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  • Writer's pictureJulian Molteno


I was training my client Chris the other day, going fairly heavy, trying to improve his benching strength. He did 8 deep reps, and was about to fail, when I told him to rack the bar and wait a few seconds. He then took the bar from the rack and did 2 more reps, racked it for a few seconds more and then one last deep rep. While he was recovering from this set I told him that what he had just done was a Joe Weider Principle called “Rest-Pause”. He looked quizzically at me and said that a rest and a pause are the same thing. I have to admit I was slightly flummoxed for a second, because I had never really thought about the words, just the application of this principle. Luckily I thought fast and told him the “rest” meant allowing the muscles to recuperate, which we achieve by employing a “pause”. Thus......the Rest-Pause. Chris is musically inclined, and he told me that a “rest” and a “pause” are two different things in musical terms too. Having myself sung, (in Johannesburg) many years ago now, in the Saint Francis Boys’ Choir as a treble and as a tenor for St John’s College Choir (I can if now only just) read music, and this news was of interest to me. As luck would have it I was meeting that very afternoon with Nick my choirmaster from my St Francis Boys’ Choir days, and my brother David, for a stroll about the Serpentine. The three of us had a wander about South Ken, marvelled at the newly polished Albert Memorial, bought a take-away cup of tea and found a shady spot to observe the local peeps going about their business. Once we had had our say on Jeremy Corbin, paedophilia and the “fake moon landings” (David!), we got down to the more weighty subject of rests and pauses in music vs bodybuilding. As I knew he would, Nick made a few interesting and pertinent points. “A rest”, he said, “is an allocated space within the rhythm where no sound is made. A pause is a break in the rhythm at the discretion of the performer.” So how does this correlate with our own bodybuilding terms? A rest is an allocated space within the set where your muscles do not flex. A pause is a break in the reps at the discretion of the exerciser. Furthermore, Nick says: “The issue is that a rest does not interfere with the onward movement of the music and its set rhythm; a pause breaks into the set rhythm.” With regard to the bodybuilding interpretation of this statement we find more remarkable similarities. So in music the rest is a silent time, but crucially the rhythm continues. Just because there is no sound this does not mean the music has stopped. In bodybuilding the rest is a time where the muscles are recuperating. Just because the muscles are not flexing does not mean they are doing nothing. In both cases it appears as though nothing is happening but the rest is actually a very busy time!! The pause in both music and bodybuilding is not set or prescribed. It is up to the discretion of the performer or exerciser when to pause and for how long. As my twenty regular subscribers to know by now nothing gives me more pleasure than connecting bodybuilding with every aspect of my “other” life, be it Sissy Squats and the Legendary Greek Sisyphus or the heroics of an English nun in World War Two and her bodybuilding brother Frederick Tilney. And now a happy connection between my childhood days of singing in the local church choir and one of the foundation stones of modern bodybuilding in Joe Weider’s Rest-Pause principle. PS. I’m the one sitting down bottom left.

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