3 Rest-Pause Squat Workouts!


rest pause squat

There is nothing worse than being stuck at a squatting plateau. It seems like no matter what you try you just can’t get your legs any bigger or stronger. If this describes you the I have just the solution: 3 novel rest-pause squat workouts!

Introduction

  • Part 1: A Traditional Rest-Pause Squat Workout
  • Part 2: Charles Poliquin’s “5 to 8” Squat Workout
  • Part 3: DC-Style Squat Workout

Rest-pause sets are one of the most effective training methods in the world. They were originally developed by Dante Trudel in the mid 1990s and they work unbelievably well for building both muscular size and strength.

Many of Dante’s former bodybuilding clients put up some unbelievable numbers in the squat using his preferred rest-pause training style.

For example, here is Justin Harris squatting an incredible 6 plates per side for 8 reps!

At the time Justin was a competitive bodybuilder and was training his legs almost exclusively with rest-pause sets. Need I say more?

The procedure for performing a rest-pause set is simple: you train to technical failure three times in a row on the same exercise.

The thing that makes a rest-pause set unique is that you only rest 20-30 seconds between each of the three attempts.

For example, here is what a rest-pause set might look like in practice:

  • Train to failure in the 7-10 rep range, rest 20-30 seconds
  • Train to failure a 2nd time (you might squeeze out 2-4 reps), rest 20-30 seconds
  • Train to failure a 3rd time (you might squeeze out 1-3 reps), done!

Rest-pause sets are so intense that you typically only want to perform one of them per exercise and a small number of exercises per body part. 

Rest-pause training is definitely one of the best ways to increase your squatting strength.

The quadriceps are composed primarily of type IIA fast-twitch muscle fibers which respond incredibly well to higher-rep rest-pause training.

In this article I am going to provide you with three seperate seperate rest-pause squat routines that you can start using TODAY to build bigger, stronger legs!

Please note that I write my routines where all of the loading parameters are clearly defined. If you have any trouble reading the following training routines then please consult this article.

Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: A Traditional Rest-Pause Squat Workout

Let’s kick things off with a more traditional rest-pause style squat workout. You are going to perform a rest-pause set where you perform 7-10 reps on your first attempt.

For example, here is what the entire set might look like:

  • Train to failure in the 7-10 rep range, rest 20-30 seconds
  • Train to failure a 2nd time (you might squeeze out 2-4 reps), rest 20-30 seconds
  • Train to failure a 3rd time (you might squeeze out 1-3 reps), done!

Normally on a rest-pause set you would go all the way to technical muscular failure. This is not the safest idea on the back squat so I suggest you stop 1 rep shy of technical failure.

This means that the last rep will be an absolute grinder but you will complete it with good form.

In order to create a sufficiently large training stimulus you are going to perform 4 total rest-pause sets in this workout.

Two exercises will be performed for the quadriceps while two will be performed for the hamstrings. In my experience this type of routine works very well for a large percentage of the training populace. Check it out:

Rest-Pause Back Squat Workout

  • A1: Lying bilateral leg curl (feet plantarflexed / pointing out), 1 x 7-10**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 1 x 7-10**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Front foot elevated split squat, 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/1/0, rest as needed
  • D1: 90 degree back extension (barbell on back), 1 x 10-12, 2/0/1/2, rest as needed

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set as described above.

Here are the sample training videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1, exercise D1.

This may not seem like “enough” work if you are used to higher-volume leg workouts. The key to making this type of workout work for you is to dig deep and give everything you have on each and every set.

Of course it isn’t the first workout that really makes you grow with rest-pause training. It is the second workout where you come in and beat your numbers from the first workout.

Then it is the third workout where you beat your second workout’s numbers etc.

I highly recommend you record your workouts in a training logbook and try to beat your previous performance each time you perform this routine.

If you consistently beat the logbook in the 7-10 rep range then your legs will have no choice but to grow!

Part 2: Charles Poliquin’s “5 to 8” Squat Workout

Charles Poliquin has a very unique take on Dante Trudel’s rest-pause training style. Charles primarily worked with athletes who needed to improve their strength and functional hypertrophy levels.

You know, hypertrophy specific to the fast-twitch muscle fibers (the ones responsible for making you a faster / stronger / more explosive athlete).

Charles Poliquin took Dante’s version of rest-pause sets and tweaked them to work better for all-out gains in strength and functional hypertrophy.

Here is what the “5 to 8” method looks like in practice:

  • Perform 5 reps, rest 15 seconds
  • Perform 1 rep, rest 15 seconds
  • Perform 1 rep, rest 15 seconds
  • Perform 1 rep, done!

The above procedure counts as one “5 to 8” set. Charles frequently had his athletes perform 3-5 of these sets per exercise. 

If you are a powerlifter, strongman, or any other strength athlete then this squat routine will work AWESOME for you.

