Of all the intensity techniques out there, I have two favorites: drop sets and rest pause. Drops are a lot of fun. They take a normal set and turn it into a brutal one but they have one major drawback. For many exercises you need two spotters to pull plates off. Now, if you have two training partners, that’s great! But what if, like me, you train alone? It ain’t gonna happen, that’s what! Enter rest pause. This technique has quite a history and a number of variations. In this article we will look at that and I’ll give you a routine using some of the variations presented.
Rest Pause Origins
Most people would trace this technique back to Mike Mentzer and his original Heavy Duty program. While the origins of this technique are unknown, it’s safe to say it’s been around long before Heavy Duty. Arnold used a variation of it in the 70’s and Joe Weider named one of his “principles” after it. He began naming and organizing his “Weider Principles” pretty early on in his career. However, it’s safe to say this technique has been around for about 60 years.
As a side note, the Weider principles were observations Joe Weider made of the techniques bodybuilders of the 50’s and 60’s used. He added to them when he saw something new and worthwhile. He named each one and organized it into the “Weider System”. Back when I started, that’s all you saw in his magazines. You were led to believe he invented each one of them. In fact, he didn’t really invent them. Further, it’s not a system in the pure sense. However, it is a valid organization of ideas.
Rest Pause Routine
Rest Pause Training – Day # 1
3 warm up sets using 15, 12, 10 reps, on these sets perform a shrug at the top of the movement.
1 working set: This uses the Mentzer/strength version of rest pause: take your 1RM, do one set, rack the bar and count to 8. Un-rack and perform one more rep, again racking the bar for a 8 count. Follow this procedure until you hit 6-8 reps.
Bent Rows – 2 working sets of 8 reps, using the same weight for each set.
This will be the Arnold version of rest pause. You will be doing 2 sets with a weight you can normally hit 6 reps with. When you fail, rack the bar for an 8 count. Un-rack and do as many reps as you can, and re-rack for an 8 count. Un-rack and again knock out a few more reps. Do this one more time and this counts as one set.
These are the bread and butter biceps builders. Having said that, this is a free weight exercise with an obvious drop off in the tension at the top. Therefore, you have to make a performance adjustment. To get the most from EZ bar curls, stop about ¾ of the way up, extend your arms out a little, and continue. You will experience tension at the top if you hold the bar away and in front of your body. You will be doing 3 sets, on the third set use a weight you can get 3 reps for and you will rest pause your way to 8-10 reps. This is the Arnold version and you may need 4 rest pauses to hit that rep level.
Wrist curls – 2 sets of 10 reps
Reverse curls – 2 sets of 10 reps
Crunch – 2 sets of 25 reps
Oblique crunch – 2 sets of 25 reps
Rest Pause Training – Day # 2
Chest, Delts, Tris
Bench Press – Use the same warm up/working set scheme as with deads except use your 3RM and go for 8 reps
Flyes – 3 sets of 8 reps. Hold at the stretched position for a 2 count.
Incline Press – 2 sets of 6-8 reps
Overhead press – 3 sets of 6-8 reps. When you fail at that range use the Arnold version of rest pause for as many rest pause reps as you can get.
Close grip bench press – 3 sets of 8 reps
If you are using the 4 day, I would add in 3 sets of pressdowns using the Arnold version of rest pause on the last set. On delt day, I would add in 3 sets each of side laterals, rear laterals and shrugs for 3 sets.
Rest Pause Training – Day # 3
This is going to be fun!
Use the same warm up scheme as deads. Working sets – we’re doing Variation # 2: 6 sets of 10 reps with 10% more weight than your usual 10RM. But, we are doing my version. We’re decreasing our rest between sets by 10 seconds every set. So we start with 60 seconds rest after our first set. Decrease it by 10 seconds after each remaining set. If need be, use the Arnold version of rest pause to hit your 10 reps.
Calf Raises (standing) – 3 sets of 35 reps.
Crunch – 3 sets of 30 reps
Leg raises – 3 sets of 12 reps
You’ll notice I only have squats as the leg exercise. If you do deep, full squats you will work the whole leg. I don’t see a need for leg curls. If you work these hard enough you shouldn’t be able to do anything else. On squats, I’ve always used a standard foot width/stance. However, other foot widths have advantages. Try a power-lifting stance, feet wider than usual and pointed a little to the side, like a sumo wrestler. So, it makes sense to change up your stance as you do your sets for better results.
Rest Pause Recap
So we see we can combine some of these different versions within one routine. You can combine rest pause with some other techniques. Additionally, pick a rest pause version you like and apply it to the major exercises in your workout. For example, take the same routine and use the Mentzer/strength training version of rest pause on deads, benches and squats. Then, on every other exercise perform normal sets, using the set/rep schemes suggested. This, to me, is great for promoting good strength increases in the Big 3. In effect you are supporting those movements with assistance exercises.
Personally, I use it similar to the Arnold version at the end of most of my exercises. However, I also like to combine it with other techniques, such as burns and static holds. As you can see, the rest pause technique offers a lot of options. Try it for yourself, you’ll be happy with the results!
By: Jim Brewster