Let’s analyze the Rest-Pause method is an efficient way of gaining muscle mass according to the new studies
The Muscle Hypertrophy is the process that results from efficiently combining mechanical tension, metabolic stress and muscle damage. The latter is a direct consequence of the first two. (Schoenfeld, 2010).
More specifically, improving the hypertrophy with advanced workout techniques (Supersets, Drop Sets, Rest-Pause, Myo-reps, etc…) will be determined by the workout principles. Moreover, we will also take into account the practical applications that Schoenfeld (2010) gathered in his article: “The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training”.
Let’s not forget that advanced workout methods to reach muscle failure will also have to follow the principles of weight, safety, recovery, age and periodization
The Rest-Pause is defined as a brief period of rest between repetitions (10″-20″)
More specifically, this method of repetitive efforts consists of doing a number of reps at the beginning (70-85% of the 1RM with a RIR 0-1). Afterwards, we will make a very short break (10″-20″) in order to make as many reps as possible until muscle failure.
Example of Rest-Pause
Let’s illustrate this method with a practical example (1 x 10 x RIR 0 + 2 Rest-Pause):
- 1 set x 10 repetitions x RIR 0
- 10”-20” break
- Keep doing as many reps as possible until muscle failure (RIR 0), in this case, we would only do 6 repetitions
- 10”-20” break
- Finally, let’s do as many repetitions as we can until muscle failure, which would be 4 reps.
Evidence about Rest-Pause
Korak, Paquette, Fuller, Caputo & Coons (2018)
These authors examined the muscle activation patterns of the Rectus Femoris (RF), Vastus Lateralis (VL), Vastus Medialis (VM) and Gluteus Maximus (GM) using electromyography (EMG). Moreover, they assessed the total volume lifted between a traditional Back squat procotol and a Rest-Pause.
The subjects were 13 trained women (with at least a year of experience in strength training). They had to assist 3 sessions separated between 48h. In the first session, they gathered their personal information, anthropometry and 1RM.
Then, they developed the protocols in the second and third sessions (Smith Machine):
- Traditional Protocol: 4 sets at a 80% of the 1RM x maximum repetition number (until muscle failure) x 2′ break between sets.
- Rest-Pause Protocol: 4 sets at a 80% of the 1RM x maximum repetition number (until muscle failure) x 4″ break (without weight; after each concentric action) between repetitions x 2′ break between sets.
Using a Rest-Pause protocol results in more work (sets x repetitions x weight)
Korak, Paquette, Brooks, Fuller & Coons (2017)
The objective was to compare the changes in the 1RM, workout volume and neural activation peak of the mayor pectoral after 4 weeks of traditional workout (Bench Press) or Rest-Pause.
For the study, they picked 20 trained men (with at least a year of experience in strength training). They trained 4 weeks (2 sessions/week; 48 hour break between sessions; a total of 8 + 2 sessions):
- Traditional Bench Press Workout: 4 sets at an 80% of the 1RM x maximum number of reps (until muscle failure) x 2′ break between sets.
- Bench Press with Rest-Pause: 4 sets at an 80% of the 1RM x maximum number of reps (until muscle failure) x 4” break (without weight; after each concentric action) between reps x 2′ break between sets.
In the end, the Rest-Pause group managed to significantly lift more weight (56.778 vs. 38.315 lbs; p < .05)
Prestes et al. (2017)
The purpose of this study was to compare the longitudinal effects of 6 weeks of Rest-Pause against a traditional workout with multiple sets focused on muscle strength, hypertrophy, localized muscle resistance and physical composition.
The participants were 18 trained men (14) and women (4) (with at least a year of experience in strength training and used to train 3-5 times/week with Split routines focused on Hypertrophy). They performed the following pattern for 6 weeks (4 sessions/week; Routine A and B):
- Workout with Multiple Traditional Sets: 3 sets x 6 repetitions at an 80% of 1RM x 2-3′ break between sets and exercises. A total of around 57′ per daily session.
- Rest-Pause Method: 1 set with the highest number of reps (until muscle failure) with an 80% of 1RM x the number of sets necessary to complete 18 repetitions x 20″ break between sets of partial repetitions x 2-3′ break between exercises. A total of around 35′ per daily session.
- Routine A (Monday and Wednesday): Barbell bench press, Dumbbell incline press, Cable cross, Military press, Lateral raise, Triceps pulley and Barbell triceps extension.
- Routine B (Tuesday and Thursday): Squat, 45º leg press, Leg curl, Front lat pull-down, Seated row, Dumbbell lateral row, Standing Barbell elbow Curl and Preacher curl.
The key findings were that the Rest-Pause method was superior to the traditional one with multiple series in terms of: gains (p < 0.05), muscle resistance (Leg Press), localized resistance (27 vs. 8%, respectively) and hypertrophy (11 vs. 1%, respectively).
However, there were no significant differences (p > 0.05) in physical composition or strength gains. Rest-Pause; 16 ± 11% for Bench Press, 25 ± 17% for Leg Press and 16 ± 10% for Biceps Curl vs. multiple traditional sets: 10 ± 21% for Bench Press, 30 ± 20% for Leg Press and 21 ± 20% for Biceps Curl.
The difference was only relevant on the lower part of the body
Marshall, Robbins, Wrightson & Siegler (2012)
These authors conducted a cross random study where they compared the changes in muscle recruitment, maximum strength and RFD (Ratio Force Development). They used different strength protocols with a constant volume (20 repetitions).
More specifically, they wanted to measure acute fatigue and changes in motor unit recruitment. They did this during and after 20 reps of squats using the Rest-Pause method. Moreover, they used a weight similar to that one used without muscle failure, doing short breaks (20″) as well as long ones (3′) between sets.
