Rest-Pause Training: The Ultimate Guide!


rest pause

Rest pause sets are one of the most effective bodybuilding training methods of all time. They can help you build slabs of functional muscle mass and turn you into one of the biggest, strongest bodybuilders in your gym.

Rest-pause sets are a high-intensity training method invented by Dante Trudel where you perform three sets to failure on an exercise with 20-30 seconds rest in between each set. Dante says you should aim for 7-10 reps on your first set, 2-4 reps on your second set and 1-3 reps on your third set using the same weight on each attempt.

Here is what a rest-pause set looks like in the real world:

  • Train to failure in the 7-10 rep range, then rest 20-30 seconds
  • Train to failure a second time with the same weight, then rest 20-30 seconds
  • Train to failure a third time and you’re done!

Here is a video of IFBB pro Dusty Hanshaw giving a perfect demonstration of the rest-pause method on the incline bench press:

Dusty trains to failure three times in a row with 405 pounds on the 30 degree incline bench press. Dusty gets 8 reps on his first attempt, 4 reps on his second attempt and 2 reps on his third attempt for a total of 14 reps rest-paused. Talk about a high-intensity set!

Rest-pause sets were popularized by Dante Trudel and his incredibly popular DC Training program. Dante has trained some of the world’s top bodybuilders including David Henry, Cedric McMillan, Steve Kuclo and Dusty Hanshaw using his DC Training program and rest-pause sets.

One of the things that makes rest-pause sets so special is they are one of the only training methods that helps you build muscular size AND strength at the same time.

Here are some feats of strength you can accomplish with rest-pause sets:

Talk about impressive! Many of the world’s top strength coaches like Josh Bryant, Charles Poliquin and Christian Thibadeau use rest-pause sets to help their athletes build strength and hypertrophy their fast-twitch muscle fibers.

In this comprehensive guide I am going to teach you everything you need to know about how to use rest-pause sets to build slabs of muscle mass and jack up your strength. Here is an outline for the rest of this article:

Article Outline

  • Part 1: The Science Of Rest-Pause Training
  • Part 2: The Benefits Of Rest-Pause Sets
  • Part 3: Dante Trudel’s Rest-Pause Method
  • Part 4: Dante Trudel’s DC-Training System
  • Part 5: Charles Poliquin’s 5 to 8 Rest-Pause Method
  • Part 6: Mike Mentzer’s Original Rest-Pause Method

The first part of this article will cover the science behind rest-pause sets and some of the advantages of using rest-pause sets in your own training.

The second part of this article is where things get really interesting: I am going to teach you three of the most effective rest-pause training protocols ever invented! These protocols were used by some of the best coaches in the iron game including Dante Trudel, Charles Poliquin, and Mike Mentzer.

I will also provide you with plenty of sample training programs so you know EXACTLY how to use these set / rep schemes in your own training. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this cutting edge information!

Note: if you have any trouble reading the routines presented here then check out this article on how to read a training program. Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: The Science Of Rest-Pause Training

There has been an explosion of interest in rest-pause training protocols since Dante Trudel first published his theories on rest-pause training on the internet in the year 2000.

While it’s too early to draw any definitive conclusions the scientific literature does seem to support rest-pause training protocols as a promising method for strength and hypertrophy gains.

One study published in the year 2012 found that rest-pause sets performed on the squat resulted in anywhere from 8-46% more muscle activation compared to traditional straight sets training on the squat (1).

Another study published in 2017 found that one rest-pause set of squats resulted in 11% more hypertrophy gains in the quadriceps relative to performing 3 straight sets of squats (2).

In reality rest-pause sets create a nearly perfect cellular environment to support hypertrophy gains. According to the scientific literature there are three main biological triggers for muscular hypertrophy:

  1. Mechanical tension
  2. Muscular damage
  3. Metabolic fatigue

One of the reasons rest-pause sets work so well is they maximize all three of these biological triggers for hypertrophy!

Mechanical tension is maximized due to the relatively heavy weights used. After all, a traditional DC-style rest-pause set features weights in the 6-12 rep max range.

