Rest-pause training: the best thing since sliced bread?
written by Philip Stefanov | FEBRUARY 15, 2022
Like most people, you’ve probably heard about rest-pause training and have wondered if it is something you should try.
So, let’s look at what it is, what supposed benefits it offers, and what that means for you.
What is Rest-Pause Training?
The traditional way of training is to perform a set, rest for a bit, do another set, and continue down the list of exercises until you’re done. For example:
Bench press: 3 sets of 5 reps with 100 kilos (3 mins of rest in-between)
Rest-pause training involves setting a repetition goal for a movement and resting for 15 to 30 seconds between bouts until you complete all reps. In our bench example, the trainee would do 15 total reps (3 sets, 5 reps). We can transform that by using the rest-pause principle:
Set 1: 7 reps
Set 2: 4 reps
Set 3: 2 reps
And so on, until you complete all 15 reps.
A neat way of setting repetition goals with rest-pause training is to see how many reps you get on the first set taken close to failure and double that. We did 7 reps on the first set in our example above. In that case, your rep goal for that exercise would be 14 total reps.
If that feels like too much (believe me, it might), begin with 50 percent. Did you complete 10 reps on the first set? Shoot for a total of 15.
What Benefits Does Rest-Pause Training Offer?
The most notable benefit of rest-pause training is that the modality can lead to decent muscle growth and strength gain. You can accumulate large amounts of volume and achieve significant motor unit recruitment without investing as much time into training.
The best part is that you don’t have to reduce the load to achieve the effect. Rest-pause training is designed for people to condense more work in less time without sacrificing intensity.
It’s important to note that some people exaggerate the effects of rest-pause training, praising the tactic as the best thing since sliced bread. But are the effects possible because rest-pause training is unique, or does it have to do with the adequate accumulation of volume, coupled with good intensity and motor unit recruitment? It’s likely thanks to the latter.
Another benefit of rest-pause training is that pushing yourself that hard improves cardiovascular endurance. Instead of doing a set, resting until your heart rate normalizes, and going at it again, you’re doing work almost non-stop. A direct benefit is that you stop feeling as winded. Plus, superior cardiovascular endurance can improve your work capacity and recovery rate.
A Couple of Issues With Rest-Pause Training
The first issue with rest-pause training is that doing so is easier said than done. Unlike straight sets where you get some time to breathe and recover, rest-pause training pushes you to your limits. As a result, the risk of burning out might be slightly higher.
The second issue with rest-pause training is that you might be at a greater risk of an injury, especially if you use the principles for compound lifts like the bench press, squat, and deadlift. Fatigue can lead to a breakdown in technique, which can quickly result in an injury if you’re not careful.
Should You Do Rest-Pause Training?
Rest-pause training is by no means mandatory for muscle growth. The strategy is simply one tool you can use to improve the quality of your workouts and get more work done in less time.
I recommend rest-pause training to people who are pressed for time and can’t spare an hour for a full gym workout. Apply the principle to simpler exercises before using it for more complex movements like barbell rows.
Thank you for reading! Until next week,
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