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Rest Pause Training

April 14, 2015 | 0 Comments
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If you’ve spent some time researching which training techniques you plan to incorporate to help you achieve your fitness goals, you’ll already know that typical hypertrophy workouts require 3 – 5 sets of 10 – 15 reps with a 30 – 90 second break in between working sets, while strength workouts require sets of between 1 – 3 reps with a 3 – 5 minute break in between working sets. As a result, you have probably used this information to form the basis of your workout regime, increasing the weight you are lifting when you can comfortably perform your desired number of reps.

When it comes progressing in the gym, regardless of whether your goals are hypertrophy or strength based, one thing stands: without sufficient stimulus or challenge, your muscles simply will not grow. There are several variables which are necessary for muscle growth to occur, but in a bid to simplify the process, it’s safe to say that muscle fibres need to be torn during physical activity and then repaired to become bigger and stronger.

Once you learn what the required rep range is that suits the attainment of your goals, it can be easy to simply “go through the motions”, whereby you complete the required number of reps with a given weight, but you aren’t actually challenging yourself. Your muscles won’t grow simply by performing 10 – 15 reps. Similarly they won’t get stronger simply by performing 1 – 3 reps. They will only grow & get stronger if the difficulty of those reps causes sufficient muscle tension and fibre breakdown.

Intensity is everything when it comes to stimulating muscle growth & increases in strength. Aside from increasing the weight lifted, common methods to boost workout intensity include incorporating super sets and drop sets, whereby once you complete your desired number of reps, you either commence another set of another exercise or reduce the weight and perform the same exercise for more reps.

But there is less common, yet highly effective way of increasing workout intensity; Rest Pause Training!


The basic premise of Rest Pause Training (RPT) is lifting heavy weights with minimal rest periods. Instead of performing a set of 10 – 15 reps, you’ll increase the load to a weight that allows you to perform between 1 – 6 reps. If improving your strength is your goal, you’ll want to stick to the lower end of that rep range, whereas if you are trying to achieve hypertrophy, stick to the higher end. After you reach failure, you take a small rest between 5 – 10 seconds and then continue to perform more reps until failure.

During this quick rest period, your muscles are able to replenish reserves of phosphocreatine, a process that takes only a few seconds. Phosphocreatine  powers muscular contractions, and is responsible for the production of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), the main fuel source used by muscles during resistance based exercise.

How To Perform

(For both Hypertrophy and Strength)

Start by selecting your rep range to suit your goal. For those seeking hypertrophy, a rep range of 3 – 6 is recommended, and each mini set should be performed until you reach failure with your reps. You may perform anywhere between 2 – 10 mini sets, which actually equates to one working set! And don’t fear that you won’t achieve the muscle pumps typically associated with higher rep ranges… you’ll be surprised just how much of a pump you can achieve training this way! With smaller rep ranges, you can focus on the quality of each rep a lot more, and with great mind muscle connection comes greater contraction of the relevant working muscle.

When it comes to training for strength, RPT can also help you gain strength and improve you 1RMs. Unlike when training for hypertrophy, the focus shouldn’t be on the total reps performed or training through fatigue, but more the force produced in each rep. Instead of performing 5 x 5 on a bench press, you would perform 5 x 1 with a heavier load, and only rest for 10 – 15 seconds in between.

Bare in mind, working this close to you 1RM is extremely taxing on the body and Central Nervous System. You should be smart about how frequently you incorporate this method of training in your regime, much like you would strategically plan when to go for a 1RM in a powerlifting program. We recommended working this style of training in every three weeks, and it can be applied to all of your main lifts. Ensure you have a spotter as you may not be prepared for the type of fatigue you’re about to endure, and we don’t want to see you injure yourself!

Workout Programming

To get a taste of RPT, try this simple introductory workout and apply it to a lift of your choice. If you are training for strength, take your 3RM and complete 1 rep, followed by 30 seconds of rest. Complete this up to ten times, or until you fail.