The three separate failure points performed with short rest intervals jack up the muscular damage and metabolic fatigue to sky-high levels!

Of course rest-pause sets are good for more than just hypertrophy gains: they are also excellent for producing strength gains and for increasing the efficiency of your nervous system.

After all, whenever you approach failure you are teaching your nervous system to get more efficient at firing all of the available motor units.

The three separate failure points in a rest-pause set create a tremendous overload on the central nervous system. Anyone who has used rest-pause sets for a long time in their own training knows how fast your strength can go up on a properly designed rest-pause training program.

Part 2: The Benefits Of Rest-Pause Sets

Rest-pause sets are incredibly versatile and can be used for a wide variety of training goals. Here are some of the major benefits of rest-pause sets:

  1. Hypertrophy gains
  2. Strength gains
  3. Fat loss
  4. Training density

Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors.

Benefit #1: Hypertrophy gains

It is no secret that rest-pause sets work unbelievably well for hypertrophy gains. The proof is in the results, so to speak: Dante Trudel has trained hundreds of 250+ pound bodybuilders using almost nothing but rest-pause sets!

Justin Harris, Steve Kuclo, and Jason Wojo all immediately come to mind in this regard.

If there is one high-intensity training method that can pack muscle mass onto your frame in record time it is rest-pause sets.

Benefit #2: Strength gains

It is possible to become unbelievably strong using rest-pause sets. Despite being a bodybuilding training method rest-pause sets place a tremendous overload on the central nervous system.

It is not uncommon for someone to only get 2-3 reps on the second part of the rest-pause set and 1-2 reps on the third part.

These low-rep attempts within a rest-pause set are tremendous for teaching your nervous system to become more efficient at recruiting the high-threshold motor units.

Some bodybuilders who consistently use rest-pause sets in their training become so strong that you might mistake them for powerlifters! For example, here is Justin Harris performing a set of machine hack squats with over 8 plates per side:

At the time this video was shot Justin was training like a bodybuilder using rest-pause sets almost exclusively. Talk about strong!

Benefit #3: Fat loss

This is one of the more surprising benefits of rest-pause sets. Not only are they good for building muscle and strength, but they are great for shedding body fat as well!

Training for fat loss is largely a matter of producing as much lactic acid as possible within a workout.

There are certainly some workouts that do a better job of maximizing lactic acid production than rest-pause sets. Training methods such as tri-sets and giant sets certainly come to mind in this regard.

However, rest-pause sets do an excellent job of jacking up lactic acid levels within the muscle.

As you may already know elevated lactic acid levels lead to elevated growth hormone levels. An when your growth hormone levels are elevated, fat loss shoots through the roof!

Benefit #4: Training density

Rest-pause sets are a very time-efficient way to train. The scientific literature has repeatedly shown that one rest-pause set is at least as effective as 3 regular straight sets.

That means that you can get awesome results in far less time when using rest-pause sets relative to straight sets. If you are short on time then rest-pause training is one of the best ways to keep your workouts short but highly effective.

Part 3: Dante Trudel’s Rest-Pause Method

Let’s kick off the second half of this guide with a discussion on how to organize your workouts using DC-style rest-pause sets. 

To review Dante’s version of rest-pause training goes like this:

  • Perform a set to failure in the 6-12 rep range, rest while you take 10-15 deep breaths
  • Perform a second set to failure (you might get 1-6 reps here), then rest while you take 10-15 deep breaths
  • Perform a third set to failure (you might get 1-3 reps here), done!

Here is another video of Dusty Hanshaw performing a picture-perfect rest-pause set on a seated overhead press machine:

When Dante trained bodybuilders he always had them follow his comprehensive DC-training program. This is certainly a viable option and I cover it in detail in part 4 of this article.

However, another viable option for bodybuilders and physique athletes is to use rest-pause sets as part of a more traditional training program.

One of my favourite ways to do this is to use a push / pull / legs split performed four days per week.

