While going to the gym is easily the best option for getting in shape, it’s not a necessity.
Using a style of training known as Density Training is easily the number one option if you’re stuck at home and don’t care to go to the gym, but still want results.
Fortunately, if weight loss or muscle quality improvement is your goal and you don’t have the means or desire to go to the gym, bodyweight exercises will almost always suffice as long as intensity is high enough. In this brief article, I’ll discuss why density training is important for bodyweight training and how to use it to your advantage.
What Is Density Training?
Where as actual density is mass per unit of volume, density training follows suit by attempting to increase workload for a given unit of time.
In essence, you take a unit of time whether it be 30 seconds, 1 minute, 2 minutes, etc. and try to complete as many repetitions as possible; i.e. the more repetitions per unit of time, the higher the density.
That’s the focus of this style of training – making each set denser than the previous one.
By [using Density Training], you can consistently put your body under increased stress, which can therefore continue to drive an adaptation.
Why Density Training Works
Density training works because it allows you to practice the principle of progressive overload, without having to use external weight.
Without getting too in-depth, progressive overload is simply a theory that in order to continue growing (or losing body fat), you’ll need consistently increase the stress that you’re putting on your body.
Since stress drives adaptation, eventually you’ll need to do more to continue adapting (by increasing muscle, strength, force, body fat loss, etc.)
Where as progressive overload typically occurs via increasing weight, reps, sets or all three over time, you’re in essence simple replacing weight with time. When using density training, you can still practice progressive overload by increasing the time you spend doing a movement for reps, increasing the amount of reps you do in a given amount of time, increasing the number of sets you’re completing, or a combination of all three.
By doing so, you can consistently put your body under increased stress, which can therefore continue to drive an adaptation.
How To Use Density Training
Fourth, and this is key: write down your performance. This is absolutely essential to ensure that each time you repeat a workout, you’re ensuring that you are progressing.
Fifth, do it again, but try to beat your previous performance.
While you may find that it’s difficult to beat your previous performance, it at least provides a metric for what you need to do to improve. Improving by being able to match a previous set or even decreasing your rest time are all ways that you can improve.
Even with body weight only, using density training provides endless ways for improvement. It’s quite amazing, and yet almost no one considers using this method.
Density Training Progression Example
Here's a brief example of the different ways you can practice density training in a progressive manner.
Pre-Fatigue is a technique that has been used for quite a long time in the bodybuilding industry. It’s one of those “old habits die hard” techniques that many people consider to be appropriate.
The idea starts with the size principle.
In the body, you have muscle fibers, obviously, of differing size and ability. Smaller, slow twitch fibers are more appropriate for low-level contractions that can be maintained, such as the type of contraction you’d see with a low intensity run. From there, you have larger, fast twitch fibers, which are called upon when weight is heavier, a faster contraction is needed, the muscle fibers become fatigued, or some combination of all three.
While there are a bunch of different “sub fibers” (there are multiple “types” of small and fast twitch fibers) for the most part, we can categorize muscle fibers like this. Small and slow twitch; Large and fast twitch.
The size principle essentially states that when you first start lifting (as in that day) your muscle fiber recruitment, sort of “ramps up” based on need and fatigue. Muscle activation starts with the smaller, slow twitch fibers and then moves towards the large and faster twitch muscle fibers as they are required for contraction.
A lot of this recruitment comes from fatigue and also just because in order to lift some amount of weight, you’ll need to recruit these larger, stronger fibers.
When you do progressive warm up sets, you're essentially attempting to sequentially fatigue fibers and motor units, to encourage the activation of larger, faster ones, which increases your strength ability. That way, by the time you get toy our working sets, you have a larger amount of muscle being activated, to a greater extent, which allows you to lift heavier weight and hopefully, will lead to more muscle growth.
Because of this idea, many think that “pre-exhausting target muscle groups” will in essence, cause the recruitment of these larger, faster twitch muscle fibers and motor units, which should lead to greater muscle growth.Logically, since fatigue leads to higher threshold motor units and fibers being activated, this makes sense. But let's dive into how the process works, so you can make that decision for yourself.
The idea is like this:
In this scenario, we’re assuming that by using isolation movements first, you’re “pre-fatiguing” those target muscle groups. It’s then thought that you’ll recruit larger muscle fibers and motor units, leading to higher muscle activation and thus, the potential for growth.
