A Return to the Rest Pause
by John Carl Mese
When Mike Mentzer was in
Rest-pause is a set of an exercise performed with rest intervals between reps. For example, Barbell curl – 1 rep, rest 10 seconds; 2 reps, rest 10 seconds; 3 reps, rest 10 seconds, etc., on up to 10 reps. The rest-pause is done not only in ascending rep fashion as in the example but also in descending rep fashion. For example, Barbell curl – 10 reps, rest 10 seconds; 9 reps, rest 10 seconds, etc. on down to one rep. As can be expected, this is a terrific pumping type of training and is very effective for two to three week periods. This format has worked exceptionally well for me.
The application of rest-pause that Mike incorporated was slightly different. He would do one set of 6 reps with a weight he would normally handle for 2 good reps. He would do 1 rep, rest 15 seconds; 1 rep, rest 15 seconds, etc. This would increase the intensity of training and the amount of work done is a short period of time.
Well, we all know Mike has genetic advantages that most trainers don’t possess, so I tried the system to see how effective it is on us lesser mortals. The system was appealing to me because I have very limited time to train lately, I grow on low reps, I like heavy training and have a tendency to overtrain – like most lifters.
Results – It has worked for me on the three exercises I tried. I used three group exercises – squats, deadlifts and barbell curls. My exercise weights increased steadily and I felt well spent the next day. I intend to expand the use of rest-pause to other exercises at a later date. A step by step summary of how to try this method in your own training follows, using the squat as an example.
1.) Perform several progressive warmup sets to prepare the muscles, ligaments and tendons. This system is extremely hard when lifting heavy weights. It is easy to pull or tear any of the above.
2.) Select a weight you can use for five consecutive reps.
3.) Use this weight to perform a set of 10 or 12 reps with a rep being performed every 10 seconds, in good form. (A squat in this case).
4.) Every workout, try to increase your weight. Work hard at increasing your poundage.
5.) Put the weight on the squat stands while you are taking your 10 second rest between sets so your spine and trap muscles are not being compressed.
6.) Do two sets of an isolation exercise following the squats (e.g. leg extensions, etc.).
You could then do rest-pause deadlifts and standard-set leg curls to complete you workout.
This system is effective, but as always, changes need to be made to fit the individual. The first problem is the starting weight, and in the above case I suggested a 5 rep weight so the trainee can work into heavier weights. The other problem is the selection of exercises. I feel that compound type exercises will be most effective, especially since it is hard to use heavy weights on isolation movements unless they are done on machines. Even then, isolation exercises are better done with moderate weights to fully work the muscle.
Don’t be afraid to experiment – the key is to train hard.