For example, here is what this split would look like in practice:

Week 1

  • Monday: Push
  • Wednesday: Legs
  • Friday: Pull
  • Saturday: Push

Week 2 

  • Monday: Legs
  • Wednesday: Pull
  • Friday: Push
  • Saturday: Legs

Week 3

  • Monday: Pull
  • Wednesday: Push
  • Friday: Legs
  • Saturday: Pull

Week 4 would then be a repeat of Monday’s schedule. Whichever body part you train on day 1 of a given week is also trained on day 4 of the same week.

The main benefit of this type of split over something like a 3 days per week push / pull / legs split is the increased training frequency. With the 4 days per week version you are training body parts roughly once every 5 days.

This is an extremely productive way to train when your goal is muscular hypertrophy. It also works very well when combined with DC-style rest-pause sets.

Here is a sample Push / Pull / Legs workout program featuring almost nothing but rest-pause sets.

Please note that some exercises such as heavy rowing movements are not rest-paused due to safety concerns (you don’t want to risk injuring your lower back).

Rest-Pause Chest / Shoulders / Triceps Workout

  • A1: 30 degree incline bench press (medium grip), 1 x 7-10**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Hammer strength flat machine press, 1 x 7-10**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Seated DB overhead press, 1 x 7-10**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Seated Poliquin DB lateral raise****, 1 x 7-10**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • E1: Hammer strength dip machine, 1 x 7-10**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • F1: Cable overhead rope extension, 1 x 7-10**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set as described above. Go to failure, rest while taking 10-15 deep breaths, go to failure a 2nd time, rest while taking 10-15 deep breaths, go to failure a 3rd time, DONE! 

****To perform the Poliquin DB lateral raise you bend your elbows to 90 degrees on the concentric range and fully extend your arms on the eccentric range. This lets you overload the eccentric portion of the lift. See the sample exercise video below for more information.

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1, exercise D1, exercise E1, exercise F1.

Rest-Pause Lower Body Workout

  • A1: Lying bilateral leg curl (feet dorsiflexed / pointing away), 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: Leg press, 1 x 10-13**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Stiff-legged deadlift, 2 x (7-10, 10-13), 3/0/X/0, rest as needed

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set as described above. Go to failure, rest while taking 10-15 deep breaths, go to failure a 2nd time, rest while taking 10-15 deep breaths, go to failure a 3rd time, DONE! 

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

Rest-Pause Back / Biceps Workout

  • A1: Wide neutral grip cable pulldown, 1 x 7-10**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Nautilus pullover machine, 1 x 7-10**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Smith machine dead stop row, 2 x 8-12, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Unilateral hammer strength row, 1 x 7-10**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • E1: Preacher ez-bar curl (narrow / supinated grip), 1 x 7-10**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • F1: Unilateral cable reverse curl, 1 x 7-10**, 3/0/X/0, rest as needed

**Performed as a DC-style rest-pause set as described above. Go to failure, rest while taking 10-15 deep breaths, go to failure a 2nd time, rest while taking 10-15 deep breaths, go to failure a 3rd time, DONE! 

Here are the exercise videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1, exercise D1, exercise E1, exercise F1.

For every body part you are going to perform one all-out rest-pause set. You can perform as many warm-up sets as you feel you need to. However, don’t waste your energy pumping out endless reps on your warm up sets.

The goal is to prepare yourself for the one working set. Of course on heavy rows and deadlifts you are going to perform 2 straight sets instead of a rest-pause set due to safety concerns.

If you are looking at the above routine thinking that it is “not enough work” then you have no idea how hard a properly performed rest-pause set is. You are literally going to technical failure three times in a row on a single exercise!

This is an extremely demanding bodybuilding intensity technique. It is far beyond what the average person is willing to do in the gym.

Of course you wouldn’t be on Revolutionary Program Design if you were just an average trainee. I am confident that you will make some screaming fast hypertrophy gains if you really apply yourself on this routine for 3-4 weeks.

Part 4: Dante Trudel’s DC-Training System

Dante Trudel’s DC-Training program is easily the most controversial bodybuilding training system in the world. Dante’s program spread like wildfire on the internet in the early 2000s.

In fact, the only thing more controversial than his training theories were the results he produced with his athletes.

