Rest Pause Drop Sets: Add Killer Intensity to Your Workouts

Rest Pause Drop Training takes the benefits of both rest-pause and drop sets and combines them into one mega set that's designed to deliver results.

Generations of lifters have had trouble breaking plateaus and finding new, intense ways to punish the iron and see results from all the sets they commit to every day.

Two popular ways that have emerged as top strategies to help promote the gains are rest-pause training and drop sets.

For those who don’t know, rest-pause training is taking a very brief rest after reaching failure, then beginning the lift again to get a few more reps. Drop sets involve reducing the weight after you reach failure to continue the set and focus on muscular endurance as well as hypertrophy.

As great as rest pause and drop sets are, eventually I wanted to do something more. I like training heavy and I believed in High Intensity Training but I also wanted to train for hypertrophy as well as increase muscular endurance which are both best achieved through higher volume.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a way to get the best of everything at once?

What Are Rest Pause Drops?

In 2009, I came up with the idea of combining rest pause and drop sets into one giant set. Obviously since it combines both rest-pause and drops, I call this program Rest Pause Drop, or RPD for short.

Dumbbell Row Using the Rest Pause Drop Set Method

RPD targets the Type 2B fast twitch fibers which are normally responsible for your power but fatigue easily, the Type 2A fibers which are stimulated by moderate weights that you reach failure around the 12-15 rep range, and the Type 1 slow twitch fibers that are available for muscular endurance after you hit the 20 rep mark. The way this happens is explained as you go through a RPD set.

How Do Rest Pause Drops Work?

Let’s use the barbell curl as an example. After you do a couple of warm up sets, you would put weight on the bar that should result in you reaching failure at around the 5-8 rep range. Less than five reps is too heavy and more than eight reps would be too light. This is where the Type 2B fibers are your priority.

Now that you have the weight you need to use, you begin your set until you reach failure. After you hit failure, you will rest-pause for five seconds and immediately try to get more reps in with that same weight. You will likely reach failure after anywhere from two to five reps. Now you will drop roughly a fourth of the weight off of the bar. After this drop, you immediately get right back to lifting and now is where your Type 2A fibers will be recruited.

Continue to lift until you reach failure for the 3rd time in a row. Take another five second rest-pause and try to get a couple of more reps in. Now, you’ll drop the same amount of weight you dropped the first time. So if you took 20 pounds off last time, you’ll take 20 off this time as well.

You’re now adding the Type 1 fibers to the party. With this new weight, you’ll lift to failure, rest-pause for five seconds, and then try one more time to get as many reps as you can before finally being finished with your RPD set.

Below is an example of a RPD set as it may look in a training log:

Biceps- Barbell Curl

  • 2 warm up sets of 40 pounds for 15 reps and 60 pounds for 12 reps.
  • 100 pounds for six reps, 5 second rest pause, three more reps. Drop.
  • 75 pounds for seven reps, 5 second rest pause, four more reps. Drop.
  • 50 pounds for six reps, 5 second rest pause, three more reps.

Although this lifter started with a heavy weight for only six reps, his set turned into six smaller sets for a total of 29 reps. So in one set, he stimulated all three muscle fiber types and he’s promoting power, growth, and endurance.

How Can You Add Rest Pause Drops to Your Training?

If you’re a beginner or never tried RPD before, I suggest only using it once per workout until you are more familiar and comfortable with it. Eventually, you can consider doing one RPD set for each exercise you do throughout your program. For smaller muscle groups like calves, biceps or triceps, I do two exercises and 1 RPD set for each. I do three each for other areas but still 1 RPD set each.

With barbell movements, it’s best to have a spotter available to help you strip the weight faster and assist if you reach failure. For dumbbell movements like presses or flyes, I hold the weight at the top of the movement and hold it there for my five seconds before resuming my set.

I also make sure I have my three pairs of dumbbells with me so no one takes them before I’m ready to use them. Machines and cables are obviously the easiest equipment to use while performing RPD because it’s a matter of moving the pin.

Lat Pull Down Using the RPD Method

One final note: I always recommend performing at least one warm up set prior to your RPD set for each exercise. Yes, your muscles will likely be warm already but I feel this helps you establish a mind-muscle connection with the individual movements. This will maximize the benefits that RPD can offer.

Here are some sample workouts for you to take the gym with you if you want to try RPD out for yourself:

Rest for 60 seconds between warm up sets. Rest for 90 seconds after your RPD set.

Rest Pause Drop Shoulder Workout

Exercise Warm-Up Set Reps RPD
Seated Barbell Press 2 15,12 1
Lateral Raise 1 12 1
High Rope Pull 1 12 1
DB Shrug 1 12 1

Rest Pause Drop Back Workout

Exercise Warm-Up Set Reps RPD
Rack Deadlift 2 15,12 1
One-Arm DB Row 1 12 1
DB Pullover* 1 12 1
Wide-Grip Pulldown 1 12 1

*Rest weight on your chest during rest-pause

Rest Pause Drop Chest Workout

Exercise Warm-Up Set Reps RPD
Incline BB Bench Press 2 15,12 1
Flat DB Fly 1 12 1
Weighted Dip* 1 12 1
Cable Crossover 1 12 1

*Use extra weight or chains if bodyweight isn’t enough. Use assistant if necessary.

Rest Pause Drop Biceps Workout

Exercise Warm-Up Set Reps RPD
Barbell Curl 2 15,12 1
Alternate DB Curl 1 12 1

Rest Pause Drop Triceps Workout

Exercise Warm-Up Set Reps RPD
Flat Bench Neutral Grip DB Press 2 15,12 1
Rope Pressdown 1 12 1

Rest Pause Drop Calves Workout

Exercise Warm-Up Set Reps RPD
Standing Calf Raise 2 15,12 1
Seated Calf Raise 1 12 1

Give the RPD method a try for yourself and let us know how it goes in the comments section!