If you’ve been weightlifting for a while and are looking to crank things up a notch, there are plenty of techniques you can look to incorporate to increase intensity and fast-track results.
One to consider is called rest-pause training, which is a method that combines heavy loads with minimum rest.
Generally speaking, it works by breaking one “typical” set with a near-maximum weight down into a handful of minisets.
You should rest for short periods in between each miniset and continue until muscle failure, meaning you’re unable to complete another rep with good form.
You’ll end up doing more reps than you would when completing normal sets, and it’ll show — not only in effort but in the gains you’ll see.
With more work completed in a shorter amount of time, rest-pause training allows you to increase your strength and muscle size quickly.
You’re training your muscles to failure by pushing them as hard as they’ll go. This creates the most amount of trauma to the muscle fibers.
An increase in muscle fiber is created as these damaged muscle fibers are repaired. This leads to gains strength and size.
Besides rest-pause training, there are several other weightlifting methods — like supersets, alternating sets, or drop sets — that can add intensity to your workout.
For supersets, you’ll pick two exercises and complete one set right after the other with no rest.
For instance: 10 biceps curls, immediately followed by 10 triceps extensions, repeated twice more through.
Alternating sets are similar to supersets, but you’ll take a short break in between.
For example: 10 biceps curls, quick rest, 10 triceps extensions, quick rest, repeated twice more through.
With drop sets, you finish a set until you can’t complete a rep without failure, drop your weight by approximately 20 percent, and then complete another set to failure.
You’ll repeat this process until there’s little to no weight left.
For example: If you initially use a 15-pound dumbbell for triceps extensions, you’ll drop to 12 pounds for your second set, then 10 pounds, then 8, then 5.
Each method can be beneficial. In fact, it can be a great idea to incorporate them all into your routine to switch things up.
There are two approaches you can take: one that focuses on strength, and one that focuses on hypertrophy, or increased muscle size.
Considering your goals is the first step in deciding which type of rest-pause training to incorporate.
If your main goal is to build strength, try the rest-pause method for strength.
If you’re more concerned with muscle size and aesthetics, try the rest-pause method for hypertrophy.
There are some slight differences to each rest-pause training method.
To rest-pause for strength gains
- Choose a weight that’s 80–90 percent of your 1-rep maximum. In layman’s terms: How much weight can you lift just one time? Drop to 80–90 percent of that.
- Complete 1 rep.
- Rest for 10–15 seconds.
- Complete another rep with the same weight.
- Repeat this sequence until you hit 10–12 reps.
To rest-pause for muscle hypertrophy
- Choose a weight that’s about 75 percent of your 1-rep maximum. This should allow you to complete 6–10 reps total.
- Complete a miniset until failure, meaning you’re unable to complete 1 more rep with good form.
- Set the weight down and rest for 20–30 seconds.
- Complete another miniset to failure.
- Set the weight down and rest for 20–30 seconds.
- Complete your final miniset to failure.
- This is 1 set. Rest for 90 seconds, then repeat 2 more times.
Rest-pause training can help you gain the strength and size you’re looking for, but there are a few things to consider.
Pushing too hard
There’s a fine line between reaching that 1-rep max and pushing too hard.
You don’t want to hurt yourself, but you do want to ensure that you’re challenging your strength to the best of your ability.
That’s where you’ll see the best results with this training method.
Pay extra attention to this especially if you’re new to this type of 1-rep weightlifting.
Training too often
Rest-pause training is best incorporated on a biweekly schedule that cycles on and off.
It’s quite taxing on your body to work at your maximum capacity, and doing this too frequently can cause more harm than good.
Remember: Recovery is just as important as the work you put in.
Think about using this method every other week for 6 to 8 weeks, then taking a 6- to 8-week break.
The rest-pause training method can be an effective approach for weightlifters looking to add strength and size.
Consider your goals, then choose the appropriate type of rest-pause training for you. With some sweat equity, the results will be yours!
Nicole Davis is a writer based in Madison, Wisconsin, a personal trainer, and a group fitness instructor whose goal is to help women live stronger, healthier, happier lives. When she’s not working out with her husband or chasing around her young daughter, she’s watching crime TV shows or making sourdough bread from scratch. Find her on Instagram for fitness tidbits, #momlife, and more.