Questioning This Theory
While intuitively, this sounds appropriate, you have to consider the order of importance of training and whether or not this is beneficial acutely or if it will actually translate to real growth.
Motor Unit Activation
The idea of fatiguing the muscle to encourage higher threshold (high threshold essentially means these motor units have a “high threshold of fatigue” that needs to be surpassed to be activated maximally) is actually sound.
The size principle seems to indicate that you do in fact need to “fatigue” muscle fibers to some extent in order to progressively activate muscle to higher levels.
Fatigue Vs. Activation
It is however important to distinguish fatiguing the muscle in order to activate higher threshold fibers versus simply becoming fatigued.
In one instance, (such as what you would progressively see over the course of a workout) you have fiber fatigue that actually leads to greater muscle activation. This, in my mind would in fact create an environment of greater muscle activation, which would be beneficial.
On the other hand, we have true fatigue, in which muscle activation actually diminishes. While higher threshold fibers and motor units may have been activated, the actual output of the muscle decreases, as you would see with actually being globally fatigued. (For example, your strength diminishes after a long workout. If simply fatiguing the muscle linearly improved muscle activation, you’d expect to be stronger at the end of a workout, right?)
Acute Fatigue vs. Total Volume (Acutely & Long-term)
These ideas lead me to my main argument against pre-fatigue – total volume.
Surely, there are many different methods of training that produce an “acute effect” but we also need to consider if using these methods will actually translate to a meaningful, long term adaptation.
Really, this can go for just about any advanced technique as well. Techniques such as BFR, Rest Pause, Reverse Pyramid Training and even Superset variants, all produce some acute effect that we hope translates into long-term growth.
In the case of pre-fatigue, we have to wonder if the acute effect is actually a beneficial one.
Look at Rest-Pause for example. This method certainly creates a large amount of metabolic stress, which would be an acute effect. Certainly, metabolic stress, when initiated over and over again, could potentially provide some long-term benefit.
However, the biggest reason it’s effective is because it allows for greater volume over time. You’re taking a weight that you’d normally lift for only a couple reps, and now performing that weight for 10-15. So essentially, while you’re having an acute effect, you’re also increasing volume, which is probably beneficial.
In the case of pre-fatigue, you’re certainly increasing fatigue of the muscle, but you’re also risking reducing total volume, both acutely and long-term if you continuously use this method.
The Research On Pre-Fatigue
For the most part, the research on this subject is pretty conclusive in that pre-exhaustion doesn’t provide much, if any benefit in terms of growth.
As we can see, it seems that using pre-exhaustion may be beneficial for triceps activation but for the most part, there doesn't seem to actually be much benefit for using this technique.
Overall, the evidence seems fairly conclusive that pre-exhaustion isn’t as beneficial as we’d hope. And really, that makes sense. Let’s summarize why pre-exhaustion is probably not the best route to take.
First, exercise order matters. Apart from the potential benefit, it makes sense that completing the most beneficial, complex and taxing movements first. The bench press for example, while not a fantastic builder of the pecs, requires a large amount of muscle to be recruited, in unison.
If these muscles are fatigued to a greater extent than is required for muscle recruitment, it’s likely that your performance, and thus volume or even strength ability will diminish. So essentially, while you may (or may not based on the evidence) increase muscle and motor unit activation, if you’re actually fatiguing the muscle, you’ll probably reduce your performance during the compound movements, that are supposed to be most important.
Second, at the hand of this reduction of performance, we have to consider if total volume, is more important.
Here’s an example.
You have two people. One uses pre-fatigue before bench press. The other person completes bench press first and then moves on to accessory movements.
Person 1, fatigues the muscle(s) before bench press. Muscle activation is higher acutely, but performance (and thus volume) is reduced.
Person 2 fatigues the muscle appropriately by progressively warming up. Their performance is not decreased, and in fact is better than last time. Volume increases relative to previous performance. They then complete accessory movements afterwards, increasing volume further.
Which do you choose? I can tell you, in my opinion, it’s best to opt for scenario 2.
Is Pre-Exhaustion Off Limits, Then?
Not necessarily. Just as with other advanced techniques, these methods produce some acute effect that might benefit you if used repeatedly.
I’m not going to sit here and say that pre-fatigue doesn’t provide any benefit. In fact it’s probably quite beneficial mentally in terms of being able to perform a complex movement, when fatigued.