IFBB professional bodybuilder David Henry famously added 30 pounds of muscle in 3 years after he already won his pro-card after he started working with Dante.

Many others experienced similarly unbelievable results.

Eventually Dante grew tired of training bodybuilders and everyone’s interest in his training system seemed to die down. Dante’s system is just as effective today as it was in the early 2000s.

After all, human anatomy and physiology has not changed dramatically sense this time.

DC training is a reasonably complex training system with many moving parts. If you are interested in using Dante’s rest-pause system in its entirety then you may find the following discussion useful:

Principle #1: The DC-Training Split

Dante started out 100% of his trainees on a 3 days per week upper body / lower body split. Dante had his trainees rotate through three different upper body workouts and three different lower body workouts. Each of these workouts featured a different set of exercises for each body part.

For example, here is how the body parts would be organized over a 2-week time frame:

Week 1:

  • Monday: Upper Body #1
  • Wednesday: Lower Body #1
  • Friday: Upper Body #2

Week 2: 

  • Monday: Lower Body #2
  • Wednesday: Upper Body #3
  • Friday: Lower Body #3

I call it an upper body / lower body split but Dante technically trains the elbow flexors on his lower body day. Here is how the official DC-training upper body and lower body workouts are organized:

Upper Body

  1. Chest
  2. Shoulders
  3. Triceps
  4. Back Width
  5. Back Thickness

Lower Body

  1. Biceps
  2. Forearms
  3. Calves 
  4. Hamstrings
  5. Quads

Principle #2:  1 Rest-Pause Set Per Body Part

For each body part you are going to perform 1 all-out rest-pause set. There are some exceptions of course. Back thickness exercises, forearm exercises, and calves are all performed with straight sets.

The quadriceps also have their own unique set / rep scheme. You perform 2 sets for quads: one heavier set in the 4-8 rep range and a 20-rep set that Dante calls the “widowmaker.”

The reason is simple: this 20-rep set is so demanding that if someone watches you during your set they will think you are trying to turn your wife into a widow!

Essentially this 20-re set is performed as a “breathing squat” where you perform 20 reps with your 10-rep max. You can consult this article for more information on how to perform a DC-style widowmaker set for quads.

Principle #3: Extreme Stretching

After your 1 rest-pause set per exercise (or 1-2 straight sets) you are going to perform an absolutely agonizing weighted stretch for that same body part that you just worked.

For example, an extreme stretch for the pecs may involve holding a pair of dumbbells in the bottom position of a fly. An extreme stretch for the triceps may involve holding the bottom position of a unilateral rope overhead cable extension.

For example, here is Dusty Hanshaw performing an extreme stretch for his chest:

Each extreme stretch should be held for 30-60 seconds. If you perform this correctly it will be one of the most painful things you ever do in the gym.

These extreme stretches are incredibly effective and will have a synergistic effect with the main rest-pause set. You can check out this article for more information.

Principle #4: Rotating Exercises

As you already know you are going to rotate through three different exercises per body part.

You perform your favorite exercise on the first workout for that body part, your second-favorite exercise on the second workout, and your third-favorite exercise on the third day.

You keep rotating through these exercises for as long as you are making progress. Eventually you will come to a point where your strength on that exercise stalls.

You will perform an exercise only to find that your strength stayed the same on that exercise, or even worse, it went backwards.

The next time you repeat this workout you will swap out the exercise you stalled on for a new exercise. The game plan is to climb the strength ladder on this new exercise.

You can always return to the exercise you dropped at a future point in time and start climbing the strength ladder on it all over again.

Principle #5: Deloading

Dante recommends a form of periodization that he calls “blasting and cruising.” Essentially you are going to train all-out for 6-12 weeks at a time. When you really start to feel beat up and you are dreading going to the gym you will take a 1-2 week deload.

Usually a deload is necessary after 6-12 weeks of hard training on Dante’s program but this is a highly individual thing. During your deload you can either workout with extremely light weights or just take the full 1-2 weeks off from the gym.

After the deload you start another 6-12 week “blast” where you climb to new heights of strength and size.

