When you're looking to add some intensity to your workout routine, you will probably be looking to different training techniques which allow you to do more work in a shorter time period. Some popular examples include:

  • Drop Sets - doing a set to failure at a given weight, stripping a percentage of the weight and repping to failure again, and repeating this process until there is either no weight, or you are satisfied.
  • Supersets - performing two different exercises for the same muscle group in succession, without rest in between.
  • Alternating Sets - performing two different exercises for muscle groups which don't overlap in succession, with minimal rest in between.

Another technique that I will be putting the spot light on today is rest-pause training. If you're a member of Bodybuilding.com's forums, or if you've read around the main site, you've probably heard of it. Like the examples above, it can really add density and toughness to a training session.

This article will describe fully the methods of rest-pause training, and the benefits to each method. I will then give out some specific ways to implement rest-pause training into your routine. Give this a quick read, and hit the gym with a new angle!

What Is Rest-Pause Training?

Rest-pause training breaks down one set into several mini-sets, with a short rest between each. Depending on the difficulty of the weight you choose, and what you're using this method for, you can take one of two approaches.

The first is geared more towards hypertrophy and involves failure training. The second is one of the best ways out there to get you used to working with heavy weight, but does not call on you to train to failure.

Method 1: Rest-Pause Training For Hypertrophy

You can perform your normal 3 sets of 6-10 reps in a workout, and that will provide a great stimulus for growth on a regular basis. However, once you try out the method I'm about to outline, you will see that there's a lot more you can get out of your muscles in a brief time period.

While a 6-10 rep set with a 2-3 second negative will take you 30-40 seconds, rest pause training can get you to lift for 20 more seconds, but work as hard as 3 30-40 second sets. While it is not something you should replace your 3 sets with each workout, you should do it up when you have the energy to spice up the workout. Here it is:

  1. Perform a set as you would with your given 6-10 rep weight. Set the weight down.
  2. Take 15 seconds of deep breaths, pick the weight back up, and rep to failure again.
  3. Repeat step two as many times as you'd like (most people do it twice).

You'll find that you can perform a tough set of 2-3 reps on steps two and three, but it feels like much more. Each rep is a grinder, and as you take your deep breaths, you can feel fibers in that muscle being accessed that a normal 6-10 rep set just can't get to.

Don't perform 3 sets this way - in fact, I would not perform more than one rest-pause set per exercise. You may want to perform a light set afterward to cool down from the intense bout of lifting.

This is an awesome method for hypertrophy because you can fatigue the muscle fibers more deeply. It tends to deliver more of a pump, because the nature of short bouts of concentrated effort really lets you get a mind to muscle connection. It also is a great way to break a plateau - it gets your body used to pressing through tough reps, so next time when you do a straight set, you will probably get another rep or two.

Method 2: Rest-Pause Training For Strength

There are a ton of different strength workouts out there, which tend to use low-reps and long rest periods. Rest-pause training can be used to put a different spin on this, using extremely low reps, difficult weight and short rest periods.

Here is the method of Rest-Pause training for strength:

  1. Choose a weight that is 85-95% of your one rep max.
  2. Perform a rep with this weight.
  3. Rest 30-45 seconds.
  4. Repeat as you'd like (usually 6-10 times).

This method is a strong contender against a standard 3 by 3 workout, because you can use a heavier weight while performing a similar amount of reps in the same amount of time.

Continually exerting the effort to lift 85-95% of your one-rep max gets your body used to heavy weight. Some lifters on the forum use this method for a week or two prior to max-out because otherwise, doing heavy singles to a maximum effort would feel awkward and unstable.

Where does Rest-Pause Training Fit Into Your Routine?

For the most part, I would implement rest-pause training only when you have the energy. It is an extremely draining technique, and if used on a week-to-week basis along with other intensity techniques, you might overreach quickly. However, if you work it in here and there, you can see its benefits without the drawback of overusing it.

My Thoughts

My personal method of rest-pause training is to work it in every third week. I like using intensity techniques like drop sets and rest-pause, but I know that if I do it every week, I'll get bored. I make every third week a little more intense using rest-pause and drop sets.

The first time I started using it this way, I was pretty surprised, because I continually made strength gains for 3 months compared to my usual 8-9 weeks before overreaching. I'm sure that was related to other factors as well, but I've been making every third week slightly more challenging since.

Four-Minute Calves

"Four-minute calves" is a training technique that I picked up on the forum last year. I've been using it since, and it is honestly the hardest and most efficient way to train calves that I've come across. Here it is:

  1. Pick a weight where you can perform 10-15 reps with an explosive push, 1 second pause, 5 second negative and 1 second pause at the bottom. Start your timer. Do one set.
  2. Rest for 10 seconds. Breathe deeply to get that oxygen!
  3. Perform another set to failure in the same manner. Rest another 10 seconds.
  4. Continue until your timer reads 4 minutes!

I can usually get 5-10 reps on the first few mini sets, then I end up getting 3-5 on the remaining ones. In four minutes, you can expect to train your calves to failure 10 times or more. It will create an intense pain deep within your calves due to the increased focus for short sets, and the accumulation of fatigue.

My first experience with four minute calves left me with more sore calves than I had gotten in a while. It is one example of how effective rest-pause training can be.


Rest-pause training is a technique that can intensify your regular training session. It increases workout density and lets you get more done in a shorter time period. There is a lot more stress placed on your body when you use this training method which means that you should use it wisely. It can deliver great results when used in moderation.

You should definitely try out the four-minute calves routine, and maybe throw in a few rest-paused mini sets in during your next training session. It's just another training method to add to your arsenal.

About the Author

Charles (sword chucks)

Charles (sword chucks)

Charles, better known as sword chucks on the message boards, is an avid writer and supporter of Bodybuilding.com.

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