The rest-pause method is one of my favorite techniques to add some size with extremely high volume and to greatly increase strength. I generally prefer to start a strength program with higher reps in the beginning, then take down the volume as it gets heavier. Rest-pause sets work perfectly for this. I have used this in my own training many times. Not to sound like the typical muscle magazine, but this is a great plateau buster if you are in a rut. In case you haven’t, check out Josh Bryant’s breakdown of how he uses the rest-pause method for both size and strength.

How to perform a rest-pause set is very simple, but you have to stay honest with your rest period and be ready to give 100%. First begin with 75% of your one-rep max, or a weight that allows you to get a max of 10 reps. You will perform each set for max reps, but do not fail on a rep unless it’s your last set. There will be three “mini” sets with only a 20-second rest period. For example, when working with Josh I wanted to bring up my incline bench press, so we started this protocol with 300 pounds and it went as follows:

  • Set 1: 300 x 10 reps, 20 seconds rest
  • Set 2: 300 x 4 reps, 20 seconds rest
  • Set 3: 300 x 1 rep

Now here’s the fun part: rest as needed, drop the weight 20%, and repeat for another rest-pause set. My next set was 250 for 12 reps, four reps, and three reps, and I can say after two rest-pause sets, I was absolutely spent on this exercise. If you are really pressed for time, your entire workout can consist of rest-pause sets. Here is an example of an upper body day using this approach:

  1. Incline Bench — Two Rest-Pause Sets
  2. Seated Dumbbell Press — Two Rest-Pause Sets\
  3. Incline Cable Fly — Two Rest-Pause Sets
  4. Dips — Two Rest-Pause Sets

Continuing with how to use rest-pause sets for strength, you will make small jumps each week that will eventually change from a hypertrophy rep range to a strength one. For me, it took 10 weeks to go from a 10-rep max to then setting multiple PRs in the last few weeks.

  • Week 1: 300 x 10/4/1, 250 x 12/4/3
  • Week 2: 315 x 8/3/1, 255 x 10/4/2
  • Week 3: 325 x 7/2/1, 260 x 10/4/2
  • Week 4: Deload
  • Week 5: 350 x 4/1/1, 300 x 6/3/2
  • Week 6: 360 x 5/1/1, 300 x 10/3/2
  • Week 7: 370 x 4 (PR)/1/1, 310 x 8/3/1
  • Week 8: Deload
  • Week 9: 380 x 2 (PR)/1/1, 315 x 8/4/3
  • Week 10: 405 x 1 (PR)

As you can see, through these 10 weeks I started with a great way to build muscle, and very importantly build tendon and ligament strength through the higher reps. Once the weight got heavier (lower than five reps), I was more than prepared to handle it as well as get multiple rep and one-rep max PRs. Give this method a shot with a lift you have been struggling at. As I have stated in previous articles, you cannot grind out heavy doubles and singles each week and expect the weight to continue to go up. You need to step back sometimes and add some muscle to your frame to support the heavier weights.

Off-Season Bodybuilding Program for Powerlifters and Strongman Competitors, Weeks 5-8