Strength training is fast become a staple part of the regular gym goers routine. However, whilst initial improvements in strength can be rapid, you will most likely reach a plateau. This is often due to the fact you’re simply getting better at a skill. For example, within 4 weeks of introducing a barbell back squat, the amount you can lift will often shoot skyward. This is largely due to neuromuscular adaptations and your body simply understanding what it is you’re asking it to do. Unfortunately, these gains are not infinite. If you’ve hit a plateau and can’t seem to progress, try implementing pause reps into your workout.

What Are Pause Reps?

Pause reps do exactly what they say on the tin. Mid rep (generally) you will pause for a few seconds before continuing as normal. This mid rep pause has multiple benefits and could be the change in pace you need to see your strength start to rise again. Lets look at how they can help your squatting ability.

Speed Out of The Hole

You know that point at which you normally fail a lift? You’re smooth on the way down then go to power out of the hole and have nothing there? Pausing at the bottom of a squat before you drive back up prevents what is known as the stretch reflex. Think elastic band at full stretch that flies away from you as you ping it back. By limiting this stretch relax you have to work much harder to stand back up. This increases your ability to increase power and speed out of the hole.

Trunk Stability & Positioning

If you have crappy positioning and a lack of bracing at the bottom of your squat, these will show you up pretty quick. Any lack of tension or limit in mobility will result in a failed lift, this means your ego may have to check itself before you start! A solid posture and good technique will be the result of good, paused squats.

Increased Time Under Tension

Looking to build muscle mass? Time under tension is a well covered topic when it comes to muscle hypertrophy. Increasing the length of time your muscles are exposed to stress creates a greater demand. Logically these then produces a greater response. The fact that you are stressing your muscles whilst they are elongated can lead great gains in both strength and size.

Refine Key Positions

Pausing during any key point of a lift can get really hard, really quick. The reason being you need to be in the perfect position to keep tension throughout. Without the correct body position, you will most likely end in a heap on the floor!

Example 3 Week Program For Pause Squats

  • W1 – 3×5 with a 5 second pause at the bottom of each rep @50% 1RM
  • W2 – 3×4 with a 5 second pause @60%
  • W3 – 3×3 with a 3 second pause @70%

Remember to focus on your body position throughout. Leave your ego at the door and get the movement right.

As a leading Personal Trainer in Twickenham, I regularly introduce pauses into a number of exercises with my clients. Even when using bodyweight alone, pause reps can be a great way to challenge your technique and strength. If you are interested in learning more about pause reps then get in touch!