WATCH: The Universal Gainer — Styles of the Rest-Pause Method

TAGS: the universal gainer, open-ended rest-pause, Jim Williams style, rest-pause method, cluster sets, Fred Hatfield, Josh Bryant

COACH

Of the many methods Josh Bryant uses in his training programs, the rest-pause method is one of his favorites. Unlike most traditional training programs, which are based on sets and reps with an equal duration of rest between each set, the rest-pause method consists of multiple "mini-sets" within one larger rest-pause set. There are many ways to alter this technique, with each serving its own purpose. In this video, Bryant discusses why he likes the rest-pause method and gives examples of ways to implement it.

Bryant begins by talking about the difference between the rest-pause method and cluster sets. Though there is no established, universally-accepted definition of either method, Bryant refers to clusters sets as strictly-defined sets and reps that are designed and then directly adhered to, such as 10 sets of three reps with 15-second breaks between each cluster of three reps. Rest-pause training, on the other hand, is more malleable; it isn't necessarily a specific number of reps per "cluster" or "mini-set" and might instead consist of doing as many triples as you can before hitting failure, with a 15-second break between each set of triples.



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Bryant then explains several styles of rest-pause training. He first explains what he calls "Jim Williams style", in which you use 90% or more of your max and do a single repetition. You then rest anywhere between 15 seconds and 60 seconds and repeat for as many singles as you can hit (or alternatively, for a pre-determined number of singles). This style is more about neural adaptation and strength than hypertrophy. Second, Bryant explains open-ended rest-pause. An example of this technique is to start with six reps of lat pulldowns, 15 seconds of rest, and then doing as many sets as you can until you can no longer hit six reps in a set.

Bryant then lays out his typical use of the rest-pause method. For example, with the bench press, he would recommend to use 65% to 80% of your max and do as many reps as you can. Then rest for 20 seconds and repeat the same weight for as many reps as possible. Rest 20 seconds again and do the same weight one final time for as many reps as possible. This consists of three "mini-sets" at the same weight, to failure each time. What Bryan likes about this technique, he says, is that the three mini-sets within a rest-pause set act as a form of auto-regulation that enable you to push as hard as what is appropriate on a given day; you can either push hard and hit a rep PR on a good day or scale back the intensity on a day you don't feel as strong.

To explain why he calls this technique "the universal gainer," Bryant cites an experiment conducted by Fred Hatfield. He had more than 100 lifters test how many reps they could perform with 80% of their max in various lifts. The results showed a rep range of as low as three reps all the way to as many as 21 or more reps. This means that making a plan to squat 85% for five sets of five can mean something completely different to one lifter than another. On the surface, it looks good, but for some lifters, it is an impossible feat and for others, it is an easy workout. With rest-pause, however, every lifter is able to work with an element of maximal intensity.

By the minute:

  • (0:18) Rest-pause method versus cluster sets
  • (0:55) Three styles of rest-pause
  • (2:51) Bryant's preferred style
  • (4:41) Why Bryant calls rest-pause "the universal gainer"

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