Some people find that they also need a mini-deload after 3-4 weeks of hard-training. For these trainees Dante recommends just skipping a training day when you feel beat up.

For example, you could skip your Friday workout every 3-4 weeks. This extra day off from the gym makes a world of difference in terms of your overall recovery ability.

Sample DC Training Workouts

Here are some sample DC-training workouts that you may want to try. The extreme stretches are not listed here but they should be performed following your chest, shoulder, tricep, back width, bicep, hamstring, and quadricep exercises.

You may want to stretch both your quads and your hamstrings after completing your entire lower body workout so that your performance is not compromised.

DC Upper Body Workout #1

  • A1: Hammer strength incline machine press, 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Seated DB overhead press, 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: V-bar dips (upright torso), 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Rack chin, 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • E1: Barbell dead stop row, 2 x (7-10, 10-13), 2/1/X/0, 180 seconds rest

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1, exercise D1, exercise E1.

DC Lower Body Workout #1

  • A1: 45 degree incline DB curl (supinated grip), 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Seated zottman curl, 1 x 7-10**, 4/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Leg press calf raise, 1 x 7-10, 4/8/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Bilateral lying leg curl (Poliquin method**** / feet straight), 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • E1: Back squat (medium stance / heels flat), 2 x (4-8, 20)******, 2/0/X/0, 240 seconds rest 

Here are the training videos: exercise A1, exercise B1, exercise C1, exercise D1, exercise E1.

DC Upper Body Workout #2

  • A1: 30 degree Incline bench press (medium grip), 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Standing military press (shoulder-width grip), 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Dead stop skull crushers, 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Bilateral hammer strength pull down (supinated grip), 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • E1: T-bar row, 2 x (7-10, 10-13), 2/0/X/0, 180 seconds rest

DC Lower Body Workout #2

  • A1: Unilateral preacher DB curl (supinating grip), 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Standing ez-bar curl (wide / pronated grip), 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Hack squat calf raise, 1 x 7-10, 4/8/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Glute ham raise, 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • E1: Leg press, 2 x (6-8, 20), 2/0/X/0, rest as needed

DC Upper Body Workout #3

  • A1: 45 degree incline DB press, 1 x 10-13**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • B1: Hammer strength overhead press, 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • C1: Flat bench press (shoulder-width grip), 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Wide neutral grip pull down, 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • E1: Conventional deadlift, 2 x (5-7, 8-10), 2/1/X/0, 240 seconds rest

DC Lower Body Workout #3

  • A1: Incline cable curl, 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/X/1, rest as needed
  • B1: Unilateral cable reverse curl, 1 x 7-10**, 2/0/X/1, rest as needed
  • C1: Standing calf raise, 1 x 7-10, 4/8/X/0, rest as needed
  • D1: Hack squat, 2 x (4-8, 20), 2/0/X/0, rest as needed
  • E1: 90 degree back extension (barbell on back), 1 x 7-10, 2/0/X/2, rest as needed

Please note that these are all sample exercises. In an ideal world each of these exercises (as well as the rest of the program) would be customized so that you can maximize your results.

If you want help designing your own personalized DC-training program you can always hire me directly. I have a wealth of experience with this type of programming.

DC training is undoubtedly one of the most effective training programs ever created. It takes full advantage of rest-pause sets to build muscular hypertrophy and strength at an unbelievably fast rate.

If you are a bodybuilder with at least 3 years of hardcore training experience and you don’t mind trying something off the beaten path then I highly recommend you give DC training a shot!

Part 5: Charles Poliquin’s 5 To 8 Rest-Pause Method

Charles Poliquin was an absolute genius in the world of strength training. One of his competitive advantages over other strength coaches was his ability to take existing training methods and tweak them to meet the needs of his athletes.

DC-style rest-pause sets are fantastic for bodybuilders looking to build as much muscle as possible. However, most of Charles’ athletes were more interested in improving their maximal strength and functional hypertrophy.

Charles often used a modified version of Dante’s rest-pause training style with his athletes. Charles called his training method the “5 to 8” method.

