Workout Routines

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.

No Rest For The Wicked
Dustin Snipes
Dustin Snipes
Duration 8 weeks
Exercises 76
Equipment Yes

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. 

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.

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

 

Weeks 1, 3, 5, 7 Workout 1: Chest, Biceps, Abs

Exercise 1

Barbell Bench Press You'll need: Barbell, Bench How to
Barbell Bench Press thumbnail
4 sets
6-8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press You'll need: Bench How to
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press thumbnail
4 sets
8-10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3

Incline Dumbbell Flye You'll need: Bench, Dumbbells How to
Incline Dumbbell Flye thumbnail
3 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 4

Cable Crossover You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, D-Handle Attachment How to
Cable Crossover thumbnail
3 sets
15-20 reps
-- rest

Exercise 5

Barbell Biceps Curl You'll need: Barbell How to
bicep curl thumbnail
3 sets
6-8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 6

Incline Dumbbell Biceps Curl You'll need: Bench, Dumbbells How to
Incline Dumbbell Biceps Curl thumbnail
3 sets
8-10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 7

Lying Concentration Cable Curl You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, Straight Bar Attachment How to
Lying Concentration Cable Curl thumbnail
3 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 8

Dumbbell Hammer Curl You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Hammer Curl thumbnail
3 sets
15-20 reps
-- rest

Exercise 9

Rope Crunch You'll need: Cable Machine, Rope Attachment How to
Rope Crunch thumbnail
3 sets
8-10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 10

Hanging Leg Raise You'll need: Pullup Bar How to
Hanging Leg Raise thumbnail
3 sets
12-15* reps
-- rest
*Or as many as you can do.

Exercise 11

Oblique Crunch
Oblique Crunch thumbnail
3 sets
15-20* reps
-- rest
*Or as many as you can do.

Weeks 1, 3, 5, 7 Workout 2: Legs, Calves

Exercise 1

Back Squat You'll need: Barbell, Squat Rack How to
Back Squat thumbnail
3 sets
6-8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2

Leg Press How to
Leg Press thumbnail
3 sets
8-10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3

Dumbbell Lunge You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Lunge thumbnail
3 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 4

3 sets
15-20 reps
-- rest

Exercise 5

Romanian Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Romanian Deadlift thumbnail
3 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 6

Leg Curl How to
Leg Curl thumbnail
3 sets
15-20 reps
-- rest

Exercise 7

Standing Calf Raise You'll need: Box How to
Standing Calf Raise thumbnail
4 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 8

Seated Calf Raise You'll need: Bench How to
Seated Calf Raise thumbnail
4 sets
15-20 reps
-- rest

Weeks 1, 3, 5, 7 Workout 3: Shoulders, Traps, Abs

Exercise 1

Barbell Shoulder Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Barbell Shoulder Press thumbnail
4 sets
6-8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2

Smith Machine Upright Row You'll need: Smith Machine How to
Smith Machine Upright Row thumbnail
4 sets
8-10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3

Dumbbell Lateral Raise You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Lateral Raise thumbnail
3 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 4

Cable Rear Delt Flye
exercise image placeholder
3 sets
15-20 reps
-- rest

Exercise 5

Barbell Shrug You'll need: Barbell How to
Barbell Shrug thumbnail
3 sets
6-8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 6

Behind-the-back Barbell Shrug
exercise image placeholder
3 sets
8-10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 7

Smith Machine Crunch
exercise image placeholder
3 sets
8-10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 8

General Plank You'll need: No Equipment How to
General Plank thumbnail
3 sets
60-90 sec reps
-- rest

Exercise 9

Reverse Crunch You'll need: No Equipment How to
Reverse Crunch thumbnail
3 sets
15-20* reps
-- rest
*Or as many as you can do.

Weeks 1, 3, 5, 7 Workout 4: Back, Triceps, Calves

Exercise 1

Dumbbell Bentover Row You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Bentover Row thumbnail
4 sets
6-8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2

Lat Pulldown You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, Lat Pulldown Bar How to
Lat Pulldown thumbnail
4 sets
8-10 reps
-- rest
Use a wide grip.

Exercise 3

Lat Pulldown You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, Lat Pulldown Bar How to
Lat Pulldown thumbnail
3 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 4

Dumbbell Straight-Arm Pullback
exercise image placeholder
3 sets
15-20 reps
-- rest

Exercise 5

Triceps Pressdown You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, V-Handle Attachment How to
Triceps Pressdown thumbnail
3 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 6

Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension How to
Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension thumbnail
3 sets
15-20 reps
-- rest

Exercise 7

Barbell Bench Press You'll need: Barbell, Bench How to
Barbell Bench Press thumbnail
3 sets
6-8 reps
-- rest
Use a close grip.

