This program uses the Rest Pause method alongside Oscillation Periodization. Here’s how it works.

RPE 20

Written by Russ Howe PTI, and most recently updated 1 day ago.

7 min read

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Welcome to RPE 20.

In the fitness world, the term RPE is used to describe a trainee’s rate of perceived exertion during exercise, with a rating of 1 indicating that the activity is very easy, and a rating of 10 used to describe working flat-out.

With that in mind, the name of this program might make you worry that I’m going to physically destroy you, but that’s not the case!

In this program, the term RPE 20 actually stands for Rest Pause Execution 20, and it refers to the primary technique which it uses (Rest Pause) to force your muscles to grow bigger and harder than ever before.

Program length: 10 weeks.
Frequency: 6 workouts per week.
Workout structure: You will train one main and one secondary muscle group per workout.
Rep ranges: Low, moderate, and high reps.
Muscle buster techniques used in this program: Rest pause.

RPE 20 Training Calendar

RPE 20 training calendar

RPE 20 is a 10-week program, and you’ll be training six days per week.

This is a high volume training plan, too, with each muscle receiving enough work to land in the “sweet spot” for maximum muscle building results (12-22 sets per week). Larger muscle groups (chest, back, shoulders, quads, and hamstrings) land nearer the top end of this scale with 18-22 sets per week, and smaller muscle groups (biceps, triceps, abs, traps, and calves) land near the bottom of the scale with 12-16 sets as they also receive provide assistance when training your bigger muscle groups. (6)

  • Monday: Shoulders & traps
  • Tuesday: Back & calves
  • Wednesday: Chest & abs
  • Thursday: Biceps & forearms
  • Friday: Quads, hamstrings & calves
  • Saturday: Triceps & abs
  • Sunday: Recovery day

In terms of flexibility, this program is best followed as written.

That’s because it uses a bro split, which is the classic bodybuilding approach where you’ll train each large muscle group once (i.e. chest day, leg day, etc) and the entire body is trained over the course of a week. This is a bit less flexible than some of my full-body programs, although it is just as effective. I structured RPE 20 this way because the high volume of sets in each workout will create maximum muscle damage, so we must ensure each body part receives sufficient time between workouts in order to grow.

Finally, you’ll have a non-training day on Sunday to enhance the recovery process even further.

>> Here’s more about training volume.

How Does RPE 20 Work?

RPE 20

The rest pause technique is a time-tested bodybuilding method which has been used by many great trainees before you.

Let’s take a look at it.

  • How to do it

After completing your final set, take a 10-second breather then see if you can complete a few more repetitions. That’s the rest pause technique. This program puts a unique twist on this method by challenging you to achieve x20 reps in this manner, which will likely require multiple short breathers.

For example; if I complete my final set of dumbbell curls, then I’d rest for a 10-count, grab the same weights and keep going, and let’s say I achieve 7 reps before muscle failure occurs. Now I’d rest for another 10-count then go again, and this time I get another 7 reps (14 in total). Now I’d rest for another 10-count, and this time I get 6 reps to complete the RPE 20.

  • Why it works

Taking a muscle to failure increases the capacity for it to grow, because it triggers the release of key muscle building hormones including testosterone, growth hormone, and IGF-1. (1, 3)

The rest pause technique is one of the best ways to do this.

It might not seem like a long time, but the body can actually recover by almost 30% in just 10-seconds, so these extra reps should amount to about a third of what you performed in your final set. This enables a trainee to keep squeezing out reps way past the stage where they thought they were spent, and these extra reps really mount up over time. (2)

The fact that you have been challenged to achieve 20 rest pause reps makes it even more effective, because you’re going to have to use multiple 10-second breaks, taking you to failure several times in quick succession.

It’s like a “double tap” for your muscles, ensuring there is nothing left in the tank, and it’ll lead to some impressive gains over the course of this 10-week program.

Oscillating Periodization

RPE 20

This program uses the oscillating periodization model.

The term oscillating means “to vary in magnitude or position in a regular manner about a central point”, and that’s what your rep ranges will be doing throughouth RPE 20.

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