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What are the benefits of rest pause set?

Rest pause sets are a weight training technique that involves taking short breaks during a set to prolong the set and increase time under tension. This training method allows you to continue exercising while fatigued, resulting in greater muscle damage and growth. Rest pause sets help break through strength plateaus, boost muscular endurance, and provide a killer muscle pump.

What are rest pause sets?

A rest pause set is a set where you perform an exercise until momentary muscular failure, take a short break of 10-30 seconds, and then continue the set until reaching failure again. You repeat this rest-work cycle multiple times within the same set before completely resting.

For example, you might perform barbell curls to failure, rest for 15 seconds, do a few more reps to failure, rest 15 seconds again, and repeat this 2-3 more times. This allows you to accumulate far more repetitions than you could with a normal straight set to failure.

Rest pause sets aim to extend the time under tension while keeping the weight high. The short break provides just enough recovery to eke out a few more reps with the same weight, creating greater mechanical tension and metabolic stress.

Benefits of rest pause sets

Here are some of the major benefits of incorporating rest pause sets into your workout routine:

Increases time under tension

Rest pause sets substantially increase the amount of time your muscles spend under tension during each set. One study found that rest pause sets increased time under load by 46% compared to traditional sets without rest periods.

More time under tension triggers greater muscle damage and metabolic stress, which are key stimuli for muscle growth and strength gains.

Allows training with higher loads

With traditional straight sets, you have to lower the weight when you start approaching failure. But with rest pause sets, you can keep using the same heavy weight by taking short breaks. This exposes your muscles to greater mechanical tension, which is a major driver of muscle and strength adaptations.

Boosts muscle endurance

The short pauses allow you to accumulate far more reps with a given weight compared to a regular set. This builds muscular endurance – your ability to repeatedly perform contractions against resistance before fatigue.

In one study, rest pause sets increased reps completed before failure by over 30% compared to traditional sets.

Helps break through plateaus

Rest pause sets provide a novel training stimulus that can shock your muscles out of a strength plateau. Periodically cycling in rest pause sets when you get stuck at a weight can help re-ignite progress.

Research shows that rest pause sets enable greater strength and muscle gains compared to traditional straight sets when training to failure.

Provides excellent muscle pump

The prolonged time under tension generates a huge buildup of metabolites like lactate in your muscles. This creates an intense, satisfying muscle pump that makes your muscles feel larger after the workout.

Allows for greater volume

You can perform far more total reps in a workout by using rest pause sets versus straight sets. The short pauses provide just enough recovery to keep repping out more repetitions with the same load.

Higher training volumes are linked with increased muscular and strength adaptations over time.

How to implement rest pause sets

Here are some guidelines for incorporating rest pause sets into your workouts:

  • Use them for single-joint exercises like bicep curls, triceps extensions, leg extensions, etc. Multi-joint exercises like squats are too complex.
  • Train to complete failure on the initial set before taking your first pause.
  • Keep the pauses between 10-30 seconds. You want just enough recovery to squeeze out a few more reps.
  • Aim to perform 2-5 pauses in a set. Play it by feel based on your recovery.
  • Reduce the weight by about 10-20% compared to a traditional set.
  • Limit rest pause sets to 1-2 per major muscle group since they’re very demanding.

Sample rest pause set

Here’s an example of how to structure a rest pause set for bicep curls:

  • Select a weight you could normally lift for 8-10 reps to failure
  • Curl until failure, say at rep 10
  • Rest for 15-20 seconds
  • Curl for 2-3 more reps to failure
  • Rest another 15 seconds
  • Curl for 2-3 more reps to failure
  • Repeat for 2-5 pauses total

This allows you to accumulate far more reps, prolong time under tension, and expose your biceps to greater mechanical overload.

Evidence for rest pause sets

Here’s a look at some of the research on the effectiveness of rest pause sets:

Muscle activation

One study measured muscle activation during rest pause sets vs. traditional sets in the biceps curl exercise. They found that rest pause sets increased biceps activation by 18% compared to traditional sets when lifting at 80% 1RM loads.

Greater muscle activation indicates more motor unit recruitment, leading to greater mechanical tension in the muscle.

Muscle thickness

A 6-week training study had participants perform either rest pause sets or traditional sets for the elbow flexors exercise. The group doing rest pause sets increased biceps thickness by 9.8% while the traditional set group only increased by 5.6%.

Greater muscle thickness growth shows enhanced muscular adaptations from the rest pause protocol.

Strength gains

Researchers had trained men complete either rest pause sets or traditional sets for upper body exercises over 8 weeks. The rest pause group increased 1RM bench press by 9.7% while the traditional set group only improved by 2.1%.

This highlights the ability of rest pause sets to produce superior strength gains compared to straight sets when training to failure.

Volume completed

A study had men perform single sets of bicep curls to failure with either rest pause sets or traditional sets. The rest pause set group completed 31% more total repetitions before failure.

Being able to complete more volume per set allows for greater mechanical tension and muscle damage.

Is there anyone who should not do rest pause sets?

Here are a few cases where rest pause sets may not be appropriate:

  • Beginners – Rest pause sets are extremely demanding. Beginners are better off building a strength base with simpler, straight sets.
  • Injuries – The constant fatigued training can aggravate injured muscles and joints. Modifying volume/intensity may be necessary.
  • Strength focused – Rest pause sets are excellent for hypertrophy but not optimal for pure strength gains. Straight sets are better for strength.
  • Fat loss – The lower volume of straight sets may be preferable when cutting calories and trying to retain muscle.

Additionally, some lifters may simply not respond well to the metabolic stress of rest pause sets. It comes down to understanding your body and goals.

Sample rest pause workout

Here is a sample workout showing how you can implement rest pause sets into your routine:

Workout A

Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Bench Press 4 sets 6, 8, 3 rest pause
Incline Dumbbell Press 3 sets 10, 10, 8 rest pause
Dip 2 sets Failure, 8 rest pause
Overhead Triceps Extension 3 sets 12, 12, 10 rest pause
Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 sets 12, 12, 10 rest pause

Workout B

Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Back Squat 4 sets 6, 8, 5 rest pause
Leg Press 3 sets 10, 10, 8 rest pause
Bulgarian Split Squat 2 sets Failure, 6 rest pause
Lying Leg Curl 3 sets 12, 12, 10 rest pause
Calf Raise 3 sets 15, 15, 12 rest pause

This provides a balanced workout hitting all the major muscle groups with a mix of straight sets and intense rest pause sets. Make sure to periodize these into your program and not overdo the rest pause sets.


Rest pause sets provide a highly effective technique to increase volume, boost time under tension, accumulate more reps, build muscle endurance, and break through strength plateaus. The short pauses allow you to keep lifting a heavy weight even when fatigued.

Studies show rest pause sets enhance muscle activation, muscle growth, and strength compared to straight sets when training to failure. Make sure to incorporate them intelligently into your program and not overdo the metabolic stress.

While demanding, rest pause sets provide an excellent periodic change of pace to spark new muscle and strength gains. Give this intense training method a try and shock your body into newfound progress!