Rest-Pause Drop Sets: The Ultimate Guide!


Rest-pause drop sets are one of the most powerful high-intensity training methods you can use in the gym.

If you want to take your training to the next level then rest-pause drop sets are for you!

Introduction

  • Part 1: Rest-Pause Sets
  • Part 2: Rest-Pause Drop Sets
  • Part 3: Sample Workout Routines

In this comprehensive guide I will teach you how to use rest-pause drop sets to build muscle mass as fast as possible.

Rest-pause drop sets are a combination of two advanced training methods: rest-pause sets and drop sets. Both of these training methods are fantastic for building muscle mass. However, performing them together as one training method is a great way to shock your body into growth.

Rest-pause sets are a high-intensity training method popularized by Dante Trudel, the creator of DC Training.

With rest-pause sets your goal is to train to failure 3 times in a row on an exercise with 20-30 seconds rest in between each set. Many of the world’s best bodybuilding coaches like Josh Bryant are big fans of rest-pause sets. Check it out:

“When it comes to rest-pause training it’s a who’s who of size and strength.

If you look at Big Jim Williams, in the Rockview Penitentiary to Michael Christian in the Jailhouse Pig Iron Program, what creates the separation is the rest-pause set.”

Here is the exact training protocol for a rest-pause set. Check it out:

How To Do Rest-Pause Sets

  • Step #1: Train to failure in the 6-12 rep range, then rest 20-30 seconds
  • Step #2: Train to failure a 2nd time with the same weight, then rest 20-30 seconds
  • Step #3: Train to failure a 3rd time, done!

Here is Dusty Hanshaw giving a perfect demonstration of a rest-pause set:

Dusty Hanshaw lifts an incredible 405 pounds on the incline bench press. He gets 8 reps, 4 reps and 2 reps on his three attempts.

Rest-pause sets are so effective because they build size AND strength at the same time. In fact many bodybuilders like Dusty Hanshaw use rest-pause sets almost exclusively in their training.

Some bodybuilding coaches like Josh Bryant like to combine rest-pause sets together with drop sets to make them even more effective for muscle growth.

Here is Josh describing the rest-pause drop set:

“A rest-pause set is really 3 mini-sets with the same weight. Drop sets are where you train to failure and drop the weight so you can perform more reps.

Both methods have produced magnificent results. When you combine rest-pause sets and drop sets you take your training to another level!”

To perform a rest-pause drop set you perform a regular rest-pause set, then drop the weight by 20-30% and perform another rest-pause set with the lighter weight. In other words a rest-pause drop set is like 2 rest-pause sets performed in a row on a single exercise!

Here is the exact protocol:

How To Do Rest-Pause Drop Sets

  • Step #1: Perform a rest-pause set, then reduce the weight by 20-30% and rest 20-30 seconds
  • Step #2: Perform another rest-pause set with the new lighter weight, done!

Here’s Dr. Jim Stopani giving a perfect demonstration of a rest-pause set:

Jim Stopani gives an absolutely perfect demonstration of a rest-pause drop set. He performs 1 rest-pause set on the flat bench press, then drops the weight by 20-30% and performs another drop set.

Here is Jim Stopani describing this brutal training method:

“It’s called a rest-pause drop. You start out with a weight you can lift for 6-10 reps with. You do that for as many reps as you can.

You rest 20 seconds, and then perform as many reps as you can. Rest 20 reps, as many reps as you can. Then you drop the weight and do the exact same thing again.

So basically you’re doing 6 sets in there. The first 3 are at the same weight, the second 3 you are dropping the weight by 25-30%.”

Josh Bryant says that rest-pause sets are so demanding that you should only perform 1 of them per exercise.

One of Josh’s favorite bodybuilding strategies is to alternate between opposing muscle groups using 1 rest-pause drop set per exercise. For example here is how Josh likes to organize his chest / back rest-pause drop set workouts:

Josh Bryant Chest / Back Workout Template

  • Exercise #1: Chest
  • Exercise #2: Back
  • Exercise #3: Chest 
  • Exercise #4: Back
  • Exercise #5: Chest
  • Exercise #6: Back

Josh Bryant says that this strategy is so effective because it gives your muscles more time to rest in between exercises.

If you try to perform 3 exercises in a row for your chest then you will be absolutely smoked by the third exercise. However, when you alternate back and forth between opposing muscle groups you should have much more energy for your third exercise for each body part.