Exercise 8

Weighted Dip You'll need: Ankle Weights, Dip Station How to
Weighted Dip thumbnail
3 sets
8-10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 9

Seated Calf Raise You'll need: Bench How to
Seated Calf Raise thumbnail
3 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 10

Leg Press Calf Raise
leg press calf raise thumbnail
3 sets
15-20 reps
-- rest

Weeks 2, 4, 6, 8 Workout 1: Chest, Biceps, Abs

Exercise 1

Barbell Bench Press You'll need: Barbell, Bench How to
Barbell Bench Press thumbnail
4 sets
6-8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press You'll need: Bench How to
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press thumbnail
4 sets
8-10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3

Cable Crossover You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, D-Handle Attachment How to
Cable Crossover thumbnail
3 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest
Set pulley in low position.

Exercise 4

Decline Dumbbell Flye You'll need: Dumbbells, Bench How to
Decline Dumbbell Flye thumbnail
3 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 5

Barbell Biceps Curl You'll need: Barbell How to
bicep curl thumbnail
3 sets
6-8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 6

Incline Dumbbell Biceps Curl You'll need: Bench, Dumbbells How to
Incline Dumbbell Biceps Curl thumbnail
3 sets
8-10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 7

Barbell Preacher Curl
exercise image placeholder
3 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 8

Cable Hammer Curl You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, Rope Attachment How to
Cable Hammer Curl thumbnail
3 sets
15-20 reps
-- rest

Exercise 9

Rope Crunch You'll need: Cable Machine, Rope Attachment How to
Rope Crunch thumbnail
3 sets
8-10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 10

Hanging Leg Raise You'll need: Pullup Bar How to
Hanging Leg Raise thumbnail
3 sets
12-15* reps
-- rest
*Or as many as you can do.

Exercise 11

Oblique Crunch
Oblique Crunch thumbnail
3 sets
15-20* reps
-- rest
*Or as many as you can do.

Weeks 2, 4, 6, 8 Workout 2: Legs, Calves

Exercise 1

Back Squat You'll need: Barbell, Squat Rack How to
Back Squat thumbnail
3 sets
6-8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2

Leg Press How to
Leg Press thumbnail
3 sets
8-10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3

Dumbbell Lunge You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Lunge thumbnail
3 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 4

3 sets
15-20 reps
-- rest

Exercise 5

Romanian Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Romanian Deadlift thumbnail
3 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 6

Leg Curl How to
Leg Curl thumbnail
3 sets
15-20 reps
-- rest

Exercise 7

Standing Calf Raise You'll need: Box How to
Standing Calf Raise thumbnail
4 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 8

Seated Calf Raise You'll need: Bench How to
Seated Calf Raise thumbnail
4 sets
15-20 reps
-- rest

Weeks 2, 4, 6, 8 Workout 3: Shoulders, Traps, Abs

Exercise 1

Barbell Shoulder Press You'll need: Barbell How to
Barbell Shoulder Press thumbnail
4 sets
6-8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2

Smith Machine Upright Row You'll need: Smith Machine How to
Smith Machine Upright Row thumbnail
4 sets
8-10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3

Cable Lateral Raise You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine How to
Cable Lateral Raise thumbnail
3 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 4

Dumbbell Lateral Raise You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Lateral Raise thumbnail
3 sets
15-20 reps
-- rest
Perform bent-over.

Exercise 5

Barbell Shrug You'll need: Barbell How to
Barbell Shrug thumbnail
3 sets
6-8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 6

Dumbbell Shrug You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Shrug thumbnail
3 sets
8-10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 7

Smith Machine Crunch
exercise image placeholder
3 sets
8-10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 8

General Plank You'll need: No Equipment How to
General Plank thumbnail
3 sets
60-90 sec reps
-- rest

Exercise 9

Reverse Crunch You'll need: No Equipment How to
Reverse Crunch thumbnail
3 sets
15-20* reps
-- rest
*Or as many as you can do.

Weeks 2, 4, 6, 8 Workout 4: Back, Triceps, Calves

Exercise 1

Dumbbell Bentover Row You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Bentover Row thumbnail
4 sets
6-8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2

Lat Pulldown You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, Lat Pulldown Bar How to
Lat Pulldown thumbnail
4 sets
8-10 reps
-- rest
Use a wide grip.

Exercise 3

Inverted Row You'll need: Barbell, Squat Rack How to
Inverted Row thumbnail
3 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 4

Lat Pulldown You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, Lat Pulldown Bar How to
Lat Pulldown thumbnail
3 sets
15-20 reps
-- rest
Keep arms straight.

Exercise 5

Dumbbell Kickback You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Kickback thumbnail
3 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest
Perform on an incline.

Exercise 6

Cable Overhead Triceps Extension You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, Bench, Rope Attachment How to
Cable Overhead Triceps Extension thumbnail
3 sets
15-20 reps
-- rest

Exercise 7

Barbell Bench Press You'll need: Barbell, Bench How to
Barbell Bench Press thumbnail
3 sets
6-8 reps
-- rest
Use a close grip.

Exercise 8

Weighted Dip You'll need: Ankle Weights, Dip Station How to
Weighted Dip thumbnail
3 sets
8-10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 9

Seated Calf Raise You'll need: Bench How to
Seated Calf Raise thumbnail
3 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 10

Leg Press Calf Raise
leg press calf raise thumbnail
3 sets
15-20 reps
-- rest
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