posted on August 5, 2021
In the world of strength training, we understand that progress is not always linear. There will be times of consistent progress, and there will be times where we feel like we’ve hit a wall, whether physically or mentally. Sometimes, getting through these periods can be as simple as changing exercises, adjusting sets and reps, or even our sleep habits, stress management, and nutrition. On the other hand, sometimes it takes a more challenging approach. When it comes to building strength and muscle, there aren’t too many techniques that can do the trick as well as performing paused reps. If you’re a regular in our Powerful class, then you’ve witnessed paused reps first hand. If you haven’t performed paused reps, then here’s your 101.
The hardest part of most lifts is when the primary muscles that are performing the movement are in the lengthened position and when the weight being moved is at the bottom portion of the range of motion. For example, the bottom of the squat when the range of motion is the greatest and the quads and glutes are at their greatest stretch. The greater the range of motion, the harder it becomes for those muscles to produce the maximal force needed to complete the movement. One of the best ways to overcome this obstacle is to spend more time in that position, also known as paused reps. When performing a paused rep, the goal is to perform a 1-3 second pause in the bottom portion of the lift. As mentioned earlier, with squats, this is around parallel. With bench, this is on your chest, and with the deadlift, this is as soon as the bar breaks the floor. As you get better at performing these type of repetitions, you will become stronger in the hardest part of the range of motion, ultimately leading to greater muscle recruitment and force production.
When incorporating paused reps into your program, start with 60% of your one rep max for 3 sets of 3-5 reps. Progress as needed each week based off of how it feels. If it’s very challenging, then stay there for the next workout with the goal of performing higher quality reps. If 60% is relatively easy, then increase by 2.5%-5% the following workout. After 4-6 weeks, go back to performing standard repetitions. Use what you’ve learned over the previous 4-6 weeks and apply it to your standard repetitions. You will find that the weights move easier, you feel more confident when performing the lifts, and you will break through those training plateaus.