Of all the intensity techniques out there, I have two favorites: drop sets and rest pause. Drops are a lot of fun and can take a normal set and turn it into a brutal one but they have one major drawback: for many exercises you need two spotters to pull plates off. Now, if you have two training partners, that's great but what if, like me, you train alone? It ain't gonna happen, that's what! Enter rest pause. This technique has quite a history and a number of variations. In this article we will look at that and I'll give you a routine using some of the variations presented.
Most people would trace this technique back to Mike Mentzer and his original Heavy Duty program. While the origins of this technique are unknown, it's safe to say it's been around long before Heavy Duty. Arnold used a variation of it in the 70's and Joe Weider named one of his "principles" after it. If you consider that he began naming and organizing his "Weider Principles" pretty early on in his career, it's safe to say this technique has been around for about 60 years. As a point of reference, the Weider principles were observations Joe Weider made of the various techniques and ideas the bodybuilders of the 50's and 60's used, adding to them as he saw something new and worthwhile. He named each one and organized it into the "Weider System". Back when I started, that's all you saw in his magazines and you were given the impression he invented each one of them. In fact, he didn't really invent them and it's not a system in the pure sense but it is a valid organization of ideas.
Day # 1
Deadlifts – 3 warm up sets using 15, 12, 10 reps, on these sets perform a shrug at the top of the movement.
1 working set: using the Mentzer/strength version of rest pause: take your 1rm, do one set, rack the bar and count to 8, unrack and perform one more rep, again racking the bar for a 8 count, following this procedure until you hit 6-8 reps.
Bent rows – 2 working sets of 8 reps, using the same weight for each set.
Lat pulldowns – this will be the Arnold version of rest pause. You will be doing 2 sets with a weight you can normally hit 6 reps with. When you fail, rack the bar for a 8 count, un-rack and do as many reps as you can, re-rack for a 8 count, un-rack and again knock out a few more reps. Do this one more time and this counts as one set.
EZ curls – this is, to me, the bread and butter biceps builder. Having said that, I have been doing EZ curls lately off the low pulley of my lat machine and, as long as you can use decent poundage, finding I prefer them over the bar because they keep a constant tension all the way up. Now, before you think I’ve gone all Arthur Jones, let me say that this is, in my mind, the only free weight exercise where you have an obvious drop off in the tension to the point that a similar machine exercise may be a better choice. That doesn't mean I've stopped using the bar, you just have to make a performance adjustment to get the most from EZ bar curls: you stop about ¾ of the way up.
You will be doing 3 sets, on the third set use a weight you can get 3 reps for and you will rest pause your way to 8-10 reps. This is the Arnold version and you may need 4 rest pauses to hit that rep level.
Wrist curls – 2 sets of 10 reps
Reverse curls – 2 sets of 10 reps
Crunch – 2 sets of 25 reps
Oblique crunch – 2 sets of 25 reps
Day # 2
Chest, delts, tris
Bench press – same warm up/working set scheme as with deads except use your 3rm and go for 8 reps
Flyes – 3 sets of 8 reps, hold at the stretched position for a 2 count.
Incline Press – 2 sets of 6-8 reps
Overhead press – 3 sets of 6-8 reps, when you fail at that range use the Arnold version of rest pause for as many more reps as you can get.
Close grip bench press – 3 sets of 8 reps
Variation: if you are using the 4 day, I would add in 3 sets of press downs using the Arnold version of rest pause on the last set, and on delt day I would add in 3 sets each of side laterals and rear laterals as well as shrugs for 3 sets.
Day # 3
This is going to be fun!
Squats – same warm up scheme as deads. Working sets – we're doing Variation # 2: 6 sets of 10 reps with 10% more weight than your usual 10rm but we are doing my version – we're decreasing our rest between sets by 10 seconds every set. So we start with 60 seconds rest after our first set and decrease it by 10 seconds after each remaining set. If need be, use the Arnold version of rest pause to hit your 10 reps.
Calf Raises (standing) – 3 sets of 35 reps.
Crunch – 3 sets of 30 reps
Leg raises – 3 sets of 12 reps
You'll notice I only have squats as the leg exercise. If you do deep, full squats you will work the whole leg - I don't see a need for leg curls. If you work these hard enough you shouldn't be able to do anything else. On squats, I've always used a standard foot width/stance. However, other foot widths have advantages – try a power-lifting stance, feet wider than usual and pointed a little to the side, like a sumo wrestler. So, it makes sense to change up your stance as you do your sets for better results.
So we see we can combine some of these different versions within one routine and even one exercise as well as combine rest pause with some other techniques but another great way to do it is to simply pick one of the versions you like and apply it to the major exercises in your workout. For example, you can take the same routine and simply use the Mentzer/strength training version of rest pause on deads, benches and squats and then on every other exercise perform more normal sets, using the set/rep schemes suggested. This, to me, is great for promoting good strength increases in the Big 3 and in effect you are supporting those movements with assistance exercises. Personally, I use it similar to the Arnold version at the end of most of my exercises but I also like to combine it with other techniques, such as burns and static holds. As you can see, the rest pause technique offers a lot of options, try it for yourself, you'll be happy with the results!
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By: Jim Brewster
Visit my website: jbfitnesssolutions.moonfruit.com