January 12, 2024 2 min read

By Shane Robert

Rest-Pause Training is an intensity training method that involves performing a set of an exercise to muscular failure, taking a brief rest, and then continuing to perform additional repetitions until failure is reached again. This technique allows you to extend a set beyond the point where you would typically fatigue and stop. It is primarily used for hypertrophy, but due to the heavier loads used for higher total reps, improves strength quite effectively as well. Rest-pause training is a great option when shorter sessions are needed without losing effectiveness. 

This style of training was first popularized by the High Intensity Training (HIT) movement in the 1960s by Arthur Jones, inventor of Nautilus machines. It has since been used by other proponents of HIT such as Mike Mentzer, Ellington Darden, Dorian Yates, and more recently, Dante Trudel, founder of DC training.

Due to the extremely fatiguing nature of rest pauses, it is generally recommended that the technique be used on machines, dumbbells and cables. Free weights can of course be used, however, it is not advised to use large compound lifts such as squats, deadlifts and bench presses (at least without very competent spotters), as the risk of injury is too high. Highly technical lifts, like those mentioned, are also not a great choice and the fatigue will cause technical breakdown and train bad motor habits. 

The usual prescription is one all-out set to failure or one rep shy, resting 10-40 seconds, with 20-30 being the usual recommendation, a second all-out set, resting again, and a third all-out set. Some protocols recommend just one rest-pause, while others will go four or more. Three seems to be about the average, and in most people's experience, the best blend of stimulus to fatigue. 

Generally, this is reserved for one set per exercise and only about 3 exercises per workout with rest-pauses. The more total sets done within a training session, the fewer rest-pause sets should be done. 

An example of a rest-pause set would be as follows:

SET 1:
  • 8 reps, 9 reps would be total failure
  • Rest 20 seconds
SET 2:
  • 3 reps
  • Rest 20 seconds

SET 3:

  • 2 reps

Increase the weight once a certain amount of reps are completed, either for the initial set or the cumulative total. 

Rest-pause training is a challenging and time-effective protocol that can be just as effective as longer sessions, though care needs to be taken to prioritize recovery as the extremely high effort nature of it can lead to a lot of central fatigue and joint stress.

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