Pause for Faster Gains
No one ever wants to do pause training because it’s hard and it hurts. But if you are one of the rare few who is willing to put their ego to one side and do it, you’ll soon be rewarded with a physique that’s going to make people stand up and take note.
The classic big lifts should always be the cornerstones of your training programme. But implementing pause training correctly can really help take your progress to the next level.
Here’s what you need to know about pause training, and how to start adding it to your programme today.
Pause training – why does it work?
The most obvious advantage of pause training is the increased time under tension (TUT), which plays a huge role in muscular hypertrophy. Implementing a pause into each rep means putting your muscles under strain for a greater duration of time, thus significantly increasing the muscle building stimulus of each lift.
But there’s much more to it than that. Pauses in the key positions (such as the top of a deadlift or the bottom of a bench press) builds isometric strength much more so than a regular lift, which will help increase your overall power when it comes to lifting maximal loads. For example, a weakness in the lower back will prove a sticking point when trying to increase your maximum squat. But the stronger you get isometrically in these positions, the more stable you will be in your lifts and the more weight you will be able to move without suffering a form breakdown.
Pause training also removes what is known as the ‘stretch-shortening’ factor that plays a big part (albeit an unintentional one) in all of our big lifts. Stretch-shortening refers to the elastic component of a lift; for instance, in a regular squat, we use our natural elasticity to ‘bounce’ back up, thus reducing a percentage of the ultimate load of the movement. A pause squat involves starting from static, which requires much greater muscle activation to lift the same amount of weight. For anyone who has ever tried a pause squat, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.
Lastly, pausing will also enable you to develop optimal lifting mechanics and master technique. It is easy for the body to get lazy during regular lifts, as the natural momentum of the lift means that not all muscle fibres are fully recruited. During pause training the momentum is at zero, which means full muscle recruitment and optimum form that will pay dividends as you go back to increase your regular lift.
How to do pause training
When you first start pause training, you’re going to have to leave your ego locked away at home. Depending on the lift, you’ll have to drop the weight by as much as 30 – 40% from your regular set of 8 – 10.
As your isometric strength increases, you’ll be able to increase the load accordingly, but start at a low weight to build up the correct form. Depending on the movement and the strength of your holds, pause for 2 – 3 seconds on each rep. Ideally, work with a training partner who can time your pauses accurately. When they say ‘UP’ try to be as explosive as possible to finish the rep. Work in the 8 – 12 rep range for each set.
Most pauses are best implemented at the bottom of a repetition, but this can easily be adjusted depending on your weakness. For example, if you struggle to finish your bench press strong, pause near to your lockout to help strengthen the triceps and front deltoids. Identify your weakness, swallow your pride and execute your pause where you need it the most.
Last but not least, we recommend doing your pause sets at the start of the week when you’re freshest, and ideally directly before a scheduled rest day. Trust us when we say you’re going to need it.