This could translate to better performance for a laborer, a competitive athlete, a fireman, etc.
However, you have to consider long-term effect. While using this method occasionally, might provide some unique benefit, you have to consider that if you were to use this method always, your performance, volume and overall results will probably be less than if you opted to not use pre-fatigue.
Whereas a method like rest-pause provides both long and short term benefit (short - high level of metabolic stress / long - you're also increasing training volume significantly), the only potential benefit I can see from using pre-fatigue would be to create metabolic stress and potentially provide some mental benefit of training when fatigued.
While you can certainly implement this technique occasionally if you see fit, I strongly recommend against using this method as a primary focus of your training.
Test Yourself On This Subject
Post-Activation Potentiation (PAP) is an advanced technique that allows you to lift heavier weight than normal, improving your growth potential and strength, almost immediately. It sounds too good to be true, but this method is beginning to make waves in the lifting community.
PAP in essence, works like this. You have a target rep range and weight you would normally use. You work up to a weight that is heavier than your working weight and then reduce afterwards, making you stronger. Personally, the best explanation I've heard is from Travis Mash of MashElite.com, which states "PAP is essentially contractile history, influencing motor unit recruitment."
While that sounds confusing, we'll dive into what that actually means and how you can use it to set a new PR in almost any lift, immediately.
Baseball players swing a weighted bat before hitting because of the PAP principle. The heavier bat recruits muscle fibers and motor units to a greater extent than normal. Once they remove the weight, it gives the perception of the bat being lighter, allowing for a faster swing.
Fiber Types, Motor Units & Muscle Contraction
In order to understand the premise behind this method, you need to understand what factors influence strength and then, how to manipulate them.
First, we start with fiber types. Of course you've heard about muscle fibers such as Type I & Type II. Really, that's an oversimplification as there are many different Type I variants, as well as Type II variants. Essentially, Type I fibers are quite useful for endurance, as they are quite fatigue resistant, whereas Type II fibers are primarily optimized for fast, explosive contractions; the kind you need for improving strength.
Now, you probably have noticed that when you contract your muscle, you can do so in a fast manner or a slow manner. Well, as it turns out, the speed and frequency that this "message" gets sent to the muscle via the neuron, actually influences how the muscle contracts.
If this motor neuron innervates Type II fibers (fast twitch, optimized for strength) and the signal is sent very fast and very frequently (the message is being sent very rapidly, over and over again), then the muscle will do the same (contracting very fast and frequently), resulting in strength.
Alternatively, if the motor neuron innervates Type I fibers (slow twitch, optimized for fatigue resistance) and sends the signal slowly and less frequently, this will be optimized for longer durations and fatigue resistance.
Lastly, it's important to remember the size principle. This theory is in essence stating that muscle fibers (and thus, their ability) are recruited sequentially based on need and fatigue. This is one of the reasons why your first few sets may feel more heavy than normal. It's essentially because your largest, strongest muscle fibers aren't recruited maximally yet. This is a really important point to keep in mind moving forward.
Enter Post Activation Potentiation
Now that you have a basic understanding of what we are manipulating here, we can discuss how PAP actually works. Essentially, Post Activation Potentiation is a way to encourage the muscle (and of course motor unit as a whole) to work at a higher rate than is actually required for the weight being used. It is in essence, a way to trick your muscle into being stronger.
The whole point of PAP is dependent on the previous information we touched on about muscle fibers, motor units and the size principle. By using a weight heavier than you normally would, you're recruiting muscle fibers and initiating faster, more frequent signals from the neuron, and then reducing the weight you're using. You're then lifting a lighter weight, but have your muscles activated for a heavier weight.
Let's say for example that you can normally bench press 225 pounds for 5 repetitions. Typically, when benching for 5 reps, you'd work up to 225 and then complete 5 reps. This would also be about the maximum that your muscle can do before failing.
While that may be a typical workout, with PAP, you lift just above 225, for fewer reps FIRST, and then drop back down to 225. For example, you may work up to 245-250 for 2 repetitions and then reduce back to 225.
When you do this, you're increasing the activity of motor units (frequency and rate) to accommodate the higher weight. When you reduce the weight afterwards, the muscle and motor units are still primed for a heavier weight. Thus, you're muscle (and motor unit) will contract as if you were lifting 245-250, but with only 225 on the bar, giving you the feeling of being immediately stronger (and really, you are immediately stronger).
