Article last updated: March 2019 by Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer
When I train, I try to maximize muscle growth by using a variety of rep ranges.
All the way from 3-5 to 20.
The 2 methods I use to accomplish this while saving time are dropsets and rest-pause sets.
Dropsets: I do 3-4 mini-sets in one go where I gradually lower the weight.
Rest-pause sets: I do 3-4 mini-sets with 10-15 seconds of rest between each mini-set. The same weight is used on each rest-pause set.
The difference between dropsets and rest-pause sets is essentially that on dropsets you have no rest between mini-sets and lower the weight each mini-set while with rest-pause sets you keep the weight the same but rest 10-15 seconds between mini-sets.
Here’s an example of each:
- Dropsets: Start with 100 pounds for 10 reps, then 75 pounds for 7 reps, 50 pounds for 5 reps and 25 pounds for 10 reps.
- Rest pause set: 100 pounds for 10 reps, 100 pounds for 6 reps, 100 pounds for 4 reps, 100 pounds for 2 reps (rest 10-15 seconds between each)
As you can see, both techniques accomplish the goal of going through different rep ranges within one set.
How many dropsets or rest-pause sets to use per exercise?
A general rule of thumb is that I do 4-6 regular sets on each exercise in my program.
However, when I want to use dropsets or rest-pause sets I will cut the number of sets in half because of the much greater intensity produced.
So if I did 6 regular sets on an exercise and I decide to do a dropset or rest pause set, I will do 3 sets of those instead.
What are the main benefits of using a variety of rep ranges?
Each muscle has a variety of muscle fibers: Fast twitch and slow twitch.
Fast twitch muscle fibers are activated during lower duration, explosive work such as power cleans, sprints, muscle ups etc.
Slow twitch muscle fibers are activated during longer duration work such as running, jogging and cycling.
In bodybuilding terms this basically means that to activate both fiber types you need to perform both explosive low rep work and slower high rep work.
By using a variety of rep ranges you stimulate a bigger variety of muscle fibers and thereby achiever greater muscle growth.
When to use dropsets and when to use rest-pause sets
It’s most practical to perform dropsets with cable exercises.
If I use a cable exercise, I usually use dropsets since it’s very easy to adjust the weight.
It’s most practical to perform rest-pause sets with dumbbell exercises.
If I use dumbbells, I usually do rest-pause sets because I don’t want to be that guy taking up 4 separate pairs of dumbbells.
I don’t recommend using barbells for dropsets because it takes too long time to take off the weight and with rest-pause sets the intensity produced with a barbell will be too high for a natural trainee to recover from.
Be proud but stay hungry!
Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Trainer