Sunday, October 13, 2013

Rest Pause Revisited - Doug Daniels

Jon Cole
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Frank Schramm
Fred Glass

Rest Pause Revisited
by Doug Daniels (1996)

Most experts will agree that if a lifter can increase the intensity of a workout, more gains should result. There are many methods to achieve higher training intensity, and among them is the 'rest pause' system. Simply put, the rest pause system requires a lifter to perform one or more reps of an exercise, take a short rest or pause, then immediately resume the set. This could include taking additional rest pauses and repeating this process until the total set is concluded. The sets between pauses can be called 'sub-sets'. The duration of the short pause would be long enough for the lifter to sufficiently recover to get more reps in, yet short enough to trick the body into thinking it's still the same set. The more time for recovery, the more strength the lifter would regain for the next sub-set, but if the pauses are too long, it would result in separate sets with no substantial increase in intensity.

The rest pause system is not new. 
But, then
what is?

Before you think that you can gain by performing 1-3 reps, taking a break, and doing 1-3 more, hold on. These 1-3 reps must be with a weight that you can only do 1-4 reps with good form. The concept behind rest pause is that the majority of muscular growth comes from maximal or near-maximal reps. If we were to make all or most of the reps of a set maximal, this would be the most intense set possible. The rest pause between reps would give the lifter just enough energy to perform more work at this intensity level, and so on.

How can the average lifter incorporate rest pause principles within a more normal training regime and increase intensity and results?

Let's use the bench press as an example. After warming up, the lifter would normally perform his top set of 300 for 5 reps to failure. Of the 5 reps, only the 5th would be a maximal effort and produce the greatest results of all the reps combined. Using a modified version of the rest pause, that same lifter would take 315 and get 3 reps, with the 3rd being a max effort. A rest pause of 20 seconds would be taken and the lifter would resume the set and get another 1-2 reps. That would be at least one extra 'maximal' rep with about the same total reps of the 300 for 5, but with 15 pounds more per rep. Here is an obvious example of an increase in intensity, without hard-core use of the rest pause method.

You can adjust the period between sub-sets within the 5-30 second range. Endeavor to keep it below 30. Much more than that and you cross that fine line between a rest pause set and separate sets. Experience will be your final guide in the long run. You can also increase the reps done per rest pause sub-set if you do not want to go that heavy. Another twist would be to lower the weight on each successive sub-set. This would enable the lifter to keep the reps in the sub-set higher and allow better form as the lifter tires. The lifter above could take his second sub-set with 300, instead of 315, and get 2-3 reps. A further weight reduction of 15 pounds or so could be taken and a third sub-set could be attempted.

Let's look at some examples of how a normal set can be modified to become a rest pause set.

A normal 200x8 (max) could be done as a rest pause -
210 x max (5-6 reps), rest 10-30 seconds
200 x max (2-5), rest 10-30 seconds
180 x max (2-5), rest 10-30 seconds.


200 x max (8 reps), rest 10-30 seconds
200 x max (3-4), rest 10-30 seconds
200 x max (1-2), rest 10-30 seconds.

The weight reduction method is preferable, but it may require workout partners to change the weight on the barbell within the short rest pause period. Changing plates yourself can lead to either rests that are too long or insufficient recuperation in the time frame. On selectorized weight machines, the lifter can usually change the weight himself quickly and safely. The actual weight reduction you choose depends on how many reps you wish to be able to do on succeeding sub-sets. The greater the weight reduction, the more reps you will be able to do. Experimentation, experience and common sense are your best guides here. As always.

This system can work with just about any exercise. The lifter must remember not to go overboard using the rest pause system. This will eventually result on exhaustion and may lead to injury. You might want to start out using this method once weekly for a 4-6 week period, followed by resuming your normal training practices for 4-6 weeks. I would also recommend only 1-2 complete rest pause sets per bodypart (or push/pull/squat/press movement). Any more than that and you likely will wind up a little too beat up after two or three weeks. And if you do have the energy or desire to do more, you didn't go hard enough on your rest pause sets.

Some final notes. Warm up as usual, treating your rest pause sets as the top or heaviest work sets. Put the weight down between sub-sets. Rest between complete rest pause sets is up to you. I would recommend at least 3-5 minutes. These are mass, strength-building sets and you will need more energy to get the most out of your rest pause sets.

I strongly recommend spotters or rack-catchers for your rest pause sets, especially for exercises like squats, overheads, benches, etc. You  can reach muscular failure on a sub-set quite suddenly and unexpectedly, and having the safety factor covered will free your mind up to concentrate on the work and not the fear of missing a lift.

Rest pause can be used by lifters interested in both size and strength gains. Whenever you feel you may need an increase in intensity, this modified rest pause system can be called upon to provide it. I have used this method on unplanned days when I felt much more energetic than normal. The saying 'the pause that refreshes' can also mean 'the pause that gets results.'


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