3 Science-Based Training Strategies That Help You Build Muscle Faster

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How to Build Muscle in Half the Time With The Rest-Pause Technique Inside Dr. Muscle

It seems too good to be true. With the rest-pause technique, you can build muscle just as fast (or faster) with 1 set than you would with 3 normal sets, according to a study published in 2017 by researchers from Brazil (Prestes et al. 2017).

Here’s a quick overview of the results of that study, with a tutorial on how to use that technique inside Dr. Muscle:

How to Apply The Rest-Pause Technique

To do the rest-pause technique, simply double your reps, using as many 40-second rests as you need. For example:

  1. Do your set like you normally would (e.g. 7 reps on bench press)
  2. Rest 40 seconds
  3. Do as many reps as you can with good form (e.g. 4 reps)
  4. Rest 40 seconds
  5. Do as many reps as you can with good form (e.g. 3 reps)
  6. You’re done!

This count as 1 rest-pause set and Prestes et al. (2017) have found it results in similar or better results than 3 normal sets.

We plan on implementing this technique further in Dr. Muscle, but for now, this quick and dirty way does the trick.

On a personal note, I’ve been training with this technique since Sept. 2017. I’m seeing similar gains with shorter workouts and I don’t think I’ll ever go back.

How Does The Rest-Pause Technique Helps You Build Muscle Faster?

A subscriber to Dr. Muscle asked:

If I am doing 5 sets of something and waiting 3.30 mins between sets, it obvs takes a long time to get stuff done. So Rest Pause would save alot of time, but I guess I wonder if for example i’m told to do 5 sets of 10 reps and I do 10 reps, then 4, then 3 and that’s it…..so 17 reps in total in comparison to 50 potential reps, HOW that can be the same results wise? I am not questioning whether it is right by the way, it sounds GREAT!! I just wonder how? Sorry , there’s always one that asks annoying questions! đŸ™‚ Happy New Year by the way! đŸ™‚ Thanks đŸ™‚

I replied:

In your example, for 5 normal sets, here’s what you would do:

10 reps
4 reps
3 reps
3 reps

10 reps
4 reps
3 reps
3 reps

In short, you would do 2 rest-pause sets, for a total of 40 reps. Technically, those are worth 6 normal sets.

How can 40 rest-pause reps yield the same results as 50 normal reps? I’m guessing it has to do with “effective reps”. Effective reps are reps close to your last rep (failure). It’s not a concept that’s well established yet, but it’s the best explanation we (or I) have.

Think about a set of 20 reps. Your first 5 reps of that set won’t be very effective. That’s because they’re far from your last rep (failure). I hope this helps you understand the concept.

Keep up the good work!

More Evidence For The Theory Of Effective Reps (Explaining Why Rest-Pause Sets Build More Muscle)

Effective reps are reps close to your last rep (failure). I hypothesize that these reps are more efficient at building muscle than other reps (that are further away from failure).

The study we’ve reviewed above (Prestes et al. 2017) supports this hypothesis.

Another study by Fink et al. (2017) also supports this hypothesis. In that study, 1 drop set was just as (or more) effective than 3 normal sets.

I’ll update this section as more evidence is published.

Reference

Fink J, Schoenfeld BJ, Kikuchi N, Nakazato K. Effects of drop set resistance training on acute stress indicators and long-term muscle hypertrophy and strength. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2017 Apr 26.

Prestes J, Tibana RA, de Araujo Sousa E, da Cunha Nascimento D, de Oliveira Rocha P, Camarço NF, Frade de Sousa NM, Willardson JM. Strength And Muscular Adaptations Following 6 Weeks Of Rest-Pause Versus Traditional Multiple-Sets Resistance Training In Trained Subjects. J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Apr 4.

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  1. Nice! When you say “pause” in the bodybuilding world a rest-pause bench press, the weight is paused at the bottom. I infer from your instructions, you are really advocating a 40 “rest” as in rack the weight, rest for 40.. repeat the set for as many reps as possible.

    It’s funny because to me, you are still doing 3 sets.. you are just resting 40 seconds vs whatever the app recommends.

    • Hi Marc,

      Good points.

      Yes, those are 40 seconds “rests”. Perhaps my French is showing here.

      Yes, you’re doing 3 “sets”, but not the sets the app recommends, since you’re only doing 2-4 reps on the subsequent “sets”. I would rather call this 1 rest-pause set, and not 3 sets (aka “normal sets”).

      Terminology seems an issue here, and I don’t think there are established standards yet. Maybe “mini set”?

      Initial set
      Mini set 1
      Mini set 2
      Mini set 3

      All comprising one rest-pause set. Just a thought.

  2. I wonder if you wanted to double this rest pause technique, in other words do two cycles of the rest pause lift. Do you think this would add to the effectiveness of the exercise?

    • Hi Richard,

      Great question and idea. That’s actually how I train now. 2 rest-pause sets with 3 minutes in between. It looks like this:

      9 reps @ 10RM weight (I always keep 1 rep in the tank)
      30 sec
      3 reps
      30 sec
      3 reps
      30 sec
      3 reps

      3 minutes

      Repeat set 1

      Done

      In about 4 weeks, we’ll be automating rest-pause sets fully inside the app. Until then, this is a great way to do them.

      Thanks for your comment.

      -Carl