Best ways to time rest periods

Why I’m writing this…

I have been using timed rest periods for all of my workouts since the beginning of 2012 and it has made a huge difference. I’ve noticed most people don’t do any timing in their training. Those that do usually just use the fucking horrible chronograph (count up) function on their watch and eyeball the clock their entire workout (or worse, just look at the analog clock on the gym wall). It’s time to discover more sophisticated timer methods. Break out the manual for your Timex watch or investigate the options in your phone’s timer app! Here are some ideas,


First, here’s a big secret: use timed rest periods to force yourself to rest longer than your intuition tells you to. That’s the best way to use timed rest periods. It should be long enough where you get restless and begin to feel some concern about cooling down. So now, let’s say you’re training something heavy and hard (like heavy deadlifts). Do this:

  • Set your stopwatch to countdown and then repeat mode.
  • Set the time to your rest period + the approximate time it takes you to do your set (3:30 minute rest period + about 1:00 minute to approach the bar, lift, and finish the set = 4:30 minutes.)
  • Hit go and begin your set.

Now you NEVER have to touch or even look at your stopwatch again. You will HEAR it. That’s your cue to start your set. Then you will wait and rest until you hear it again. (btw, 4:30 is what I use for all my deadlift working sets)


Imagine you want to hold a support on rings for 30 seconds and then rest 2 minutes exactly between sets.

Jujimufu on the rings.

The simple support for time is one of my bread and butter ring exercises.

  • Set your stopwatch to countdown and then countup mode.
  • Set the time to 45 seconds.
  • Hit go, you now have 15 seconds to get up over the rings and get into the support.
  • The timer will go off and you’ll get down. The stopwatch will be counting up now.
  • While you are resting, wait until the stopwatch counts up to about 1:45 seconds.
  • Reset the timer and begin the cycle again.
  • Voila. Perfect timing.


There are two good ways to use a stop watch while tricking. I covered one way to do it in a previous article. In that article I told you to just trick until you’re winded and force yourself to rest 3 minutes as needed.  Here’s another similar but slightly different way. This method is best used for those days you are tricking by yourself and doing really well!

  • Set your stopwatch to countdown and then countup mode.
  • Set the time to 15 minutes.
  • Trick for 15 minutes off and on, catch your breath throw something else.
  • Film and stop and whenever.
  • You are doing really well! Getting good footage and killing it!
  • After fifteen minutes is up, the timer will go off.
  • Force yourself to rest for at least 5 minutes. Do nothing!
  • Restart the clock for 15 minutes.
  • Throw a couple quick’n’easy warmup tricks first thing after the rest.
  • Now do something HUGE!
  • Repeat this 3 times for the average hour long session.

Why does this work? Simple. When was the last time you forced yourself to rest for 5 minutes during an exciting solo tricking session? Probably never. Try it, you’ll thank me for it I promise.

Time your rest periods!

It’s common to think that timing your rest periods is only used for restricting rest, but that’s for cross fit, circuit training and things like that. For people interested in more strength (and more muscle) or better tricks; for people interested in doing things the Acrobolix way, your timed rest periods will almost always be used to force yourself to rest more than you want to. Set the timer for at least 3 minutes. Don’t you dare start your next set of reps or actions until it chimes!

[Bonus: what I use to time rest periods]

My android phone is actually my music player when I strength train, I use ear buds. I use an app on this phone called StopWatch & Timer+ The advantage to using my phone as my music player and this app together is this: if I am listening to music with earbuds in my ears, I might not hear the timer go off if the timer was some generic stop watch. But if I’m using an app like this one, it interrupts my music for a split second to beep, I can’t miss it and I never have to look at it.

Jujimufu phone

14 Replies to “Best ways to time rest periods”

  1. Josiah says:

    Never knew timing is so important. I never kept track before really. I just went at the weight or tricking session again whenever I felt ready which is usually a minute to three minutes at max. I will time myself and see what happens to my strength, size and tricking abilities. Great post by the way.

