(This article was featured and edited at T-Nation, Muscle & Strength, and Breaking Muscle.)

The main reason that we begin to train is that we are interested in making changes to our physique.  When I began to take an interest in training during my teens, my goal was to look like a superhero.

Strength and performance became more important as I began to compete in track.  But aesthetics will always be the most popular reason for the average person.  There are many great training protocols that focus on strength, performance, or aesthetics.  

For example, the great 5/3/1 by Jim Wendler is designed mainly for increases in strength.  

Vince Gironda’s timeless 8×8 is designed mainly for changes in the aesthetic quality of your physique.  

Schemes can be adapted to reach different goals, but all schemes are designed for a specific purpose.  

Yes, you will gain more than only strength with 5/3/1.  You will gain more than just physique changes with 8×8.  But what if there was a way to blend strength, performance, and physique changes into one program?  

I want to present you with my RP-21 training scheme which utilizes the underrated and underused Rest-Pause technique.  This scheme blends strength, performance, and aesthetics.  And the great part about it is that it is as simple as logging into to your email.

What is Rest Pause?

Rest Pause is a high value, high-intensity training style that is not new at all.  

Most people do not truly commit to a goal when training.  The common theme is that a person wants to achieve max levels of all attributes simultaneously.  

Admirable, but sadly mistaken.  You cannot chase every goal at once.  

What I want to make crystal clear before moving forward is this.  If your goal is specific (strength, performance, etc.) no single program can cover every base perfectly.  

If I was training a pure powerlifter, RP-21 would not be his main training scheme throughout the year.  His goals are different.  He would need to feel heavier loads with longer rests which are not a part of RP-21.  

Remember this is a hybrid program, not a specific one.  You will get very strong, you will look phenomenal, and you will perform like an athlete.  RP-21 is a total body reconstruction plan.  

When training for strength, performance, and lean mass you need a scheme that allows for progressive overload.  Without a challenge (load, reps, shorter rest, etc.) you are wasting your time in the gym.  

Muscles need new challenges to grow.  3×10 every week with 135lbs on the bench is for casual jabronis.  You are better than that.  

What if there was a were a way to keep the weight moderately heavy to heavy (70-80% of your maximum) while performing more reps with that heavy load in a shorter time frame?

For example, if you squat 225×5 for 4 sets resting 3 minutes in between rounds, that is 12 minutes of rest plus let us estimate up to 30 seconds per set.  You are probably up near 14-17 total minutes to complete that series of 20 reps.  

But what if you did 235×3 for 7 sets resting 1 minute in between rounds?  That is 7 minutes of rest plus the estimated 15-20 seconds per set.  This puts us at 9-11 minutes to complete those 21 reps while using a heavier load.  

Rest Pause allows you to use a heavier weight broken down into smaller increments to reach a higher volume of work in less time.  

Don’t you think your legs will respond differently?  

Don’t you think your back will be forced to grow?

Heavy weight and higher reps combined is a brutal, but winning combination for muscle growth.

The Iron Guru

If we look back to the 1950’s we can use the legendary Iron Guru, Vince Gironda as an example.  His famous protocol is 8×8.  

When you break down 8×8 to its base, you can clearly see that it is the earliest form of Rest-Pause.  

This scheme involves 8 sets of 8 reps with a very short (15-30 seconds) rest between sets.  Obviously, with a rest interval this short, the load cannot be heavy or you would have zero chance to complete it.  

Gironda’s famed 8×8 protocol is supreme for conditioning and physique-building.  It is not designed to build maximum strength.  With RP-21, we are getting a blend of strength and conditioning.

Ok, it sounds great, but what is RP-21? 

RP-21 focuses on 7 rest-paused sets of 3 reps each with 70-80% of your max.  The wildcard is that the rest periods are only 1 minute in between sets.  

For example, 300lbs is your max full squat.  Using 70% of your max would leave you at 225lbs.  You would use 225lbs for each set of 3 until you reached 21.  I would recommend you starting on the low end of the percentage at 70.  

You can even start lower if you feel uncomfortable.  The big picture matters more than one training sessions.  You do not want to set yourself up to NOT be able to progress in the following weeks.  There will be plenty of time to get comfortable with uncomfortable. 

The opening sets and weight may not feel supremely tough.  That is OK.  As each week progresses in the program, the weight gets heavier and the rest feels like it is getting shorter.  You are guaranteed to run into a wall of pain and doubt very soon.  RP-21 will sneak up on you like Tebow against the Steelers.  

As each week progresses in the program, the weight gets heavier and the rest feels like it is getting shorter.  You are guaranteed to run into a wall of pain and doubt very soon.  RP-21 will sneak up on you like Tebow against the Steelers.  

As each week progresses in the program, the weight gets heavier and the rest feels like it is getting shorter.  You are guaranteed to run into a wall of pain and doubt very soon.  RP-21 will sneak up on you like Tebow against the Steelers.  

Now with training, all variables are changeable.  Rest periods could be altered to make the set more intense, but that will limit the load you can use.  Run this program as written to maximize it.  So stick to the 1-minute rest to maintain heavy loads.  Trust me on the big compound movements it gets real!  

Run this program as written to maximize it.  Trust me on the big compound movements it gets real!  

Initially, you would use 70% of your max for the first week to get a feel for the protocol.  I would suggest a 5-10lb increase on a major lower body movement (squat/deadlift/hip thrust) each week and a 2.5-5lb increase on a major upper body movement (bench press/overhead press/pull-chin up/dip.)  

I would suggest a 5-10lb increase on a major lower body movement (squat/deadlift/hip thrust) each week and a 2.5-5lb increase on a major upper body movement (bench press/overhead press/pull-chin up/dip.)  Progress slowly because the goal is not to hit the wall and burn out.  