As a result of doing this, you should be able to lift your normal working weight for either more repetitions or you should be able to use a heavier weight for the normal amount of repetitions.
This is in essence, that quote I mentioned earlier: Contractile history - or the extent to which the motor units and thus the muscle itself contracted; influences motor unit recruitment - or how frequent and fast the motor unit sends the signal. I.E. If your previous sets made the muscle and motor unit contract quickly, your next sets should follow suit, even if the weight is lighter, giving you the feeling and reality of being stronger.
Here's a clearer representation of how PAP works. Baseball players swing a weighted bat before hitting because of the PAP principle. The heavier bat recruits muscle fibers and motor units to a greater extent than normal.
Once they remove the weight, it gives the perception of the bat being lighter, allowing for a faster swing. PAP with weights is exactly the same concept: Lift a little heavier than you normally would and then remove the extra weight, giving the perception of increased strength.
How To Use PAP
Using this technique will depend largely on 1. The rep range you're working with and 2. Your normal working weight (i.e. the ideal amount of weight you would use for a given rep range).
First, you'll need to determine the exercise, the rep range and of course the typical amount of weight you would use for that rep range.
Typically, once you've determined these variables, you'd work up to a typical working weight and continue. However, with PAP, we'll work up to a weight just above your normal weight and then reduce afterwards.
Typically with PAP, a good starting point is to work up to around 110% of your normal working weight and perform that amount of weight for 20-30% of your normal working rep range. Here's an example of what I mean.
As you can see, with the PAP set, you work PAST your normal working weight, but only for a repetition or 2 and then reduce the weight again. Upon reducing weight, you should be able to either increase repetitions, increase the weight you're using for your reps or in a perfect world, both.
While it sounds quite simple, that's because it is and fortunately, it actually works. In fact, when using this regularly, I often set new personal records every time I lift. Just this past year, in a matter of 3 months, I put on around 50 lbs onto my bench and over 100 lbs on my squat, just from incorporating this technique. It truly is amazing.
PAP is An Advanced Technique, Not Great For Beginners
It's important to keep in mind that this won't be a great technique if you're a beginner. I say this because it's likely the difference between your working weight(s) and 1 RM are just too close. For example, if 110% of a working weight for you is only 5 pounds heavier, you run the risk of fatiguing your muscles rather than potentiating them.
For example, If your 5 RM for bench is 185, but your 1-RM is only 205, the difference between those two numbers is too close. for example, 110% of 185 would be around 203.5 lbs. The chance of failing and reducing performance is too great to warrant using this method. If you're a beginner, stick with a linear progression of training and worry about advanced techniques at a later time.
Don't Go To Failure
While I almost never recommend going to absolute failure (unless you're using lightweight, of course), it's important to never go to failure when using PAP sets. If you do, you're missing the point.
As you'll notice above in the PAP progression example, you only want to complete 1, maybe two repetitions at most. The purpose is to potentiate the muscle not fatigue it to the point of reducing performance.
At first, you may find that you're becoming too fatigued after PAP sets. This is a great indication that you either went too heavy, did too many repetitions, or that you're simply not strong enough to use this technique appropriately (which is okay, strength takes time).
Make sure to constantly adjust how you use this technique according to how you respond. Keep in mind that everyone is an individual, with different responses.
If you find that 110% of your working weight is too heavy or too light, adjust accordingly. If you find that 3 reps works better for some days and 1 rep for others, then run with it.
Personally, if my working sets for the day are 2-3 reps, I typically have my PAP sets only for 1 rep. Alternatively, if my working sets are higher, around 8-10, then I typically use 2-3 reps for PAP. Everyone is individual with optimal responses. You need to constantly adjust to find what works best for you.
Check Out The Video Version Of This Article!
Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training is a muscle building technique that has quite a bit of science backing it. So what is BFR and why should you use it?
BFR is a technique of training that incorporates using a tourniquet to occlude blood flow away from the muscle, inducing different muscle building responses. The catch is that you can induce muscle building, while using approximately 40% of your 1 Rep Max (1RM).
At first glance, this seems like a gimmick. But truth be told, it actually makes quite a bit of sense. As researchers have eluded in previous studies, muscle growth with light weight is quite possible. Only, you're required to approach failure. This makes sense since in order to drive a muscle growth adaptation, you need to provide it with a stimulus to do so.
