We have all seen lifters who have been working out for decades and struggle to find new, innovative ways to break through plateaus and drive new muscle growth. Even younger bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts have found themselves growing bored of coming in and performing the same lifts for the same amount of repetitions week in and week out. For many athletes, the four sets of ten reps mantra just isn’t cutting it anymore! So, a variety of strategies have emerged to help promote training intensity; two such strategies include rest-pause training and drop sets.
A Quick Refresher
Rest-pause style training refers to taking a short rest upon reaching failure on an exercise before continuing the exercise until failure again. The short rest is designed to allow the trainee to crank out a few more reps that would not have otherwise gone up (or down). Drop sets involve reaching failure on an exercise before reducing the amount of resistance and continuing the set until failure with the lighter weight. This strategy is a great test of muscular endurance and has been a popular technique used in order to induce maximum hypertrophy.
Rest-pause training and drop sets are fantastic ways to increase the intensity of your workouts. But I personally enjoy training heavy with high intensity, inducing muscular hypertrophy, AND increasing my muscular endurance. We need a way to combine these two intensity techniques in a way that is designed to deliver maximum results.
It is important to start an RPD set with weight that will allow you to complete 6-8 reps of a given exercise. Using less weight will not allow you to reap the maximum benefits of RPD style training and using more weight may increase risk of injury. After reaching failure with the initial weight, rerack your weights, take a ten-count rest, and accomplish as many more repetitions as possible. This could be one more rep or it could be three, but do as many as you can before once again reaching failure. This is the rest-pause aspect of the set. Now, after reaching failure for the second time, decrease the amount of weight by 20%-30%. Now complete the same cycle of reaching failure, taking a ten-count rest, and repping out to failure again. Don’t head over to the water fountain yet; we still have one more! Drop the weight by the same amount of poundage you did in your first drop (so if you dropped the weight by 40 pounds for your second rest-pause segment, decrease the weight another 40 pounds), and complete the rest-pause cycle one more time, repping the weight until you reach failure for a sixth time. Ok, now you can go get some water.
A quick example of an RPD set on the flat bench press:
- 200 pounds for 6 reps, ten second rest-pause, three reps
- 150 pounds for 6 reps, ten second rest-pause, three reps
- 100 pounds for 8 reps, ten second rest-pause, five reps
Give this overlooked intensity technique a try and figure out if RPD training is for you!