From Charles Poliquin
Gain strength and lose fat with rest-pause training. Using an inter-repetition rest period is an advanced technique for getting more work done, and it will allow you to experience big body composition gains, while maximizing strength and power development.
Rest-pause works like this: You perform an exercise to technical failure and then rest for a short period, allowing yourself to recover somewhat before performing the exercise to failure again. The benefits include the following:
• Greater motor unit recruitment so you gain strength.
• The ability to get more work done in a shorter period—good when you’re pressed for training time.
• A significant metabolic and hormonal response for muscle building and fat loss.
Two recent studies demonstrate how rest-pause works and show it is appropriate to train with squats and Olympic lifts if you are a technically strong lifter. Inexperienced trainees who don’t have good training technique shouldn’t do this style of training because it can put them at risk of injury.
In a study from Australia, trained men did three squat protocols and had electromyographic (EMG) muscle activity tested: Protocol A was 5 sets of 4 reps with 3 minute rest (no rest pause), Protocol B was 5 sets of 4 reps with 20 seconds rest (no rest pause), or Protocol C was the rest-pause method in which reps were performed to failure followed by 20 seconds rest for a total of 20 reps.
With 3 minutes rest, Protocol A took much longer than the other two at 720 seconds rest. Protocol B took 80 seconds of rest, whereas Protocol C took only an average of 42.9 seconds of rest and it took the majority of the participants only two sets (the first of 15 reps and the second at 5 reps) to complete the 20 reps using rest-pause. Similar reductions in rate of force development and output as the workout progressed were seen at the end of all trials.
Most interesting, the rest-pause trial resulted in significantly greater muscle activity of the quadriceps compared to the other two protocols. Vastus medialis activity increased by 8.4 percent, biceps femoris activity increased by 46.1 percent, and erector spinae activity increased by 41.1 percent during the rest-pause trial.
This is evidence that the rest-pause method allowed for the greatest increase in motor unit recruitment despite no difference in the observed level of muscular fatigue. The fact that rest-pause has trainees perform repetitions to failure is extremely effective for gaining strength and building muscle since it means there is increased voluntary drive to the musculature.
This type of training is ideal for eliciting nervous system adaptations, while potentially increasing metabolic demand. If you program your workouts properly, you can gain strength and lose fat at the same at time. Good news since it’s always better to be strong and lean than weak and lean.
Another effect of the rest-pause method seen in previous studies is increased recovery of energy stores—creatine phosphate and ATP—and a greater anabolic testosterone and growth hormone response. Power can also be maximized with rest-pause: A 2012 study found that power cleans with a 20-second rest after every rep in a protocol of 3 sets of 6 reps had only a 3 percent drop in peak power from the first to the 18th rep compared to a 9 percent decrease without rest-pause.
When using rest-pause, commit to perfect training technique because getting sloppy or forcing reps up completely defeats the purpose of training. Ideally, you should do rest-pause with a training partner to keep you honest with technique and instill some competitive motivation into the workout.
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.
Hardee, J., Lawrence, M., et al. Effect of Inter-Repetition Rest on Ratings of Perceived Exertion during Multiple Set of the Power Clean. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2012. 112, 3141-3147.