Light weight is light because you've adapted to it. By adapting, you're stronger and more resiliant. Doesn't it then make sense that if you don't take sets close to failure that you won't stimulate the muscle to grow? Essentially, if there isn't enough stress on the muscle, the muscle won't grow.
Now with light weight, approaching failure, you may need to do an insane amount of reps. Chances are, with 40% you'll need 30-50 reps, maybe more. BFR simply expedites this process, making failure occur much sooner, plus you might get some extra benefit from the BFR technique itself.
BFR creates a ton of metabolic stress, potential stretching of the muscle cell membrane (sarcoplasmic hypertrophy) to allow for more content within the muscle and of course, allows for failure with light weight to occur much faster, potentially stimulating growth.
The Science Of Blood Flow Restriction
BFR training incorporates the use of a tourniquet, placed on your limbs, to occlude or restrict blood flow. Although not all blood flow is restricted. The use of the tourniquet is to specifically restrict venous return or the blood leaving the muscle, returning to the heart.
Normally, when un-restricted, blood leaving the muscle returns to the heart, bringing with it, bi-products from muscle contraction such as carbon dioxide, lactate and hydrogen ions. When venous return is restricted, blood, along with these bi-products pool in the muscle. It is thought that by doing so, this leads to activation of the bigger, fast twitch muscle fibers. Something that typically occurs when using much heavier weight. This in turn, increases the likelihood of increasing muscle size.
Further, since the blood is pooling in the muscle, along with metabolic byproducts of muscle contraction, this results in fatigue onset occurring much faster, while also stretching the muscle cell walls (since the blood is pooling in the muscle).
The use of a tourniquet essentially mimics the effects of heavier weight, taken close to failure, without the other mechanical stress and impact on joints that heavier weight provides.
By using blood flow restriction training, you can receive similar muscle building benefits as using heavy loads, but without placing a ton of stress on your body.
Why Use Blood Flow Restriction?
You can receive a similar benefit to using heavy weight.
While using heavy weight is likely necessary for a number of different adaptations, doing so can put your muscle, joints and nervous system under a lot of stress. By using blood flow restriction training, you can receive similar muscle building benefits as using heavy loads, but without placing a ton of stress on your body.
Using blood flow restriction is great for times when you are tired or just plain worn out from your heavy weight sessions.
You can do less work than you would at the same intensity, without a tourniquet.
If you use a relatively lighter weight (40% of 1 RM), you'll need to go to muscular failure to produce an adaptation response. The same goes for BFR training. However, you'll reach this failure threshold much sooner with BFR.
A study by Farup et al., in 2015 revealed that a BFR group received the same benefit using 40% of 1 RM loads, but did so with significantly less repetitions than a group that did not use a tourniquet with the same load. So essentially, you're getting the same benefit of training to failure with light weight but just expediting the process.
It can be used when coming off an injury.
Use of BFR is also a great idea when recovering from an injury. Since you can use significantly lighter weight, you can receive muscle building responses, but not put your muscle and joints under a lot of mechanical stress.
Further, there is even speak of using BFR without lifting for injury healing and prevention of muscle atrophy. While this theory is still just that, many practitioners believe that simply wrapping the limb as you would during BFR, during recovery from an injury may prevent atrophy or muscle degradation due to disuse. It's thought that wrapping alone may provide some growth stimulus to prevent the decline of muscle when injured. Very interesting stuff.
How To Perform Blood Flow Restriction
You'll need some sort of tourniquet to perform BFR. You'll also want to make sure it's elastic so that your muscle can expand and contract. The point is to occlude blood flow, not restrict range of motion. For legs, you'll need a bit larger of a wrap, yet not one that impedes movement. If you want to use BFR for legs, I suggest this product or using a thin, elastic knee wrap.
When performing BFR, you'll want to place the tourniquet on the proximal portion of the limb. This means above the muscle, while also close to the torso. For example, if you are planning on working your biceps, you'll place the tourniquet above the bicep, and below the deltoid. Right in the crease where the two connect.
For lower body, a majority of experts suggest that you should place the tourniquet above the quadricep, near the groin. This also includes when training for calves.Essentially, you'll place the wrap just in the crease of your butt cheek and hamstring.