The participants were 14 healthy and trained men (experienced in strength training and used to doing exercise 3 times/week at least the 2 previous years). Therefore, they carried three 90º Barbell Squat experimental protocols:
- A Protocol: 5 sets x 4 repetitions at an 80% of the 1RM x 3′ break between sets.
- B Protocol: 5 series x 4 repetitions at an 80% of the 1RM x 20″ break between sets.
- C Protocol (Rest-Pause): 1 set x maximum number of repetitions at an 80% of the 1RM (until muscle failure) x 20″ break between sets x number of necessary sets until completing 20 repetitions.
The results show how the Rest-Pause method gets lower work duration (103″) than the protocols A (780″) and B (140″). On the other hand, all the protocols reduced the maximum strength similarly (p <0.05) in terms of RFD in IP (Immediately upon Completion), with a total recovery of 5P (5′).
In addition, there was also a higher motor unit recruitment during the Rest-Pause when compared to protocols A and B for all the average muscles (p <0.05)
Limitations of the evidence
We still need more evidence in order to draw solid conclusions when it comes to the relevance of using Rest-Pause in:
- Muscle activation
- Total volume work
- Maximum strength
- Neural activation
- Muscle hypertrophy
- Localized muscle resistance
- Physical composition
- Measuring maximum Strength (1RM)
- Assessing muscle recruitment (EMG)
Inadequate amount of workout volume
- Sets x repetitions x weight
- Difficulty to compare studies due to their different objectives
- Evidence only tested in trained people
Heterogeneous workout programs with Rest-Pause
- 1 = maximum number of repetitions until muscle failure (4″ break without weight between repetitions after each concentric action) x 4 sets at a 80% of the 1RM x 2′ break between sets
- 2 = a set with the maximum number of repetitions until muscle failure at an 80% of the 1RM x number of necessary sets until completing 18 repetitions x 20″ break between sets x 2-3′ break between exercises
- 3 = a set with the maximum number of repetitions until muscle failure at an 80% of the 1RM x number of necessary sets until completing 20 repetitions x 20″ break between sets x 3′ break between exercises
Different exercise proposals
- Back Squat with Smith Machine
- Bench Press with Smith Machine
- 90º Barbell Squat
- Barbell Bench Press
- Dumbbell incline press
- Cable cross, Military press
- Lateral raise
- Triceps pulley
- Barbell triceps extension
- Squat, 45º leg press
- Leg curl
- Front lat pull-down
- Seated row
- Dumbbell lateral row
- Standing Barbell elbow Curl
- Preacher curl
Complexity when it comes interpreting and comparing the workout volume
- Quantification method: number of sets and reps until muscle failure until completing 18 and 20 repetitions. Number of pre-established sets (4 sets) x maximum number of repetitions until muscle failure x weight.
- Sex: men do more repetitions (24.811 kg and 277 repetitions on average) when compared to women (25.32kg and 41 repetitions)
Shorter workout programs or experimental protocols
- One session
- 4 week workout
- 6 week workout
- 3 week experimental protocol
Conclusions about the Rest-Pause
First of all, it increases the time under pressure and metabolic stress. Therefore, it is useful when it comes to accumulating fatigue quickly. Moreover, it has a higher workout volume (more effective sets).
That is why it requires less time than traditional workouts.
However, it is only advisable in experienced users. In fact, it is a way of overcoming stagnation
Above all, Planning, Programming, Periodization and Prescription:
- Alternate microcycles: Traditional, Rest-Pause, Traditional and Drop Sets.
- Alternate sessions: Traditional, Rest-Pause, Traditional and Myo-Reps.
Applicability in exercises
- Properly executed from a technical point of view.
- Without risks (avoid basic exercises: Bench Press, Deadlift, Squat, Military Press and Pull-ups).
- Isolated exercises (for instance, Biceps Curl in machine).
Specialization meso-cycle through Rest-Pause
Chart 1. Specialization Mesocycle (Chest). Source: made by the author
Chart 2. Mc2 of the specialization mesocycle (Chest). Source: made by the author
Chart 3. Mc4 of the specialization mesocycle (Chest). Source: made by the author
- Schoenfeld, B. J. (2010). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(10), 2857-2872
- Schoenfeld, B., & Grgic, J. (2019). Does Training to Failure Maximize Muscle Hypertrophy?. Strength & Conditioning Journal.
- Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Strength and hypertrophy adaptations between low-versus high-load resistance training: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal Strength and Conditioning Research, 19(20), 21
- Korak, J. A., Paquette, M. R., Fuller, D. K., Caputo, J. L., & Coons, J. M. (2018). Effect of a rest-pause vs. traditional squat on electromyography and lifting volume in trained women. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 118(7), 1309-1314.
- Marshall, P. W., Robbins, D. A., Wrightson, A. W., & Siegler, J. C. (2012). Acute neuromuscular and fatigue responses to the rest-pause method. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 15(2), 153-158.
- Korak, J. A., Paquette, M. R., Brooks, J., Fuller, D. K., & Coons, J. M. (2017). Effect of rest-pause vs. traditional bench press training on muscle strength, electromyography, and lifting volume in randomized trial protocols. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 117(9), 1891-1896.
- Prestes, J., Tibana, R. A., de Araujo Sousa, E., da Cunha Nascimento, D., de Oliveira Rocha, P., Camarço, N. F., … & Willardson, J. M. (2017). Strength and muscular adaptations following 6 weeks of rest-pause versus traditional multiple-sets resistance training in trained subjects. Journal Strength and Conditioning Research.
- Tzur, A., Vigotsky, A. & Roberts, B. (2017). How Cluster Sets, Rest-Pause, and Drop-Sets Affect Strength, Hypertrophy, and Power (Research Review). The Science of Fitness.
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