Push Yourself To The Limit With Rest Pause Drop Sets
By Roger Lockridge
We as lifters and fitness enthusiasts are backwards compared to folks who don’t focus on their health. Most people try to find the easier way to accomplish something, which in most aspects of life makes perfect sense. If there is a way to complete a task in less time with less effort, then that is more efficient and leads to greater productivity.
Fitness minded folks are different. We try to find many ways to make even the simplest of exercises as challenging as possible for ourselves. That’s because we know that the harder it is to perform, the better we will become by mastering how to do it. If running a mile is simple for us, then we try to do it in less time or run further in the same amount of time. If we can bench 225 for 10 reps, we try to do 15 or slow the speed of each rep. These are only two of many examples I can use here.
Two of the methods that have been used for decades to add intensity and challenges to sets in the weight room have been drop sets and rest-pause training. For those that are new to the lifting game, drop sets are reducing the weight you’re using once you reach failure and immediately resume lifting. Rest-pause training is completing as many reps as you can with a weight, resting for five to ten seconds, and then performing more reps until you reach failure again. Whichever one is better is dependent on the lifter’s own preferences.
What if you took them both and combined them? That is exactly what I did and I feel you should try it too. It’s called Rest Pause Drop, or RPD, and this should bring new life to what you may consider an ordinary training program.
How It Works
Rest Pause Drop is almost a combination of High Intensity Training and Volume Training in one. We will use the seated shoulder press as an example.
After two lighter warm up sets that shouldn’t be performed to failure, you choose a weight that will result in failure somewhere around six to eight reps. Once you reach failure with this weight, you rest for five seconds and immediately resume lifting. You will likely reach failure again after two to four reps. You will now perform your first drop, reducing the weight by 20-25%. As soon as you reduce the weight, get back to lifting.
The pattern now repeats.
Go to failure, rest five seconds, and go to failure again. You will then perform one more drop, reducing the same amount of weight you did the first drop, and repeat the rest-pause pattern one last time. After all is said and done, you will have performed six “mini-sets” in one and will have performed around 25-30 reps in total. The only rest you should have over the course of this set is the five-second respites and the time it takes to reduce the weight, which you should be doing as quickly as possible. Here is how it might look in a training log.
Seated Shoulder Press
1 set of 12 reps with 50 pounds
1 set of 10 reps with 75 pounds
RPD Set – 8 reps with 100 pounds + 2 more reps after rest pause
Drop to 75 pounds (25% reduction in weight), 6 reps + 4 more reps after rest pause
Drop to 50 pounds (same amount dropped as it was with the first drop), 8 reps + 3 reps after rest pause
What RPD Does
Rest Pause Drop can help you with power, hypertrophy, and muscular endurance. The first portion of the RPD set challenges your Type 2A muscle fibers which are activated by heavy weight and low reps. By the time you’ve performed your first drop, those fibers are fatigued so the Type 2B fibers will be recruited, which are stimulated by moderate yet challenging weight and a rep range around 8-15 reps.
Finally, when you perform the second drop and begin the final portion of the RPD set, your Type 1 muscle fibers join the party. These fibers are activated by higher rep ranges and less weight. Rest Pause Drop can play a role in activating all three muscle fiber types within the course of one set.
Furthermore, the lack of rest between the mini sets and the volume you’re performing will provide a cardiovascular benefit. The heart will be pumping while you’re doing this and you will likely be breathing hard by the time you finish. Although I don’t think it would replace your cardio entirely, it would make a great addition to whatever you’re currently doing.
You should only perform one to two lighter warm up sets without going to failure and one RPD set per exercise over the course of your workout. RPD can be very taxing, especially if you’ve never tried it before, and doing more than one set per exercise can lead to injury. You should also recruit the help of a spotter to ensure safety and help you reduce the weights, if you’re using a barbell, to save time.
Taking RPD to the Gym
Rest Pause Drop can be done with barbells, dumbbells, machines, and even your own bodyweight. When it comes to a bar, have the spotter help you reduce the weight and give you lift offs when necessary. You can use the spotter to help you get extra reps and prevent you from the embarrassment of being pinned by the weight. When it comes to dumbbells, you should have all three weights ready to use where you’re lifting so there’s less chance of someone taking weights you want to use.
When it comes to dumbbell presses, hold the weight at the top of the press to take your five second breaks. Machines are simple for RPD because all you have to do is change a pin in the stack.
Bodyweight exercises with RPD can be performed by finding easier ways to perform them. For example, do push-ups with your feet elevated, then with your feet and hands on the floor, and finally with your hands elevated. If your bodyweight isn’t enough resistance, use extra weight from a belt or a weighted vest.
You can use RPD on any muscle group you like and I believe it would fit in almost any training program. The workouts that follow are only samples so you have a better idea of how you can add it to your own training program.
Flat Barbell Bench Press – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
Incline Dumbbell Press – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
Weighted Dip (or dip with assistant if necessary) – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
Cable Crossover – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
Rack Deadlift – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
One Arm Dumbbell Row – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
Weighted Pull Up (or lat pulldowns) – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
Dumbbell Pullover – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
Seated Smith Machine Press – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
Lateral Raise – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
High Rope Pull – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
Barbell Curl – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
Incline Dumbbell Curl – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps.
Close Grip Bench Press – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
Rope Pressdown – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
Squat – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
Leg Press – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
Stiff Legged Deadlift – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
Seated Leg Curl – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
Seated Calf Raise – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
Calf Press – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
Weighted Decline Sit Up – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
Hanging Leg Raise with Weight at Feet – 2 warm up sets of 12, 10 reps. 1 RPD set.
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