However, in personal experience, this is difficult especially if you have large thighs and a small tourniquet.
For upper legs, consider using an elastic knee wrap or click the link above. For calves, consider placing the tourniquet underneath the knee, above the calf. This however, is not necessary as you can simply use the wrap higher up on the leg and get a similar benefit.
Remember, the goal is to occlude venous return, not completely restrict blood flow. When wrapping, use a wrapping pressure at a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10.
If your limb falls asleep before you even start exercising, you've wrapped too tightly. If your limb doesn't even feel pumped up after the first set, you've wrapped too loosely.
When using BFR, you'll need to approach muscular failure. Further, you'll want to use a maximum intensity of 40% of 1 RM. If you can bicep curl 100 lbs. for 1, you should use 40 pounds.
Additionally, you'll want to have minimal rest between sets. A good template is as follows:
Important Considerations For Blood Flow Restriction
A majority of experts agree that blood flow restriction training is in fact safe when performed correctly.
Ensure that you have not completely occluded blood flow and unwrap your limbs immediately after completing all BFR sets. A good rule of thumb is to unwrap and then re-wrap each time you switch exercises.
Finally, BFR should be used as a supplemental tool. It shouldn't be used to replace other types of training, unless an injury or something similar prevents doing so. Research indicates that BFR can be "as good" as other types of training, not superior. I suggest incorporating BFR during times in which you are fatigued, and simply just every once in a while for each muscle group to provide a novel stimulus.
Reverse pyramid training as a technique is actually a sound approach to build both strength and improve muscle size, while being metabolically demanding enough to potentially stimulate loss of body fat.
This type of training brings you on a journey of strength focused sets, all the way towards rep ranges that would often be considered strength-endurance focused.
If you're in need of time efficiency, strength building, muscle building, fatigue resistance and the ability to workout only a few times per week, then reverse pyramid training is for you. Without beating the horse anymore than it already has, lets get into reverse pyramid training and discuss what it is, why you'd consider using it, and finally, how you can use it.
What is Reverse Pyramid Training?
Reverse pyramid training (RPT) is a style of training that is essentially the opposite of traditional approaches.
Normal training typically begins with lighter weight, lifted for many repetitions and then eventually moves towards heavier weight and lower repetitions. This is typically observed both on the scale of individual workouts and even periodized, month-to-month programs.
However, with reverse pyramid trianing, we take that logic and flip it on its head, beginning workouts with heavier weight and lower repetitions, while decreasing weight and increasing reps with every succeeding set. Here's a visual explanation of RPT:
As you can see, the general premise behind this technique of training is quite simple: Start with heavy, low rep, strength focused sets first and then move towards lighter weight, higher rep work as sets continue.
Why Use Reverse Pyramid Training?
Realistically, there are a few situations in which RPT would be beneficial.
1. Time Constraints
Time constraint is easily one of the number one reasons why you would want to use reverse pyramid training. Much like rest-pause, RPT allows you to have a very large stimulus for growth, yet within only a few sets, as opposed to many. This also holds true for only having a few days per week to exercise.
Since you are focusing on compound movements, and touching on strength, strength endurance and hypertrophy rep and weight ranges, you're essentially covering all of your bases.
I like to think of RPT as similar to daily undulating periodization just, you're completing a full cycle, within a single workout.
2. You're dieting
One of the biggest mistakes made when dieting is avoidance of heavy weight, with an emphasis on higher-rep training. Surely you need to expend calories but you should also focus on training within a strength and hypertrophy range as well.
RPT is perfect for this situation because it allows for stimulus to maintain muscle and strength, while being metabolically demanding (this style of training is quite difficult). Further, it allows you to have overall less volume, which is likely beneficial when restricting calories (as you have less energy available for recovery and growth).
Overall, this method of training allows you to present the body with both strength and muscle building stimuli. Further, by placing your heaviest sets first, it's likely you'll feel stronger and thus attain greater benefit than if you placed your heavier, strength based sets later in the workout. This will be individual based but the logic is sound.
How To Use Reverse Pyramid Training
As you can see, the premise is quite simple. When you begin working sets, you want to make sure you are using the heaviest weight of the day during your first sets. Then, as you complete sets, reduce weight and increase repetitions.
