Is Rest Pause Training Still Popular?

A funny question was asked to me the other day by a prospective client… Is rest pause training popular?

I have been asked a lot of questions in the past about effectiveness and execution of certain high intensity techniques but never about its popularity.

Mike Mentzer back in the 70’s popularized (there is that word again) rest pause training for bodybuilding. Until then it was known but not used in the bodybuilding world… at least not by many. It has been around since the mid 1940’s and its effectiveness, at least the effectiveness of single maximum reps in developing strength and thus muscle size, has been used by strongmen for decades.

Rest pause is extremely effective for the advanced athlete who may have hit an impasse in progress and has the ability to focus on exerting maximum intensity of effort with just one rep. It is not for the faint hearted or for beginners who have yet to hone their skills of focus in going to complete momentary muscular failure. It is however, for the seasoned weightlifter whose experience with proper exercise style and execution is keen, as the force from the very first rep is high.

With most exercise programs incorporating a number of reps, the first rep of a set is the safest because it is nothing more than a warm-up… as is each and every consecutive rep up until the last almost impossible one that puts in motion the growth mechanism of the body. The problem with many advanced athletes is that because they have already developed a great deal of mass and strength, the demand on their body’s available resources is extremely high, which becomes limiting. To prove this, put a beginner sided by side with an advanced competitive bodybuilder. Have them both do a set of barbell curls to failure. The beginner, with the 13 inch arm using 50 pounds and the bodybuilder with the 19 inch arm using 155 pounds, both are doing a set of barbell curls. Notice a few reps into the movements the difference in their general appearance. The beginner although executing each rep properly, seems to be just going through the motions while the bodybuilder’s breathing and sweating has increased. By time they both finish and hit momentary muscular failure, although the beginner could probably do another set, the bodybuilder is spent, breathing like a race horse and sweating all over the place. The reason for this is although the average person has the ability to increase his strength up to 300 percent, his ability to compensate or recover only increases 50 percent… not to mention, in the above example, a bodybuilder whose 19 inch arm is contracting maximally uses up more fuel and oxygen producing larger quantities of waste products than our smaller variety with the 13 inch arm. Now let’s switch the barbell curls to squats and you could imagine the difference… see my point?

Although the beginner may use 135 pounds for his set of squats, imagine the bodybuilder using 550 for his. I have seen this with advanced trainees doing legs; it is their breathing, not their strength that interferes with them reaching the last almost impossible rep that turns on the growth process of the body. So what’s the answer?

Rest Pause! With rest pause there is a rest between each and every maximum rep, allowing the cardio pulmonary system to reset itself (or catch up), without the negative… the build up of waste residue, allowing for another maximum contraction. Because heavier weights are used and there is a maximum contraction on every rep, this type of training is extremely demanding and effective.

Longer rest periods are needed along with sufficient carbohydrates being present in your diet to fuel these workouts. A well balanced diet is necessary. Glycogen is needed for the high intensity contractions of this type of training.

Since this is very intense training, it should be brief and infrequent. Below is an example of a properly designed rest pause workout routine split into three workouts.

NOTE: Each workout will be performed with 4 repetitions, each maximum weight, with 10 seconds between each rep and up to 15 on the last rep. You can either have assistance from your training partner to complete reps 2-4 if not on your own accord or reduce the weight accordingly to make certain each rep is a maximum. Some experimentation is necessary at first.

WO 1- Chest, Shoulders, Biceps

Peck Deck

Nautilus or Hammer Bench

Nautilus or Hammer Laterals

Wide Grip Upright Rows with cable – Done in regular fashion to failure – 6-10 reps

Nautilus or Hammer Curls


WO 2 – Back and Triceps

Nautilus Pullovers

Chins or Pulldown (palms facing you)

Deadlifts – Done in regular fashion – 5 reps max

Nautilus tri Extension or Pushdowns

Close Grip Benches – Done in regular fashion – 6-10 reps


WO 3 – Legs

Leg Extensions

Leg Press or Squat – (if no training partner safety first, always employ a power rack or do a straight set of squats stopping one rep prior to failure)

Leg Curl

Calve Raise

As mentioned above, because of the leap in intensity…while employing this type of a workout or any HIT workout, rest is paramount. If you manage your volume and frequency properly, you will progress without the affects of overtraining.

I suggest a 4-5 day rest period between each workout and a full 10 days rest after approximately 6 weeks training. When you resume you can choose to go back to a general high intensity training routine while employing rest pause here and there, maybe one set per workout, or if you care to resume rest pause training, I suggest you do so while removing the following exercises from the workouts and resting 5-6 days…

WO 1 – Wide Grip Upright Cable Rows

WO 2 – Either… close grip bench or triceps extensions

WO 3 – Leg Curls

You will notice when implementing rest pause correctly, along with the theory of high intensity training, that your strength will sky rocket. If you are an advanced athlete who has hit an impasse in progress, I suggest you take a full two weeks off or more…before starting rest pause training. What I find is that in many cases you are already in a state of overtraining and this time is needed for your body to compensate for that over trained condition. Good Luck!

Is Rest Pause Training Still Popular? by Bill Sahli

IE Brunson Trying
The Iceberg Effect Free Book