3 1:30
4 1:15
5 1:00
6 0:45
7 0:30
8 0:30

 

Routine

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Weeks 1, 3, 5, 7

Workout 1: Chest, Biceps, Abs

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Equipment
Barbell, Bench
Sets
4
Reps
6-8
Rest
--
Equipment
Bench
Sets
4
Reps
8-10
Rest
--
Exercise 3 of 76

Incline Dumbbell Flye

Equipment
Bench, Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
12-15
Rest
--
Exercise 4 of 76

Cable Crossover

Equipment
Adjustable Cable Machine, D-Handle Attachment
Sets
3
Reps
15-20
Rest
--
Exercise 5 of 76

Barbell Biceps Curl

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
3
Reps
6-8
Rest
--
Equipment
Bench, Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8-10
Rest
--
Equipment
Adjustable Cable Machine, Straight Bar Attachment
Sets
3
Reps
12-15
Rest
--
Exercise 8 of 76

Dumbbell Hammer Curl

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
15-20
Rest
--
Exercise 9 of 76

Rope Crunch

Equipment
Cable Machine, Rope Attachment
Sets
3
Reps
8-10
Rest
--
How to
Exercise 10 of 76

Hanging Leg Raise

Equipment
Pullup Bar
Sets
3
Reps
12-15*
Rest
--
*Or as many as you can do.

Weeks 1, 3, 5, 7

Workout 2: Legs, Calves

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 12 of 76

Back Squat

Equipment
Barbell, Squat Rack
Sets
3
Reps
6-8
Rest
--
Exercise 13 of 76

Leg Press

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
8-10
Rest
--
Exercise 14 of 76

Dumbbell Lunge

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
12-15
Rest
--
Exercise 16 of 76

Romanian Deadlift

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
3
Reps
12-15
Rest
--
Exercise 18 of 76

Standing Calf Raise

Equipment
Box
Sets
4
Reps
12-15
Rest
--
Exercise 19 of 76

Seated Calf Raise

Equipment
Bench
Sets
4
Reps
15-20
Rest
--

Weeks 1, 3, 5, 7

Workout 3: Shoulders, Traps, Abs

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 20 of 76

Barbell Shoulder Press

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
4
Reps
6-8
Rest
--
Exercise 21 of 76

Smith Machine Upright Row

Equipment
Smith Machine
Sets
4
Reps
8-10
Rest
--
Exercise 22 of 76

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
12-15
Rest
--
Exercise 24 of 76

Barbell Shrug

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
3
Reps
6-8
Rest
--
Exercise 25 of 76

Behind-the-back Barbell Shrug

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
8-10
Rest
--
Exercise 26 of 76

Smith Machine Crunch

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
8-10
Rest
--
Exercise 27 of 76

General Plank

Equipment
No Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
60-90 sec
Rest
--
Exercise 28 of 76

Reverse Crunch

Equipment
No Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
15-20*
Rest
--
*Or as many as you can do.

Weeks 1, 3, 5, 7

Workout 4: Back, Triceps, Calves

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 29 of 76

Dumbbell Bentover Row

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
4
Reps
6-8
Rest
--
Exercise 30 of 76

Lat Pulldown

Equipment
Adjustable Cable Machine, Lat Pulldown Bar
Sets
4
Reps
8-10
Rest
--
Use a wide grip.
Exercise 31 of 76

Lat Pulldown

Equipment
Adjustable Cable Machine, Lat Pulldown Bar
Sets
3
Reps
12-15
Rest
--
Exercise 32 of 76

Dumbbell Straight-Arm Pullback

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
15-20
Rest
--
Exercise 33 of 76

Triceps Pressdown

Equipment
Adjustable Cable Machine, V-Handle Attachment
Sets
3
Reps
12-15
Rest
--
Exercise 34 of 76

Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
15-20
Rest
--
Equipment
Barbell, Bench
Sets
3
Reps
6-8
Rest
--
Use a close grip.
Exercise 36 of 76

