By Josh Bryant ProSource
The rest-pause method can produce substantial gains, whether you’re in the genetic elite or you sometimes feel you’re suffering from genetic imprisonment.
Rest-Pause Training Explained
Rest-pause training breaks down one set into several sub-sets with a brief rest between each. Depending on the intensity level and what you’re hoping to accomplish, several different methods may be used.
If strength is your priority, take a note from Jim Williams, the “Scranton Strongman.”
Williams took 90%-95% of his one-repetition max, then waited 20-60 seconds and then performed another single, and repeated the process for the maximum amount of sets he could do that day.
Typically, 6-8 singles can be done. This method is extremely taxing on the central nervous system and can be dangerous. Generally, the adaptations are more neurologically driven for strength than for increases in muscle size.
Many old-time strength aficionados swear by this method and it has certainly worked for some. But with everything we do in training, we must weigh the risks and benefits. Proceed with caution when experimenting with this method.
An example of this type of training on the bench press, for someone with a one-repetition max of 350 pounds, would be to use 330 pounds, rest 30 seconds, then keep repeating for the daily maximum of sets.
If hypertrophy is what you’re after, lighten the load, but maintain the training intensity.
When hypertrophy is the objective, we can slightly alter the rest-pause approach. Select your chosen exercise and load a weight you can perform for 6-10 repetitions. Lift the weight for as many reps as possible, take a 20-second rest interval, and do the same weight again; this will probably be 2-3 repetitions.
Repeat this process twice, for a total of three sub sets.
If you select the bench press as your exercise, a rest-pause series with an emphasis on hypertrophy might look something like this:
Set 1: 250 x 8 reps
Rest 20 seconds
Set 2: 250 x 3 reps
Rest 20 seconds
Set 3: 250 x 2 reps
This method is a great way to bust through a plateau and teach you to grind out reps. Your muscle fibers will be very fatigued and, because of the repetitive bouts with limited rest, you will experience a t-shirt tearing pump.
Since this method is taxing on the central nervous system (CNS), do not use it every workout for every set. Due to the strain imposed on the CNS, avoid doing this method for highly technical movements.
Why It Works
In the last few years, a number of laboratory studies have confirmed the effectiveness of rest-pause training.
Remember the Principle of Individual Differences? Each of us has differences that eventually dictate how many reps and sets we can perform, how often we can train, and how much weight we should be using while training. Rest-Pause training is custom-tailored to individual differences.
Dr. Squat Speaks
In an excellent article titled “Finding the Ideal Training Split,” Fred Hatfield, Ph.D., came up with numerous variables pertaining to recovery for training splits.
Some of these variables included tolerance to pain, level of “psych,” and amount of rest between workouts. Hatfield also determined that the “slow gainer” and the “fast gainer” have different recovery periods.
A “slow gainer” typically can complete 15-20 reps at 80% of his one-rep max. A “fast gainer” can complete only 4-6 reps at 80% of his one-rep max. The athlete should perform this “test” on several muscle groups, as each muscle group has a different tolerance to exercise.
This table extrapolated from Hatfield’s article will help you determine which type of gainer you are.
What Type of Gainer Are You?
Reps Performed with 80% Max Standard Deviation from Mean Tolerance Level Ability to Make Gains
4 or less -3 Very, very low Fast Gainer (20%-25% of total population)
4-6 -2 Very low
6-10 -1 Low
10-13 Mean Average Average Gainer (50-60% of total population)
13-17 +1 High Slow Gainer (20-25% of total population)
17-21 +2 Very high
21 or more +3 Very, very high
Once you have determined whether you are primarily fast twitch, slow twitch or somewhere in between, you then can determine your optimal reps, sets, weight and training frequency.
Fast Gainer/Slow Gainer Rep Ranges
To completely develop the physique you’re looking for, a holistic approach to training must be taken. In other words, volume, tempo, reps, and sets must be varied. For the most part, fast gainers will experience their best gains with lower reps, slow gainers with higher reps.
The five sets of five repetition squat program with 85 percent of a lifter’s one rep max would be extremely difficult for a fast gainer, yet impossible for some. For a slow gainer, this would be moderate intensity and provide very little adaptive overload.
Anecdotally speaking, primarily slow gainers thrive on open-ended rep ranges. Adding a rest-pause element to the final set of five of the same scheme could provide the slow gainer with the necessary adaptive overload to get bigger and stronger.
Unlike traditional single-repetition rest pauses that old-time strength athletes swear by, open-ended rest-pause training allows the athlete to adapt the weight to his individual capabilities. A primarily slow twitch lifter will get more reps, a fast twitch lifter will get less reps. Both experience an adaptive overload since maximal intensity is tailored to their individual differences.
The bottom line is both are performing sets at maximum intensity which will prompt strength gains. See the below example (As Many Repetitions As Possible=AMAP).
Rest-Pause Bench Press workout:
*Set 1-85% AMAP, rest 20-30 seconds 85% AMAP, rest 20-30 seconds 85% AMAP
*Rest 2-5 Minutes
*Set 2-75% AMAP, rest 20-30 seconds 75% AMAP, rest 20-30 seconds 80% AMAP
Using Rest-Pause Methods
Determine Your Purpose
For strength generally use 85%+, for size 70-85%, for muscle endurance use less than 70%. Rest pauses work for all three.
Rest Intervals Between Subsets
For strength 20-60 seconds, for size-20-30 seconds, for muscle endurance 10-30 seconds.
Have Spotter Monitor Rest Periods
You need to worry about lifting the weight.
When In Doubt, Stop
We are measuring reps for the duration of three subsets. If the last rep of a set of bench press was an all-out grinder, you will perform poorly on subsequent sets, handicapping total rep count. Keep rep records rest pausing is the ultimate more of density training.
Rest-Pause Training In Action
A snap shot of all of the various strong, muscular men that have trained with the rest-pause method would serve as mute bible testifying to the effectiveness of this method for building size and strength.
Rest-Pause Training has helped clients of mine who have felt hopeless regarding gains. The Rest Pause Method is the universal gainer.