Keep in mind however that it's easy to... make this easy on yourself. Don't let that happen. You should have the intent of getting very close to failure on each succeeding set (not absolute failure as this will hamper your ability). If you find yourself with much more in the tank after each set, consider using a heavier weight.
Lastly, this method works particularly well with compound movements, as this is the optimal route for both time efficiency and when you are attempting to maintain muscle during a calorie deficit. Surely you can use this method with isolation movements, but you may find you need to adjust the format slightly (doing 2 repetition bicep curls may prove to be strange or worthless).
Can RPT Replace Other Training?
If you're specifically interested in time efficiency and just looking for general fitness and strength improvement, then this style of training is certainly acceptable and perhaps even optimal.
By using this technique, you hit on many different rep ranges and weight amounts. This can put you in a great position to cover all bases by improving strength, muscle, endurance and efficiency of movement (balance, stability, coordination, etc. Further, this style is likely optimal for use during a calorically restrictive diet.
If, however you have specific goals such as bodybuilding, powerlifting or endurance events, then this style may not be specific enough.
For instance, as a powerlifter, it makes more sense to use heavier weight more often and for more sets per training session. This may prove difficult while using RPT (rendering this technique fairly useless for that specific goal).
If you have a specific goal or performance or physique definition, it may prove more beneficial to palce a primary emphasis on those goals, rather than simply using RPT.
How Often Can I Use RPT?
The answer to this will largely depend on your athletic ability and rate of recovery.
Considering that you're using compound movements and lifting them for a wide range of weight's and reps, it may make sense to increase rest time in between training sessions. Depending on the movement and how you feel, a good starting point is to use RPT every other day, allowing for a full recovery day in between.
Otherwise, consider making sure that you are structuring your weekly workouts smartly. If you are hoping to exercise multiple days in a row, it may be in your best interest to not place a squat RPT session directly next to a deadlift RPT.
Use common sense and guage use or disuse of this technique based on soreness and ability.
Quite simply, Rest Pause is an advanced technique that is not only time efficient, but one of the most brutal and effective techniques for inducing large amounts of metabolic stress, tension and fatigue to maximize your hypertrophic response.
To be frank, there's no real bells and whistles with this technique, just really hard work, for a brief moment of time.
Think for a moment all of the different variables that go into building muscle. Surely at the very top is total volume and progressive overload (progressively increasing volume / total stress on the muscle, over time). Afterwards, we must consider metabolic stress (which rest pause is good at), total tension and force on the muscle, etc.
What's Rest Pause?
Popularized by DogCrapp Training (more on that shortly), rest pause is a technique where you cluster 3 sets into 1 very long set, with brief moments of "rest," often considered to simply be a pause in the set; hence the name rest pause.
The purpose of this technique was simple: Take a heavy amount of weight, go really close to failure, rest for a couple seconds and then go again. Then, one more time.
In essence, using Rest pause allows you to lift heavy weight for an inordinate amount of reps compared to what you would normally do with only one set.
Why Use Rest Pause?
Simply, rest pause is just another tool on the muscle building tool belt.
Think for a moment all of the different variables that go into building muscle. Surely at the very top is total volume and progressive overload (progressively increasing volume / total stress on the muscle, over time). Afterwards, we must consider metabolic stress (which rest pause is good at), total tension and force on the muscle, etc.
Rest pause is particularly good at stimulating high amounts of metabolic stress, but does so using a much heavier amount of weight than you normally would. In essence, you get growth benefit in terms of tension (beneficial for strength) while also inducing large amounts of metabolic byproducts (you'll get really pumped, a potential mechanism of hypertrophy.
How To use Rest Pause
2. Only use exercises you can safely do alone.
Rest-pause lends itself very well to using dumbbells. It is not suggested to use this technique with barbells unless you have an experienced spotter (bench & squat). Further, using this technique with exercises like the deadlift is dumb. Don't be dumb.
Hypertrophy is actually an increase in size of existing muscle fibers, not the generation of new ones. Hyperplasia is the generation of new fibers and is theoretical (not really proven to occur, except for with animal models).
3. Consider using the full DogCrapp Approach.
DogCrapp is (despite the funny name) an approach leveraging rest pause and also intense, weighted intra-set stretching. Weighted intra-set stretching is a technique thought to potentially induce what is known as hyperplasia, a purely theoretical approach with regards to actually generating new muscle fibers. For a full description of this method, read more here.