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Rest Pause is one of the most effective ways that you can build muscle. It involves finding a weight that you can lift for between 6 and 10 reps. Lift that weight for as many reps as possible and then rest.
After a brief pause, you would repeat this, trying to hit the same rep range again.
You can do this around 3 times or more (if you have the energy) and is a great way to get a lot of volume into your workout – particularly if you don’t have much time to spare.
The important thing to do with rest/pause is to be disciplined with your rest periods. They should be around 20-30 seconds in length and you should consistently follow this.
If you rest for 20 seconds in one set and then follow it up with a 3-minute rest then you aren’t really rest pausing you’re just performing regular sets.
This method is really effective at training your muscles to fatigue. You will find that you are constantly hitting more reps than you would using regular methods. Because you are breaking up your sets and having more cumulative rest.
To give you a real world example let’s take the bench press. Let’s say that you can usually perform 10 reps at 80kg. You would put that weight on the bar and lift as many reps as possible.
You might hit nine reps or maybe even eleven in that first attempt. Just ensure there’s still a little left in the tank.
Then you would rack the weight and rest for a total of 20 seconds before restarting. This time you would probably perform a few reps less, let’s say eight.
Again you would re-rack the weight and rest for 20 seconds. The third attempt will be the hardest and if you’ve picked the right weight you should be struggling to hit six reps, anything extra is a bonus.
This technique works with pretty much any exercise, barbell squats, chest press, lat pulldown, bicep curls, whatever you want to achieve.
It’s also fantastic as a fat loss tool. With EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) being much higher after using the rest pause method.
Rest Pause Drop Sets
While the regular rest pause method is incredibly effective, there is a variation that maybe even more so.
Whereas the usual version involves three periods of lifting the same weight with 20-second pauses, there is a drop set version which involves continually dropping the weight and increasing reps.
A normal drop set involves training to fatigue with one weight, then lowering it and training to fatigue, before lowering it a third time. But a rest pause drop set is something slightly different.
In this scenario, you would start with a weight perform your 10 reps, rack it, and then using the same weight repeat your reps, rack it and then attempt a third set.
Once you have completed the third set of reps you would lower the weight and start again.
If we use the barbell squat as an example it might make it a bit easier to picture.
Set a barbell up with a weight that you would easily manage to hit ten reps on, let’s say it’s 100kg. Un-rack the bar and squat for ten reps. Rack it, then rest for 20 seconds. Un-rack the bar again and squat for ten (if you can manage that many). Re-rack the bar and wait a further 20 seconds, then you would perform as many reps as you can, probably hitting around five or six. Rack the bar but this time you lower the weight slightly.
Now you have a bar that weighs 80kg instead of 100kg. Try to change the weights as fast as you can to keep that 20 second rest period.
Incidentally, this is why resistance machines are really good for rest pause drop sets as they are so easy to change quickly.
Once your rest period is up un-rack the bar and try to squat for as many reps as you can.
Repeat a further 3 times, the amount of reps you perform will most likely drop considerably in sets five and six.
This form of rest pause is a great way to fatigue your muscles which is essential if your goal is hypertrophy.
If your goal is strength-based then you would probably be best to avoid this as the rest periods are way too short. But for bodybuilders, regular gym-goers, or people looking for fat loss the rest pause drop set is a great technique.
Try not to overuse this training method. It’s designed as a great finisher for a muscle group: like chest, or legs, but you’d be unlikely to be able to do anything after a rest pause set of barbell squats.
Training when already massively fatigued is a recipe for bad technique and eventually injury. Complete your workout and then finish off with a rest pause drop set.