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Pause Reps 101: How they can benefit your training plan and how to implement them 

What is a pause rep? 

A pause rep is a strength training technique primarily used on heavy compound exercises such as the bench press and squat. 
The pause rep calls for pausing for a count of 1 to 2 seconds at the bottom of the repetition. 

Once all momentum has been ceased at the bottom of the rep and you have isometrically held the weight for 1 to 2 seconds, your explosive power and fast twitch muscle fibers are recruited to power the weight back up to the starting position, completing the rep. 

Pausing for a second or two between repetitions ensures that you are able to hold good form as you’re under greater control of the weight. Driving through the positive (concentric) portion of the repetition, and slowly control the negative (eccentric) portion of the movement to keep each rep honest. 

Eliminating momentum 

Momentum is your enemy in the gym. Momentum takes tension off your muscles, increased tension on our muscles is the key to gaining both size and strength. If you’re bouncing the barbell off your chest when hitting a bench press, for example, you’re taking away from potential muscle tension in your movement.  

The bottom portion of any exercise is traditionally the hardest. If you’re utilizing momentum to move the weight through the bottom portion of your reps, you’re not getting the most from the exercise. You’re moving the weight, yet failing to optimally apply the tension to your muscles. Pause reps ensure any and all momentum is removed from the equation. 

Once the barbell has paused at the bottom of the repetition for several seconds the only way it’s going back up is via your explosive power. Your fast twitch muscle fibers are going to be recruited to get that heavy weight moving. You’re not going to be losing tension due to momentum.  

Building Strength & Explosive Power 

Pause reps are a true demonstration of strength and are fantastic for building explosive power and strength, there’s nothing there to help you get that weight moving except your muscles! Not to mention, if you are using appropriate weight, pause reps are extremely safe to perform. There is minimal risk of injury due to momentum moving the weight or contributing to bad form.  

Implementation of Pause Reps

Give the following exercises a try while utilizing pause repetitions. 
Likely, you’ll need to lower the weight by 10 – 20% to maintain the same rep range while pausing. 

Pull-Ups 

Don’t skip or utilize momentum as you reach the bottom of your pull-up, allow yourself to dead hang for 2 seconds before exploding back up, pulling through your lats. 

Squats 

Pause at the bottom of each repetition (at least parallel) for 2 seconds to prevent a ‘bounce’ from the transfer of energy of the previous repetition. 

Pendlay Rows 

A bent over row with a pause. Reset the barbell on the ground between each repetition. This will allow you to perform a fuller range of motion, increase your strength and reduce the load on your lower back. 

– Nick Trebesch

VRTX Fitness Personal Trainer

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