I’ve talked about the 5 to 8 method before in the following articles:

The idea is simple: you perform 5 reps with your 5-rep max without going all the way to failure. You then rest 15 seconds before performing one more single repetition. It will be an absolute grinder but you will make it. You then continue this process until you have completed 8 total repetitions.

For example:

  • Perform 5 reps with a weight near your 5-rep max, rest 15 seconds
  • Perform 1 rep, rest 15 seconds
  • Perform 1 rep, rest 15 seconds 
  • Perform 1 rep, rest 15 seconds

This method is very similar to Dante’s version of rest-pause training.

You first perform a set of five reps just shy of failure to recruit the higher-threshold motor units. Then you rest just long enough to bang out some additional singles with the same load.

These singles prolong the time under tension of the set and further exhaust the high-threshold motor units.

Because you are not training all the way to failure you can often perform as many as 3-5 of these 5 to 8 sets per exercise. This is especially true if you are supersetting antagonistic body parts as Charles recommends.

The end-result is an unbelievably effective training stimulus for absolute strength and functional hypertrophy. In fact, Charles considered the 5 to 8 method his second-favourite functional hypertrophy method of all time.

Let’s take a look at a sample 5 to 8 routine that you can use today to start making some of the best strength and functional hypertrophy gains of your life.

For this routine I recommend you use the following Poliquin-style split:

  • Day 1: Arms
  • Day 2: Legs
  • Day 3: Off
  • Day 4: Chest / Back / Shoulders
  • Day 5: Off
  • Day 6: Repeat!

This training split perfectly accommodates the antagonistic supersetting system that Charles endorsed. It also lets you train body parts once every 5 days. This is an extremely effective training frequency for many, many trainees.

Here are the routines:

5 To 8 Method Arm Workout

  • A1: 10 degree decline bench press (shoulder-width grip), 3-5 x 5/1/1/1**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: 30 degree incline DB curl (supinated grip), 3-5 x 5/1/1/1**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest 
  • B1: Decline DB extension, 3 x 6-8, 3/1/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: Seated zottman curl, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed as a Poliquin-style “5 to 8” rest-pause set as described above. Perform 5 reps, rest 15 seconds, perform 1 rep, rest 15 seconds, perform 1 rep, rest 15 seconds, perform 1 rep, done!

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

5 To 8 Method Lower Body Workout

  • A1: Safety squat bar squat (feet wide / heels flat), 3-5 x 5/1/1/1**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Seated bilateral leg curl (poliquin method**** / feet pointing straight), 3-5 x 5/1/1/1**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Peterson leg press, 3 x 8-10, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: 45 degree back extension (eccentric emphasis with dumbbells******), 3 x 8-10, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed as a Poliquin-style “5 to 8” rest-pause set as described above. Perform 5 reps, rest 15 seconds, perform 1 rep, rest 15 seconds, perform 1 rep, rest 15 seconds, perform 1 rep, done!

****Dorsiflex your ankle (point your shins towards your heels) on the concentric range and plantarflex your ankles (point your shins away from your heels) on the eccentric range. See the video below for more information.

******To perform eccentric 45 degree back extensions you hold a pair of dumbbells at your chest during the concentric range and extend your arms straight out during the eccentric range. See the video below for more details.

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

5 To 8 Method Chest / Back / Shoulders Workout

  • A1: 60 degree incline bench press (shoulder-width grip), 3-5 x 5/1/1/1**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Wide pronated grip pull up, 3-5 x 5/1/1/1**, 4/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: 15 degree incline DB press, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest
  • B2: T-bar row, 3 x 6-8, 3/0/1/0, 60 seconds rest

**Performed as a Poliquin-style “5 to 8” rest-pause set as described above. Perform 5 reps, rest 15 seconds, perform 1 rep, rest 15 seconds, perform 1 rep, rest 15 seconds, perform 1 rep, done!

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

I should warn you that the 5 to 8 method is extremely taxing on the central nervous system. The feeling you get while doing this system is a lot like the feeling you get when you are performing a cluster sets or isometronics routine.

I recommend you really focus on your recovery program while running this routine. That may include getting extra sleep and managing your stress outside of the gym.