This routine will also work well for a bodybuilder who wants to rapidly boost their strength levels but who doesn’t want to risk injury performing sets in the 1-3 rep range. Check it out:

5 To 8 Method Front Squat Routine

  • A1: Front squat (medium stance / heels flat), 3 x 5/1/1/1**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Kneeling unilateral leg curl (poliquin method**** / feet pointing straight), 3 x 5/1/1/1**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Walking alternating DB lunge, 3 x 6-8 (each leg), 1/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Snatch grip Romanian deadlift, 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Perform all three sets as Poliquin-style “5 to 8” rest-pause set as described above.

**To perform the Poliquin method on leg curls you dorsiflex your ankles on the concentric range and plantarflex your ankles on the eccentric range. See the video below for more details.

Here are the sample training videos: exercise A1, exercise A2, exercise B1, exercise B2.

It is extremely important that you DO NOT go to failure on any of these sets! Going to failure with the 5 to 8 method will severely compromise your results.

This is in contrast to Dante’s version of rest-pause training where you do want to go to failure!

I should warn you that the 5 to 8 method is extremely taxing on the central nervous system, and I do mean extremely.

This routine is just as demanding on your recovery ability as a properly designed cluster sets or wave loading squat workout.

I highly recommend you take extra precautions to improve your recovery ability while attempting this routine.

That may include getting extra hour of sleep every day, meditating, and/or nailing your post-workout nutrition.

If you are a strength athlete then you can use the 5 to 8 method as either an accumulation or intensification routine. If you are a bodybuilder then I recommend you only use it as an intensification phase.

Part 3: DC-Style Squat Workout

This last routine is going to be more of a true DC-style squat workout. Dante Trudel had his bodybuilding clients train quads in a slightly different manner from any other body part.

On a DC-style rest-pause squat workout you are going to perform 2 total sets of squats. The first set is going to be a regular straight set in the 5-7 rep range.

The second set is where things get crazy: you are going to perform a set of 20 reps with your 10-rep max!

This 20-rep set of squats has been given many names over the years: “breathing squats,” “the widowmaker,” etc.

Whatever you want to call it one thing is for sure: this 20 rep set of squats will be the toughest thing you ever do in the gym.

Here is what the 20-rep set of squats looks like:

  • Perform 10 reps with your 10-rep max. Next take several deep breaths in the standing position with the barbell still on your back.
  • Perform 1 more rep, then take several more deep breaths.
  • Perform 1 more rep, then take several more deep breaths.

This process continues until you have performed 20 total repetitions. Breathing squats can be thought of as an extreme form of rest-pause training.

The time under tension from this one set alone is absolutely insane!

Breathing squats work incredibly well for boosting quadriceps size. The main problem with the technique is that so few people have the balls to perform this type of routine.

As IFBB professional bodybuilder Ben Pakulski likes to say, you need to “take your balls out of your purse” before attempting a set like this. Check it out:

DC-Style Leg Workout

  • A1: Leg press bilateral calf raise, 1 x 7-10, 2/8/X/1**, rest as needed
  • B1: Bilateral seated leg curl (feet dorsiflexed / pointing in), 1 x 7-10***, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 1 x 5-7, 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest
  • D1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 1 x 20****, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed

**This is not a typo – you are going to do an 8-second pause in the stretched position! This is how you train calves DC-style…

***Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set as described above.

****Performed as a DC-style “widowmaker” set. You are going to perform 20 reps with your 10-rep max. After completing your first 10 reps in normal fashion you will take standing rest breaks without racking the weight. Take several deep breaths then bust out as many additional reps as you can. Complete this process until you have completed 20 total repetitions.

Here are the sample training videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1.

The 20 rep “breathing” squat has a very decorated history in the iron game. It was frequently used by bodybuilders in the 1940s-1970s to pack on muscle mass over their entire bodies in record time.

In fact, Tom Platz performed 20-rep squats twice per month in his quest for the greatest set of legs the bodybuilding world had ever seen.

If you have an unusually high pain tolerance and want a training method that will shock your legs into growth then I can’t think of a better training method than performing 20 reps of squats with your 10-rep max. 

Conclusion

rest pause squat

Rest-pause sets have stood the test of time as one of the most effective “high-intensity” training methods ever invented.

Christian Thibadeau has called rest-pause sets the best hypertrophy training method in the world while Josh Bryant has called them the “universal gainer” because they work well for almost everyone.

If you are looking to boost your squatting strength in record time (and wouldn’t mind some extra leg size to match!) then I highly recommend you give one of these rest-pause squat routines a shot.

Always remember: the mind is more important than the body. Where the mind goes the body will follow.

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

Dr. Mike Jansen

I am the creator and owner of Revolutionary Program Design. I help advanced athletes take their training to the next level and achieve results they never imagined possible.

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