    1. Jon Call says:

      You should notice a difference immediately. Let me know how it goes. 🙂

  2. Josiah says:

    😀 Amazing update!!!!! This doesn’t have much to do with timing but rather switching from a low rep range to a 6-12 rep range (usually 8 reps). Every time I trained I ALWAYS ended up trying breaking a new PR or 1RM. This always got me pissed off at myself, tired, depressed and made me feel burnt out. I also got injured easily (especially in tricking) and ran out of energy very quickly. After not giving a shit about getting stronger and just training to feel the best pump possible; after one week I started to feel way better and my tricking performance went through the roof!!! For now on I will just trust myself and let my body do it’s thing and it will grow bigger and stronger. It was a great choice (the best choice) for me to not max for one full month (starting week 2 of not maxing). 🙂

  3. Sebastian says:

    I use HIIT interval training timer on my android smatphone
    you can choose between the following:

    prep. time

    it also tells you the total time.

    so you can use it for lifting and interval training

    and it’s free =)

    1. Jon Call says:

      That’s good! There are a lot of great apps out there for better timing like you are using.

  4. Josiah says:

    Sebastian, hahaha would you look at that. We can use technology to make ourselves more fit. Maybe technology isn’t so bad after all.

  5. David says:

    Yeah i’m a Hybrid Martial Artists, started from Karate Taekwondo Wushu, Tricking type things, since I was very young, moved to Wing Chung, and blended that in with Jeet Kun Do. Mixed it all up for a super sleek sharp display of fighting, I’ve been doing it for 9 years+ I came here because I liked the training but, I want to know your opinion on how effective tricking actually is in a street fight situation.

    1. Jon Call says:

      It can give an advantage in a situation where you would be fighting someone untrained because it develops body awareness, coordination, agility and fitness. It would not be effective against someone training fighting disciplines directly for fighting like yourself.

  6. David says:

    Thanks man, I just wanted to see, if you were legit,(finally a blog which accepts people who train themselves) I’ll have you know that you now have a faithful follower, I’ll recommend you to my contacts 🙂

    Adding to what is said above, I used to just push myself till my body can literally not do anything anymore, take short rests and get back to it or stare at my watch till my time was up( If I was doing a set training like when I did plyometrics), but when you take longer rest it allows you to got faster for longer.

    BTW you forgot to mention about which type of music listen to while training/working out

  7. Dobi says:

    What’s you optinion about circle training for strength or muscle gain? For example deadlift, shoulder press, pull ups? Or squats, dips, rows? One could have even more rest between sets of the same excercise but shorten the overall workout time. Or is this BS because CNS or something? 🙂

    1. Jon Call says:

      I don’t completely understand your question, but maybe I can try to give some insight. Suppose you are playing the piano, the guitar, and the drums. Would you be better off playing the piano for 3 minutes, the guitar for 3 minutes, and the drums for 3 minutes and repeating the circuit? Or getting all of your piano work done before moving onto the guitar, all your guitar work done before moving onto the drums? What if you spent your entire music session just playing the piano, tomorrow you spent your entire music session just playing the guitar. I think you will agree the uninterrupted block is the most conducive towards pattern and CNS adaptation. Uninterrupted blocks almost always trump mix’n’match in the real world with learning. But uninterrupted blocks are probably only really advantageous for intensive things like deadlifts… or piano… or certain high level tricks that require that type of focus. You can mix and match less intensive exercises and easier skills, at which point we’re moving out of the realm of CNS related stuff and more into the realm of conditioning stuff. Oh, one more thing about the CNS: the whole adage/dogma of spaced vs. massed practice: Completely irrelevant without knowing how much space between practices and how much mass a practice actually is and what is actually being practice. Hope this has some meaning to you Dobi 🙂

  8. Dobi says:

    Yes, you understood me correctly. Sorry for the unclear formulation.

    OK, with the piano guitar drums analogy it is clearly better do finish one exercise first before beginning with the next or even do only one really hard exercise per workout.
    (Btw this remembers me of my guitar-burpees-juggling-pullups-circle experiment. It was horrible. :D)

    Since I have lot of other projects besided training going on at the moment, I’m trying to safe time with supersetting/circling my exercises, but I already suspected it has disadvantages.
    Well, at least in a very simple and incomplete/wrong model, that only considers fatigue of specific muscle groups, one gets more rest between sets that way. 😉

    1. Jon Call says:

      I’m sure it won’t kill you. 😀

  9. sahroj says:

    After how much minute of session I have to rest for 3 minutes you didn’t mention it

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