The purpose of this study was to compare different rest intervals between sets on repetition consistency and ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) during consecutive bench press sets with an absolute 3RM load. Sixteen trained men (23.75 +/- 4.21 years; 74.63 +/- 5.36 kg; 175 +/- 4.64 cm; bench press relative strength: 1.44 +/- 0.19 kg/kg of body mass) attended four randomly ordered sessions during which five consecutive sets of the bench press were performed with an absolute 3RM load and 1, 2, 3, or 5 minutes of rest interval between sets. The results indicated that significantly greater bench press repetitions were completed with 2, 3 and 5 minutes versus 1 minute rest between sets (p <= 0.05); no significant differences were noted between the 2, 3 and 5 minute rest conditions. For the 1 minute rest condition, performance reductions (relative to the first set) were observed commencing with the second set; whereas for the other conditions (2, 3, and 5 minutes rest), performance reductions were not evident until the third and fourth sets. The RPE values prior to each of the successive sets were significantly greater, commencing with the second set for the 1 minute versus the 3 and 5 minute rest conditions. Significant increases were also evident in RPE immediately following each set between the 1 and 5 minute rest conditions from the second through fifth sets. These findings indicate that when utilizing an absolute 3RM load for the bench press, practitioners may prescribe a time-efficient minimum of 2 minutes rest between sets without significant impairments in repetition performance. However, lower perceived exertion levels may necessitate prescription of a minimum of 3 minutes rest between sets.
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