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Everyone is looking for quick ways to be fit, lose weight, and gain muscle. Popular approaches commonly use High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which is a highly structured system that dictates periods of high intensity exercise with short rest periods. It can be extremely effective, but this boot camp approach doesn’t suit everyone.

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Rest Based Training

Happily, it’s possible to become fit, lose weight, and gain muscle using the innovative Rest Based Training (RBT) system developed by Jade, Jillian, and Leoni Teta. RBT focuses on rest rather than the time spent exercising. Instead of the boot camp mentality common in most gyms and training programs, which force people to conform to very structured rest periods, RBT allows people to determine for themselves how long they rest. According to Jill Coleman, former Fitness Coordinator at Wake Forest University and founder of JillFit:

Rest-based Training is a … technique that uses positive affirmation to motivate clients, but not in a rah-rah sort of way. Instead, RBT offers clients autonomy in their workouts by allowing them to rest whenever they need — the client decides when and for how long they rest.

This may sound counter-intuitive but it’s actually a way to empower anyone willing to give it a try. This approach is based on Self-determination Theory, which calls for people to develop innate or internal motivation rather than being coerced or forced to change. It gives each person the power to determine when and for how long they will rest. Self-determination is a backbone of RBT.

This makes RBT well suited for all fitness levels and for people of all physical capabilities, as well as fostering greater commitment from participants.

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Let’s take a look at how RBT actually works.

Why is it important for people to determine how long they rest while exercising?

Jade Teta, one of the founders of RBT, has found that participants who have complete control over rest exhibit the following traits:

  • Greater degrees of self-motivation,
  • Higher levels of ownership over exercise,
  • More awareness of their physiology,
  • Deeper engagement in their fitness programs,
  • Increased exercise intensity.


Intensity is the core of any successful fitness program. RBT, through fostering self-determined rest, produces greater exercise intensity. The more the “rest periods” accurately reflect the condition of the exerciser, the greater their ability to push harder. In other words, the level of self-determination enables greater exercise intensity, leading to greater results.

RBT is based on the individual needs of each exerciser and not the external demands of the exercise routine. RBT is exerciser centered not exercise centered. It does not attempt to fit the individual into the system.

The motto of RBT is Push until you can’t, rest until you can.

How does RBT actually work?

RBT is a modification of popular high intensity approaches to fitness. Studies have indicated the superiority of high intensity work for fat loss over traditional aerobic activities. RBT adapts these high intensity approaches and makes them doable for people of all motivational and fitness levels.

As Jade Teta states: “The trick is to adopt some of the tools and techniques of higher-intensity exercise protocols, while keeping the workouts safe and scalable for all fitness levels.”

Shorter workouts

Because RBT increases workout intensity, the workouts are shorter in duration. Most sessions are no more than 20 – 40 minutes in length. The principle here is that with greater intensity more muscle fibers are used. As the muscles are pushed to their maximum output, fatigue sets in and a rest period is required to recoup. If proper rest is taken, intensity can be regained with more muscle fibers being engaged. Due to this, not as much time is required to reach fitness goals.

Resistance Training

RBT uses resistance training and high intensity work to facilitate fat loss and optimize the number of calories burned after exercise is completed. Research has found that anaerobic exercises such as weight training and other high intensity formats burn more calories (EPOC) after exercise than traditional steady state aerobics. This “after burn” can last up to 16 hours for women and nearly two days for men.


Key to RBT is to stop exercisers from pacing through their workouts. When pacing stops, intensity increases. For example, if you ask someone to run 100 yards twice with little or no rest they will pace themselves through the first 100 yards so they have enough energy left to run again. This results in a loss of intensity. However, if they know they can take adequate rest after running the first 100 yards they will be able to run it again at full capacity a second time. Rest equals intensity.

Extrinsic Focus

Rest Based Training uses techniques that distract exercisers from what they are feeling (intrinsic factors such as breathlessness, pain, etc.) to what they are actually doing (extrinsic factors such as exercising and moving). Intrinsic factors tend to inhibit intensity whereas extrinsic factors serve to maintain focus on the activity at hand. Having fast moving workouts reinforces extrinsic focus and motivates exercisers to keep going.

What does an RBT workout look like?

RBT can be done with weights or body weight. Watch this video demonstrating how to run through an RBT resistance training session.

Here is an at home video version by Katie Schietinger.

To sum up, Jade Teta uses the acronym REST to explain the key concepts of RBT:

R = Rest-based. Rest, not work, is the goal. It increases the quality of the work and is psychologically easier because clients voluntarily work harder.

E = Extrinsic focus. Intrinsic sensations such as breathlessness, burning, and heart rate can inhibit exercise intensity. RBT shifts the focus to what clients are “doing” (extrinsic factors) rather than what they are “feeling” (intrinsic factors).

S = Self-determined.  Because RBT gives clients autonomy over exertion and rest, it helps them push harder, makes the workout psychologically easier, and improves adherence to exercise.

T = Time-conscious. RBT workouts are time-focused and are usually harder and shorter to incorporate the start-and-stop and rest segments according to individual needs.


Giving total control of rest to the exerciser affords RBT a number of advantages:

  • It can be used by people of all fitness and motivational levels,
  • Sessions are of short duration,
  • Exercise intensity is increased,
  • People exercising are empowered,
  • After burn (EPOC) is increased.

Give RBT a try. Use it at home or at the gym. Talk to your personal trainer about it. You may be pleased with the results. Let me know how you do.

Remember, Push until you can’t, rest until you can.

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