T Nation

When Does Rest Pause End and a New Set Begin



Can you possibly throw some light a a bit of a conundrum for me please.

When performing a rest pause set traditionally it would go something like:

x reps to failure: Rest 10-15 seconds: x reps to failure: Rest 10-15 seconds: x reps to failure.

Three individual sets to failure would go something like:

x reps to failure: Rest 60-120 seconds: x reps to failure: Rest 60-120 seconds: x reps to failure.

My questions are:

At what rest interval does the performance cease to be classed as one set performed in a rest pause fashion and transition to being classed as three individual sets to failure?

Ignoring the slightly reduced workout time, Is there any real benefit (physiological, biological) in performing one rest pause set as opposed to three individual sets with the same weight to failure?



I would say one thing to do differently on R/P with a straight weight is that the first set isn’t done to complete failure. If you follow the Best Damn… description, you would do a heavy set of 6 (so you could probably have gotten 8 or so if you had to max out on the first set), rest ~15s, get 3-4 more, rest ~15s get 1-2 more. If you repped out to failure on the first set, I don’t think that would set up an effective rest pause template. You’d be too gassed to push weight again after only a 15s rest.



Thanks for your response.

I would disagree with your interpretation as to the level of effort in the first part a rest pause set. Generally it is taken to failure with no reps left in the bank (Doggcrapp, Mentzer etc etc). Indeed the article to which you refer reads:

Then you’ll do one all-out work set. This will use a special technique/method (explained below) and need to be taken to technical failure (but don’t go to the point where you need to cheat to get the weight up). These special techniques will only be used on the third and last set of each exercise:

1 – Heavy Double Rest/Pause

Pick a weight you can do around 4-6 reps with.
Do your 4-6 hard reps, rest 10-15 seconds, do another 2-3 reps, rest 10-15 seconds, and then try to get an additional 1-2 reps.
Always use the same weight. You only do one set of this special technique/method.

However lets not get caught up in the technique used here (although Christian may be able to put this one to bed by enlarging on the instruction in relation to his version of rest pause in relation to that particular routine).

What I;m asking though is at what point (in relation to rest times) does a double rest pause set become three separate sets and the advantages/disadvantages (if any) of one method over the other.



I think this is a good question. Here is an example using rest pause on dumbbell bench: 110x6 (failure) rest 15 seconds, 110x3 (failure) rest 15 seconds, 110x2 (failure). Total reps with 110=11

Compared to: 110x6 (failure) rest 90 seconds. 110x5 (failure) rest 90 seconds. 110x4 (failure). Total reps with 110=15. If my math is correct that is a 36% increase in work load.

So I see your question. Is the decreased rest time with fewer reps, more beneficial than a longer rest period but increase in work load. This might be where the cortisol issue gets factored in. Looking forward to a response from CT.


Hi Gazz,
I guess you’re right on that. I was leaving 1 or 2 in the bank on the first set of my R/P. I tried an all out set with 225 on bench, where I could max it at 6 reps, but doing the other two R/P sets was just too much on me. I did it next week with 205, where it felt better to get the R/P done, but now I’m curious if that was the wrong approach.

Your question also makes me wonder where the line is between reverse pyramid and drop sets. Again, in one you go from one weight to the next very quickly (drop sets) and in reverse pyramid you rest between them.


I agree with you. A bodybuilding rest/pause is take to failure both during the initial “set” and the added reps. When you do rest/pause for strength you don’t go to failure.


I would say 20-25 seconds… past 30 sec I would count it as two sets. But in the grand scheme of things does it really matter how you call something?


You are stimulating about the same amount of fiber growth with less energy expenditure and thus cortisol release will be lower.


When you say less energy expended, is the amount of energy “saved” relevant in the scheme of things for the average trainer. If I rest pause at 15 seconds an eight rep max set would look something like 8, 2-3, 1-2 reps. If I perform 3 sets (same weight to failure) with 60 second intervals, reps would go 8, 4-5, 2-3. So I’d be performing about 2-4 extra reps over 3 sets. Would that really impact on energy systems/cortisol release to an appreciable amount for thr average trainer?

The whole terminology of rest pause intrigues me as to why it’s referred to as one rest pause set and not just 3 sets with reduced rest intervals. I know that in the past you have used Girondas methods of 6X6, 8X8 etc with very short 15 second rest periods. This is still referred to as 6 or 8 sets, not rest pause, albeit I realise that the object in this case is not to hit failure, but to increase training density.

I agree that ultimately it does not matter how something is referred to, but just wondering whether there was some definitive difference in physiological response at a given rest time.

Thanks for taking the time to respond.



Thanks for your response. I can actually see a difference between drop sets and reverse pyramid in that drop sets should (in an ideal world) be performed with NO rest whatsoever between weight reduction. So there is no blurring of lines as to when one “technique” ends and another begins. The restpause/straight sets position is I believe slightly more muddled.



After reading this thread, I did my workout yesterday with a true rest pause as prescribed by the Best Damn. As an example, I did weighted pull ups as part of the "Best Damn…"
Here’s how I did it:
“Feeler sets” 2x6 with +35 lbs
Rest pause set: 1x6 with +70 lbs (to failure), rested 15 sec did another 2 reps (to failure), rested 15 sec and did another 1 rep (to failure).

Previous week, I was using +45 pounds for all sets (I can get 9-10 pull ups with this weight). Did 2x6 sets with that weight, than a rest pause with:
1x6 (not to failure), rested 15s and did 4 more (to failure), rested 14 sec and did 3 more (to failure).

So, with a lighter weight I was able to get 7 more reps out of the double rest pause, but did not go to failure on the first 6 reps. This week, I went heavier and to failure on 6 reps, but I could only get an additional 4 reps out of the double R/P’s.

Is there any advantage to switching these strategies up? Or just stick to the heavier option, where the first set is 4-6 to failure?

Thanks for the thread, gazz.


When you hit failure with a weight that allows you to do more than 4-5 reps, failure is often an indication of fiber failure. Now if you can reach failure 3x while doing 9 reps you burn less energy/glycogen then if it requires 13-14 reps to reach failure twice.

So from an hormonal standpoint (cortisol release) being able to achieve muscle failure with less total reps is superior … less glycogen used = less cortisol produced.

That having been said, occasional change of pace can be beneficial… sometimes you can get a better mind muscle connection with lighter weights which can be beneficial.