The RP-21 set is the most important set of your day, so prepare your mind for it.  As you progress through the program, uncertainty should creep into your brain as you get closer to 21.  Sometimes, you may not make it to 21.  

If you fail and say the total rep number is 15 for that day in your squat, you will try to improve on that the next week.  If you cannot reach 21 at a certain weight within 3 workouts, you will sub out that move for a different one or a variation that targets the same muscles.  

We are not lifting to feed your ego.  If you cannot progress to 21 you move on.  Let the pain of defeat soak in and then attack that move with a fury when it comes around again.

The programming protocol is centered around big compound movements so that you can make proper gains in strength and performance.  Fake hustle movements like triceps kickbacks, Bosu ball one-legged squats, and jogging are not included at all.


When I initially designed RP-21 there were two different frequency schemes but the program has evolved a bit.

This is a 4-day lifting split.  There will be two Lower Body days and two Upper Body Days.  Your big movement of the day will be the RP-21 movement.  7 sets x 3 reps with a 1 minute rest period.  

Your big movement of the day will be the RP-21 movement.  7 sets x 3 reps with a 1 minute rest period.  

For your RP-21 movements I recommend:

Squat-Traditional, Front, or Barbell Hack.  Just make sure you are deep in the bucket for Front and Traditional Squats.  Half squats get half results.

Deadlift-Conventional, Sumo, or Romanian

Bench Press-Flat, Incline, Decline, Close Grip or Dumbbell

Overhead Press-Standing, Seated, Push, or Dumbbell

Pull Ups-Pulls, Chins, or Hammer


Cleans-Hang or Power

Hip Thrusts

Note:  In time you will need a weight belt for chins/dips if you are not already there at the moment.

Accessory Moves

The main moves can be used as the accessory moves too if you choose.  The accessory moves will be slightly modified rest-pause sets using 6 sets by 5 reps with a 30-second rest between sets.  

The 6×5 sets are absolute muscle incinerators as they are also performed with a moderate load that feels stunningly HEAVY after a few short rounds.  

The 6×5 sets are tougher than the 7×3 sets.  But these are the sets where you earn your conditioning and toughness.  

Accessory moves should start with a much lower weight than your 7×3 sets since you will have incurred fatigue.  50-55% of your max is a good starting point.

RP-21 Scheme

Perform as 2 days on/1 day off/2 day on/2 days off scheme.  

This is a sample scheme focusing on the basic moves that build the best physique.  The good part about RP-21 is that we are flexible with movements.  

As I stated earlier rotating your squats, deadlifts, and presses is a great idea.  Worrying about where to add in your cable crossovers or your machine bicep curls is a bad plan for success.

There is a term for this and it is called majoring in the minors.  

The moves that you need to do will be responsible for the vast majority of your results.  The moves that look flashy in the magazines will not save you.   Focus on the basic moves to build a complete physique.  

Follow the same moves for 3 weeks before thinking about making slight changes to movements.

Day 1-Lower Body

Barbell Squat 7×3

Hip Thrust 6×5

Walking Dumbbell Lunges 6×5

Seated Calf Raise 6×5

Day 2-Upper Body

Dips 7×3

Chin Ups 6×5

Seated Dumbbell Press 6×5

Barbell Curl 6×5

Skullcrusher 6×5

Day 3-Lower Body

RDL 7×3

Barbell Hack Squat 6×5

Glute Ham Raise 6×5

Standing Calf Raise 6×5

Day 4-Upper Body

Pull Ups 7×3

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 6×5

One Arm Rows 6×5

Close Grip Bench Press 6×5

Preacher Curl 6×5

 Because RP-21 is a high-intensity protocol offsetting it every 3 weeks with a high volume scheme (Gironda 8×8, German Volume Training etc) is a great idea.  You cannot go high intensity with heavy loads every single week.  At that rate, your joints will erode like the economy did in 2007.


Deloads are very individual.  

I have experimented with numerous deload schemes.  What works best for me is 3 weeks training and 1-week deloading.  

I escalate my training so that the third week is brutal leading into the deload.  This gives me plenty of time to recover.  You can deload however when you feel it is necessary for your body.  

To deload, you can perform a simple legs/push/pull split using 2-3 moves per day with reduced total volume.  3 sets of 6-8 reps will work.


People complicate nutrition more than Facebook relationship statuses.  

Your nutrition simply needs to match your goal.  For starters, your macros must match up according to your goal.  Protein will typically be 1-1.5 grams per lb of bodyweight.  

Your fat and carbohydrates are going to vary based on what you are planning to do.  If you are looking to gain great strength and size with RP-21 you will need to increase your total caloric intake and increase your carbohydrate consumption.  

To lose fat with RP-21 your need to decrease your caloric intake and lower your carbohydrate consumption.  If you are carb sensitive than that will be the most important macro to monitor.  

And if you want to gain muscle without excessive fat gain you will want to have a lower fat content on your high carb days and higher fat content on your low carbs days.  The combination of high carbs and high fat at the same time will make you fat.


You could add in 1-2 days of conditioning with this scheme if it is in line with your current goals.  The options are very basic but insanely effective.  

You can either perform sprints for 5-10 reps with distances typically between 30-100 meters.  Or you can perform bodyweight training complexes.  Whichever one you choose, just make sure it is short and to the point.  Leave the 2-hour treadmill sessions to the bozos in the “cardio” section.


Training schemes give the game rules and structure.  It allows you to reach new goals and keeps you highly accountable for your progress.  

If you are skipping days or putting in half effort then you will not progress on any program.  You will however look and feel like the average Casual Conrad who hasn’t seen any progress since Myspace was relevant.  

Do not be a casual lifter.  Use RP-21 as the main part of your yearly training split to reach new levels of strength and performance.


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