Intensity Techniques | Rest Pause Method - Coach Mark Carroll

Intensity Techniques – Rest Pause Method

Dec 9, 2021
Mark Carroll

Intensity techniques are a great tool to add another element to your resistance training. Whether it be additional training volume, pushing a muscle past true failure or just a means to spice up your training, intensity techniques, when used correctly, can be a great training tool to add to your arsenal. 

Now, firstly, what do I mean by an intensity technique? 

An intensity technique is a training method/s (there are quite a few that I use) which allows you to do 1 of 3 things:

Extend a working set

Take a muscle to true failure and beyond

Add additional training volume in a time efficient manner

They are just that, tools. Definitely not something that needs to be implemented every single training program or workout. When used correctly and also timed correctly in a training phase, these can be a great method to challenge yourself in ways a typical set probably wouldn’t. 

In this blog, I want to cover 1 of the 4 most common intensity techniques I use for clients, and also HOW to use them correctly.
Honestly, I would say 9 out of 10 times I see these techniques used, they are used incorrectly, whether it be incorrect loading or the wrong intensity/percentage drop. It’s also important to consider where you place these in the workout, and also the correct exercises to use these techniques on. 

Hint: a low rep deadlift is most likely not the exercise you want to be doing partial reps or a huge drop set on! 

Intelligent training combined with these techniques is the key! Over the next month I will cover all 4 intensity techniques in detail but for this week, we will begin with the Coach Mark Carroll staple… 

The Rest Pause Method

Rest pause is definitely my favourite intensity technique as it’s so simplistic in nature, whilst also being really, really effective!

A snapshot of a rest pause method can be explained like this:

Say you are doing hip thrusts for 4 sets of 8-10 reps.

With this loading and rep range, you should be adding weight to each set, meaning that the 4th and final set should be your hardest and heaviest (the set taken closest to failure for 8-10 reps).
This is where we want to implement the rest pause method, on the final set! 

For example, the weight selection for the 4 sets would look like this: 

  • Set 1 – 90kg
  • Set 2 – 95kg
  • Set 3 – 100kg
  • Set 4 – 105kg 

The 4th and final set is where we will do a rest pause method.
You perform as many reps as you can for 105kg, ideally achieving your 8-10 reps and not having a rep left in the tank.

This is where the rest pause begins. REST for 15 seconds. I mean put the bar down after your 8-10 reps to failure and REST completely for 15 seconds. Just sit there, breathe and relax. Then, after 15 seconds you’re going to get back into the exercise with the same weight.

Your goal once more is to achieve as many reps as you can with that same weight. If the original set was taken to failure, realistically, you should be able to achieve about 60% of the same reps. Meaning, you should now only get about 6 reps. These sets should be taken to failure!

Now, that is a REST PAUSE X 1!
You have completed 1 Rest Pause, you rested the 15 seconds, then went back into more reps with that same weight. 

REST PAUSE X 2  is a more advanced method where you are not done yet after doing the above! Once more, after those 6 or so reps, you REST again. Put the bar back down on the ground and have another 15-20 seconds recovery. Then, you guessed it… back into your working set with as many reps as possible with that same weight for the third and final time.

Remember, it’s normal for reps to be lowered as you are fatigued. So realistically, you should only be able to achieve another 3-4 reps here. 

This is your second rest pause completed of that one set – hence REST PAUSE X 2! 

So that is it!

Simple. Brutal. Really effective!

We extend the working set simply by utilising mini rest periods once failure is achieved. Enough recovery to be able to achieve a few more reps. Insufficient recovery to be able to achieve as many reps as the original set. 

Why this method? 

This is a great way to take a set to failure, then past failure. It is also a time efficient manner to get more training volume done. 

Rather than wait another few minutes before doing another working set, the rest pause allows you to quickly accumulate more training volume to end that exercise. 

Other benefits? 

A key driver of hypertrophy is mechanical tension. Mechanical tension occurs when a muscle reaches a state close to fatigue. 

When you lift, notice how your rep speed stays consistent? Until you begin to fatigue. Then, despite your best efforts to move the bar quickly, bar speed slows down. This is not you purposely slowing the rep down. This is your muscles fatiguing and therefore the speed of the rep slows down. This part of the rep is where mechanical tension is greatest. 

Now if you do 10 reps, obviously, most of those will not be reps where you are slowing down. Maybe the final 1-3 reps of the set will be slower. 

With a rest pause method, by utilising the mini rest periods, we can extend the working set. It also means each of those additional reps will be done very close to failure, where the velocity of the rep is slowing down and therefore reps where mechanical tension is greatest! 

This is not something we need to do all the time by any means, but nevertheless, it’s a fantastic tool for the right time and exercise.

What exercises are best suited to the rest pause method? 

Exercises which you can safely push to failure! This is important. An exercise like a squat or deadlift are not the movements we want to take to all out failure. Technique breakdown will be too high. 

Exercises where we have high stability like a machine can be the best choice. These include leg curls, leg extensions, hack squat, machine presses, etc. These are exercises you can safely take to failure and beyond and not have the fatigue lead to system fatigue and high technique breakdown, but more so localised fatigue.

Now, I hope that covers rest pause in quite nice detail. It’s a method I use a lot. I love it… for the right exercise.

Final tip… 

Save the rest pause for your final working set. If you do 4 sets, don’t use the rest pause EVERY set – only the final working set!

Then, my second last tip: this does not need to be done every single week or program. Remember, it’s a tool. A tool is only good for the right job!

The next intensity technique blog I will bring you is DROP SETS. Don’t miss it!


Yours in hard work,

Coach Mark Carroll