When training for hypertrophy (Dumbbell Shoulder Press):

Set One: 6 reps

*Rest 30 seconds

Set Two: 3 – 4 reps (or until failure)

*Rest 30 seconds

Set Three: 2 reps (or until failure)

*Rest 30 seconds

Set Four: Maximum reps

When training for strength (Dumbbell Shoulder Press):

Set One: 3 reps

*Rest 30 seconds

Set Two: 2 reps (or until failure)

*Rest 30 seconds

Set Three: Max reps

Once you are comfortable with this, and have an idea what it’s like working with shorter rest periods and through muscle fatigue, you can progress by two ways. You can either increase the weight used by selecting the weight of your 2RM instead, while maintaining 30 second rest periods. Alternatively, you can maintain your load but reduce the rest time to the desired 10 – 15 second range. You should aim to try both of these progressions, as you’ll need to be able to increase your load and decrease your rest time in order to perform RPT effectively. Just take it step by step, as this will be new to your body and you will want to avoid injury.

The following is an example of proper RPT. We have selected the Bench Press as our lift, and this will provide you with an idea as to what numbers you can expect from a working set.

When training for hypertrophy:

Set One: 6 reps @ 120kg

*Rest 10 – 15 seconds

Set Two: 3 reps @ 120kg

*Rest 10 – 15 seconds

Set Three: 1 rep @ 120kg

When training for strength:

Set One: 1 rep @ 150kg

*Rest 10 – 15 seconds

Repeat to reflect the desired number of sets or until failure (typically between 5 – 8 sets)


So why lift heavier and give yourself less rest than you you’re used to between sets? It is quite obvious that by performing this style of training, you are going to fatigue far quicker that usual. The more fatigued you are, the more tension your muscles will be placed under. It is this very tension that results in muscle fibre tears, which is ultimately required to make gains in both strength and size. So if you are looking for a new way to really challenge yourself in the gym and fast track your results, you cannot go passed RPT!

We all know that we need to stimulate as many muscle fibres as possible during exercise, to encourage them to breakdown and then grow bigger and stronger, and performing 10 reps of a shoulder press will obviously activate muscle fibres. As you fatigue, weaker muscle fibres lose their ability to produce force, which leads to additional, non-active muscle fibres jumping in to compensate. After a few mini sets, you’ll have recruited far more muscle fibres than you would during 10 straight reps, as you are fatiguing quicker and pushing past this fatigue more often. You are also training your body at becoming more efficient at completing difficult reps and training your central nervous system to fire a maximum amount of muscle fibres at once; so you’re essentially getting more bang for your buck!

In order to improve strength, muscles must be able to produce enough tension to overcome an external force, such as the load you may be lifting. By therefore manipulating the sets, reps, intensity and rest factors of your lift, you are altering the amount of muscle motor neurons and fibre recruitment. This, in turn, allows a muscle to exert more force and hence increases your strength. During such short recovery times, RPT will also allow the central nervous system to become more efficient when the body is attempting to lift a heavier load. This leaves you more capable of hitting new 1RMs in the future, as your body becomes more accustomed to heavier loads and recruiting a higher amount of muscle fibres and motor neurons.


Whether you are training to increase your muscle mass or to improve your strength and your 1RMs, training intensity is a must. Simply going through the motions is not enough to stimulate the recruitment of enough muscle fibres, or tear them to promote growth and repair. Progressive overload is crucial to your progress, as the body continually will adapt to allow you to lift heavier loads. That same load will no longer become challenging for your body to perform, hence the need to continually increase your weight or employ other methods of training intensity. While supersetting and dropsetting are common, RPT is a proven method, which allows you to significantly increase the number of muscle fibres recruited during a working set, whilst also increasing motor neuron activity. These are absolute prerequisites when it comes to increasing both muscle size and strength. Oh, and we should mention, RPT isn’t a walk in the park, or for the faint hearted. If you are one to use your rest periods time catch up with friends or scroll through Facebook, you’ll have to schedule a different time for that. But nothing worth having comes easy, right?!

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