Weighted Dip

Equipment
Ankle Weights, Dip Station
Sets
3
Reps
8-10
Rest
--
Exercise 37 of 76

Seated Calf Raise

Equipment
Bench
Sets
3
Reps
12-15
Rest
--

Weeks 2, 4, 6, 8

Workout 1: Chest, Biceps, Abs

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Equipment
Barbell, Bench
Sets
4
Reps
6-8
Rest
--
Equipment
Bench
Sets
4
Reps
8-10
Rest
--
Exercise 41 of 76

Cable Crossover

Equipment
Adjustable Cable Machine, D-Handle Attachment
Sets
3
Reps
12-15
Rest
--
Set pulley in low position.
Exercise 42 of 76

Decline Dumbbell Flye

Equipment
Bench, Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
12-15
Rest
--
Exercise 43 of 76

Barbell Biceps Curl

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
3
Reps
6-8
Rest
--
Equipment
Bench, Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8-10
Rest
--
Exercise 45 of 76

Barbell Preacher Curl

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
12-15
Rest
--
Exercise 46 of 76

Cable Hammer Curl

Equipment
Adjustable Cable Machine, Rope Attachment
Sets
3
Reps
15-20
Rest
--
Exercise 47 of 76

Rope Crunch

Equipment
Cable Machine, Rope Attachment
Sets
3
Reps
8-10
Rest
--
How to
Exercise 48 of 76

Hanging Leg Raise

Equipment
Pullup Bar
Sets
3
Reps
12-15*
Rest
--
*Or as many as you can do.

Weeks 2, 4, 6, 8

Workout 2: Legs, Calves

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 50 of 76

Back Squat

Equipment
Barbell, Squat Rack
Sets
3
Reps
6-8
Rest
--
Exercise 51 of 76

Leg Press

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
8-10
Rest
--
Exercise 52 of 76

Dumbbell Lunge

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
12-15
Rest
--
Exercise 54 of 76

Romanian Deadlift

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
3
Reps
12-15
Rest
--
Exercise 56 of 76

Standing Calf Raise

Equipment
Box
Sets
4
Reps
12-15
Rest
--
Exercise 57 of 76

Seated Calf Raise

Equipment
Bench
Sets
4
Reps
15-20
Rest
--

Weeks 2, 4, 6, 8

Workout 3: Shoulders, Traps, Abs

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 58 of 76

Barbell Shoulder Press

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
4
Reps
6-8
Rest
--
Exercise 59 of 76

Smith Machine Upright Row

Equipment
Smith Machine
Sets
4
Reps
8-10
Rest
--
Exercise 61 of 76

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
15-20
Rest
--
Perform bent-over.
Exercise 62 of 76

Barbell Shrug

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
3
Reps
6-8
Rest
--
Exercise 63 of 76

Dumbbell Shrug

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8-10
Rest
--
Exercise 64 of 76

Smith Machine Crunch

Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
8-10
Rest
--
Exercise 65 of 76

General Plank

Equipment
No Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
60-90 sec
Rest
--
Exercise 66 of 76

Reverse Crunch

Equipment
No Equipment
Sets
3
Reps
15-20*
Rest
--
*Or as many as you can do.

Weeks 2, 4, 6, 8

Workout 4: Back, Triceps, Calves

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 67 of 76

Dumbbell Bentover Row

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
4
Reps
6-8
Rest
--
Exercise 68 of 76

Lat Pulldown

Equipment
Adjustable Cable Machine, Lat Pulldown Bar
Sets
4
Reps
8-10
Rest
--
Use a wide grip.
Exercise 69 of 76

Inverted Row

Equipment
Barbell, Squat Rack
Sets
3
Reps
12-15
Rest
--
Exercise 70 of 76

Lat Pulldown

Equipment
Adjustable Cable Machine, Lat Pulldown Bar
Sets
3
Reps
15-20
Rest
--
Keep arms straight.
Exercise 71 of 76

Dumbbell Kickback

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
12-15
Rest
--
Perform on an incline.
Equipment
Adjustable Cable Machine, Bench, Rope Attachment
Sets
3
Reps
15-20
Rest
--