Paused reps: what are they and how they can improve your performance whilst decreasing your injuries.
By: Brady Goodsell
Paused reps are an incredibly simple, brutal and effective tool in your strength and conditioning arsenal. Essentially – you’re completely stopping in any part of the lift (note stopping, not slowing down).
People often use them in off seasons (when they aren’t competing) to build strength in the end ranges by forcing us not to “bounce” out of reps and improve positional strength. Once we’ve addressed these weak points of a lift – you’ll see your numbers shoot through the roof!
We all have egos, and often the pride of holding a super heavy weight for a set will lead us to compensate in one way or another. This is often seen with relatively heavy loads over 80%..
You’re in the gym with a mate, going rep for rep and you are set on making sure that you have the last laugh.
The next exercise is bench and because you’ve set your sights on coming out with the win, there’s a high probability that time under tension and overcoming tension is not high on your priority list right now.
In fact, it’s the exact opposite of what you need right now, so you’ll more than likely resort to bouncing the bar off your chest.
Bouncing isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however consistently bouncing out of the bottom of reps will not only lead to wear and tear on joints., but you’ll be neglecting the bottom part of the rep, therefore minimising force production through a full range of motion and the ability to overcome inertia which will lead to greater CNS activation and strength.
This is especially true in the deadlift and the bench press – where people can’t break the floor on the deadlift, or get the bar off the chest on the bench press. You’ll often see those same people bounce out high reps – because they don’t have the strength to complete the repetitions with a pause.
I would start with 3 sets of 5 reps at 65-70% of your best lift, holding the hardest tension point for 2-5 seconds and steadily increase the load, provided that the tempo is respected and all other points of performance are hit.
Improving Positional Strength
When a maximal lift moves smoothly, (stays the same speed the whole way up and no hiccups, that’s the dream.
Unfortunately for most of us, it stays exactly that, a dream.
Based on our biomechanics, previous exercise history and our strength levels – most of us will experience a weak point during a lift. Often in the bench press and deadlift it’s right at the bottom and top of the lift, however in the squat, the weakest point is halfway up.
You will typically see pauses prescribed in the bottom or just off the chest on the bench press, same thing for the deads – and then halfway up and the bottom of the squat. All these things have in common – they are overloading the weakest position on each lift.
Literature suggests that completing an isometric contraction (pause) in a position, will result in increased strength 15 degrees either side of where the pause was. So even though you’re not specifically training a certain position, the run off strength you’ll get is invaluable.
Finally, because of the nature of the isometric contraction (muscle does not shorten or lengthen) there’s no tearing of fibres – your muscles don’t break down, they only get stronger!
In conclusion, paused reps are an effective tool to implement into your arsenal to improve strength. They’re typically best used after a competition phase or in the off season – which is the best point to improve weaknesses.
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