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Heavy Duty: Rest/Pause Training Pt. 2

Intermediate trainees will benefit from doing workouts or parts of workouts in rest/pause fashion.

Due to the resurgence of rest/pause training, we present the following excerpt from Mike Mentzer's Heavy Duty Journal. The concept is thought provoking and innovative, and it's a great mass-and-strength plateau buster.

High-intensity training requires that glycogen (sugar) be present in the muscle. If sugar is not provided through the diet, the body has two alternative sources from which to draw the required sugar to make glycogen: protein from ingested food and the protein from the body's own muscle tissue. You see, the muscles can use only sugar as fuel for intense contractions; fats cannot be used in such contractions. Only in very low-intensity work such as jogging or mild activity around the house are fats a viable fuel source. In the absence of dietary carbohydrate, the body can turn the amino acid alanine into glucose via the process of gluconeogenesis, which takes place in the liver. It is absolutely imperative, therefore, that a bodybuilder wishing to make optimal progress consume adequate carbohydrates. If he does not, his progress will be suboptimal.

The vast majority of reputable nutrition experts, along with the Senate Subcommittee on Nutrition, recommend that your daily calorie budget contain up to 60 percent carbohydrates, with the rest divided between protein and fat. Contrary to popular opinion, the bodybuilder requires more carbohydrate in his diet than the average person or athlete to allow for high-intensity contraction and to spare his protein so that he can build and maintain muscle.

Even dieting bodybuilders about to enter contests should strive to get the bulk of their calories from carbohydrates. As long as caloric intake is below maintenance level, you could consume nothing but pure table sugar and still get cut up. Of course, such a diet would be severely unbalanced and, therefore, unhealthy. The prime point about nutrition is this: Whether you are trying to gain or lose weight, eat a well-balanced diet and you will gain muscle if the training stimulus is intense enough. (See my book Heavy Duty Nutrition for more information.)

Suggested Rest/Pause Routine

Because rest/pause is a very intense form of training, I would not recommend it for beginners. A beginner will develop best on more conventional routines that emphasize basic exercises, few sets and moderate reps. The effort required in rest/pause training would constitute overkill for beginners, not to mention the fact that the experience, toughness and confidence needed to produce such sustained maximal effort are beyond the capability of most beginners.

Intermediates with one to two years of regular intense training might benefit from occasionally doing workouts or parts of workouts in rest/pause fashion; but in general, bodybuilders who have not yet reached advanced development should find preexhaustion training, forced reps and negatives adequate for stimulating further growth.

I believe that only those bodybuilders who have been training hard for at least two years and have attained rather advanced development should use rest/pause training, either in combination with other Heavy Duty methods or exclusively, for short periods of no more than six weeks. Advanced bodybuilders have presumably exposed themselves to very intense training stresses for some time and will likely need an unusually intense stimulus to induce further growth.

Suggested Routine

Day 1
Nautilus flyes, pec deck or dumbbell flyes
Nautilus bench presses or incline presses with barbell
Nautilus or dumbbell lateral raises
Machine rear-delt movement (or bent-over dumbbell laterals performed in regular fashion)
Pressdowns or dips

Day 2
Close-grip, palms-up pulldowns
Barbell or cable rows (performed in regular fashion)
Nautilus or barbell curls

Day 3
Leg extensions
Squats or leg presses (these can be alternated from workout to workout)
Leg curls
Calf raises

1) Perform one set of each of the listed exercises.

2) Perform no more than four to six reps in rest/pause fashion; i.e., follow each rep with a 10-to-15-second rest/pause. It's not imperative that all of the exercises be done rest/pause style. This is only a suggested routine; you decide what is best. If you don't have a training partner or spotter available, do the squats and leg presses in regular fashion. On exercises performed in the regular consecutive-rep fashion, do six to 10 reps, with the last rep requiring an all-out effort.

ALL3) When doing a rest/pause workout, select a weight for each rep that requires a maximum effort. A certain amount of experimentation will be necessary before you learn to adjust the weight appropriately after each rep. If you take too much off and find that the subsequent rep requires less than a maximum effort, do just one rep anyway. Or if you don't take enough off, have a spotter assist you by making the next rep a forced rep.

4) Rest time between sets should be limited to the minimum requirement so that you can do the next rest/pause set with optimal efficiency and not be hampered by cardiorespiratory insufficiency.

5) Perform all of the exercises in reasonably strict fashion. Initiate each rep deliberately and proceed likewise in a smooth fashion to the contracted position, pause briefly and lower under control. Lifting heavy weights rarely results in injury; it's when you try to jerk, yank or throw weights that the actual forces involved are amplified and cause injury.

6) Warm up as much as necessary, but no more than that.

7) I did not list any abdominal work because the abdominal area receives considerable indirect effect from the other exercises.

8) Follow each workout with a two-day rest period. Rest/pause training is ultra-intense because every rep of the set requires a maximal effort, as opposed to the normal fashion, where only one rep of a set requires maximal effort. Because the intensity is so high, such training must be very brief and infrequent.

9) Stay with rest/pause training for up to six weeks or as long as you're making progress. After that, either cease rest/pause training entirely for a time or use it randomly when desired, perhaps one set per muscle every workout or two. You be the judge. Be innovative and try combining rest/pause with other Heavy Duty techniques such as preexhaustion and negatives. Do so, however, while adhering to the basic tenets of Heavy Duty.

Editor's note: Mike Mentzer is available for phone consultations and personalized supervision at the Fitness Forum in Marina del Rey, California. For rates and info call (310) 827-7661. Also, check out his Web site at His books are available from Home Gym Warehouse, 1-800-447-0008, or visit IM

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