Here is a rest-pause drop set workout that you can try for your chest and back. Check it out:

Josh Bryant Chest / Back Rest-Pause Drop Set Workout

  • Exercise #1: 30 degree supine cable fly**, 1 set of 10-15 reps
  • Exercise #2: Straight arm cable pullover**, 1 set of 10-15 reps
  • Exercise #3: DB seal row**, 1 set of 7-10 reps
  • Exercise #4: Incline machine press**, 1 set of 7-10 reps****
  • Exercise #5: Seated cable row (wide / neutral grip)**, 1 set of 7-10 reps******
  • Exercise #6: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso)**, 1 set of 7-10 reps

**Performed as a rest-pause drop set.

****Perform 1.25 reps in the bottom position. Lift the weight a quarter of the way up, lower the weight back down, lift the weight all the way up, lower the weight back down. That counts as 1 rep. Do 7-10 reps on your first attempt.

******Use a little bit of momentum to get the weight moving, then perform a 5-second eccentric lowering phase on each rep.

Here is the training video for this workout:

Josh uses many advanced techniques for this workout like rest-pause drop sets, 1.25 reps and 5-second negative phases. He also uses incline cable flys to pre-exhaust his chest before moving onto more compound exercises.

This is a great way to keep your body off-balance and mix things up in your training. Check it out:

“A lot of people say you always have to start off with the compound movement, this and that. I agree if we have to choose one movement the compound movement would be the best, but we don’t have to!”

Josh Bryant also likes to use rest-pause drop sets for the shoulders, arms and legs. It is just a great all-around training method.

Here is a legs / shoulders workout that you can try. Check it out:

Josh Bryant Legs / Shoulders Rest-Pause Drop Set Workout

  • Exercise #1: Back squat, 1 set of 7-10 reps**
  • Exercise #2: Prone rear-delt DB fly, 1 set of 10-15 reps**
  • Exercise #3: Seated leg curl, 1 set of 7-10 reps**
  • Exercise #4: Hammer strength overhead press, 1 set of 10-15 reps**
  • Exercise #5: Heels elevated DB squat, 1 set of 7-10 reps**
  • Exercise #6: Lateral raise machine, 1 set of 10-15 reps**

**Performed as a rest-pause drop set as described above.

Here is the training video for this workout:

Talk about a brutal workout!

Once again Josh alternates between exercises for different muscle groups like the legs and shoulders for this workout. Josh uses this strategy because he wants to make sure that you have plenty of energy for your 2nd and 3rd exercise for each muscle group.

Throughout the workout Josh gives some great advice on the importance of feeling your shoulders work on isolation exercises. Check it out:

“With rear delts you need to be like a zen master. You need to focus all of your intentionality on those rear delts working. If you don’t it will become as useless as tits on a bullfrog!”

This guide wouldn’t be complete without a sample arm training routine. After all, what bodybuilder doesn’t want a big pair of arms?

Here is a sample rest-pause drop set arm workout that you can try. Check it out:

Josh Bryant Arms Rest-Pause Drop Set Workout

  • Exercise #1: Bench press against chains (shoulder-width grip), 1 set of 7-10 reps**
  • Exercise #2: 75 degree DB spider curl (hammer grip), 1 set of 7-10 reps**
  • Exercise #3: Dead stop DB triceps extensions, 1 set of 7-10 reps**
  • Exercise #4: Machine preacher curl, 1 set of 7-10 reps**
  • Exercise #5: Machine tricep dips, 1 set of 7-10 reps**

**Performed as a rest-pause drop set as described above.

Here is the training video for this workout:

Once again Josh sticks to his strategy of alternating back and forth between exercises for opposing muscle groups. This strategy is especially effective when you are training your arms because you get an incredible pump in your biceps and triceps.

Josh says that it is especially important to have an internal focus on your arms during each exercise. Check it out:

“You need to be mindful of what you’re doing. Focus on what you’re doing. Focus on the muscle you’re working.

If you don’t have that mind-muscle connection with these bodybuilding exercises then you need to work on establishing that mind-muscle connection first!”

Even when you are using a high-intensity technique like rest-pause drop sets it is still important to establish that strong mind-muscle connection.

If you can’t feel the target muscle working then you are wasting your time!

Conclusion

Rest-pause drop sets are one of the most powerful training methods ever invented. They take the advantages of rest-pause sets and drop sets and combine them into one brutal training method.

I really like the way Josh Bryant organizes his rest-pause drop set workouts where he alternates between opposing muscle groups.

If you are stuck at a hypertrophy training plateau then Josh’s workouts may be just what you need to take your physique to the next level.

Here is one more quote by Josh Bryant to pump you up even more:

“There is no such thing as resting on one’s laurel’s; we are all moving forward or backward. We are always progressing or regressing; stagnation is a myth.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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