Stan Efferding has some not-so-flattering things to say about people who bust their ass in the gym but only get 5 hours of sleep a night. Don’t let this be you – especially not while running the 5 to 8 method!

Part 6: Mike Mentzer’s original rest-pause method

And now for something completely different! Dante Trudel originally borrowed the name for “rest-pause” sets from Mike Mentzer, the former Mr. Universe and finalist of the 1980 Mr. Olympia competition.

Mike used many different high-intensity training techniques to prepare for the 1980 Mr. Olympia competition. However, the technique that he felt helped him the most was his own version of rest-pause training.

Mike Mentzer’s rest-pause sets can be thought of as maximal effort drop sets that I talked about in this article.

The idea is to perform 1 rep with a weight that is very close to your 1-rep max. Then you drop the weight and continue performing singles. For example:

  • Perform 1 rep with 95%+ of your 1-rep max, reduce the load by 2-5%, rest 10 seconds
  • Perform 1 rep, reduce the load by 2-5%, rest 10 seconds
  • Perform 1 rep, reduce the load by 2-5%, rest 10 seconds
  • Perform 1 rep, done!

Mike Mentzer experimented with performing as many as 6 singles per drop set but eventually concluded that performing 4 total singles per set gave him his best results.

The Mentzer-style rest-pause set is extremely effective for increasing both relative and absolute strength.

For the purposes of this routine I recommend you use a 3 days per week upper body / lower body split.

For example:

Week 1:

  • Monday: Upper Body
  • Wednesday: Lower Body
  • Friday: Upper Body

Week 2: 

  • Monday: Lower Body
  • Wednesday: Upper Body
  • Friday: Lower Body

Here are the workouts:

Upper Body Mike Mentzer Rest-Pause Workout

  • A1: Shoulder-width bench press, 4 x 1/1/1/1**, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Close supinated grip chin ups, 4 x 1/1/1/1**, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Seated DB overhead press, 3-4 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: Barbell dead stop row, 3-4 x 6-8, 2/1/X/0, 90 seconds rest

**Performed as a Mike Mentzer style rest-pause set or a maximal singles drop set as described above.

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

Lower Body Mike Mentzer Rest-Pause Workout

  • A1: Front squat (medium stance / heels flat), 4 x 1/1/1/1**, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • A2: Lying unilateral leg curl (feet plantarflexed / pointing out), 4 x 1/1/1/1**, 2/0/X/0, 120 seconds rest
  • B1: Alternating reverse DB lunge, 3-4 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B2: 90 degree back extension (barbell on back), 3-4 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 90 second rest

**Performed as a Mike Mentzer style rest-pause set or a maximal singles drop set as described above.

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

One of the benefits of Mike Mentzer’s rest-pause style sets is that they are incredibly time efficient. You can easily complete this type of workout in 60 minutes.

However, consider the amount of work that you are performing in this time frame: you are performing 16 maximal singles on 2 different exercises. This does not even include the accessory work performed!

If you are able to recover from these workouts you will be rewarded with some screaming fast strength gains. This workout is great for not only testing strength, but building it as well.

Conclusion

rest pause

Rest pause sets have stood the test of time as one of the most effective high-intensity training techniques of all time for building muscle mass and strength.

We should all be grateful for coaches such as Mike Mentzer, Dante Trudel and Charles Poliquin for popularizing these superior rest pause training protocols.

You may want to perform rest pause sets year round with something like DC-training or use rest pause sets for 2-4 weeks at a time periodically throughout the year.

Whichever approach you take I am confident that rest pause sets will help you reach your goals in record time!

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 on your strength training journey!

References:

  1. Marshall, P., et al. Acute Neuromuscular and Fatigue Responses to the Rest-Pause Method. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2012. 15. 153-158.
  2. Prestes J, A Tibana R, de Araujo Sousa E, et al. Strength and Muscular Adaptations After 6 Weeks of Rest-Pause vs. Traditional Multiple-Sets Resistance Training in Trained Subjects. J Strength Cond Res. 2019;33 Suppl 1:S113-S121. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001923

 

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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