Every once in a while, you're reminded (or at least I am) of a technique that no one seems to use, despite the fact that it works better than any of the alternatives.

Rest-pausing is one such technique.

But first, a question: Why would you perform a set of repetitions continuously, when in most cases, you have the option to pause between reps?

Anyone? Anyone?

OK, here's the answer: because it hurts more.

Really. Most of us base our training decisions on whether or not the decision in question has the potential to cause more pain. If it does, we'll usually take that option.

Which is pretty dumb. Because the training effect is a direct result of the training you do, not how much pain that training causes.

Rest-pausing, on the other hand, is a perfect example of a smarttraining strategy: it doesn't hurt as much, but it permits higher force expression, which in turn recruits more muscle fibers — particularly the fast ones that grow like weeds.

I'd go so far as to say that you should use the rest-pause approach whenever and wherever possible — it's that good. After all, if briefly pausing after a rep allows you to contract with more force on the next rep, what's the downside?


You can use this technique with most of the exercises you currently use: Squats, deadlifts, Olympic lifts, chins, curls, the list is almost endless. I'm not big on machines, but one upside of almost all of them is they allow you to rest-pause.

Some exercises don't work quite as well, but usually they can be modified. For example, bench presses. Typically, you can "rest" during the lockout, but depending on your limb length and triceps strength, it may or may not be a viable option. However, if you set yourself up in a cage with safety rails at slightly above chest level, you'll be able to pause between reps in the bottom position.

Okay, this is a little more rest than Charles was talking about, but you get the idea.

Another example is the lying triceps extension. On this drill, you won't get much rest at the lockout position, but you can simply lower them briefly to your chest, then press them to arms length to resume the set.

Honestly, I'm hard-pressed to come up with additional examples of exercises that don't permit the rest-pause technique. Which begs the question: "Why aren't you using it?"

Be Smart!

Smart trainees focus on performance, not pain. Don't select exercises or techniques based on how much they hurt! While it's true that effective training techniques often hurt, sometimes they don't, as this example points out. Whenever a technique potentiates performance, it also maximizes the gain you'll experience from that performance.