Power in the Pause Reps: What are They and How to do Them

pause reps

People who are serious about getting fit, strong, and healthy should know about pause repetitions: an age-old training technique that is often forgotten about in the gym world. As effective as they are simple, as challenging as they are safe, pause reps can truly jumpstart your training and help you see significant improvements in your physical ability to that can be seen both inside and outside the gym.

Pause Repetitions Explained

As the name implies, a pause repetition is one in which you pause at some point during a particular movement. It requires isometric muscle contraction (activating the muscle without moving the muscle), which can be highly effective for developing strength.

The pause needs only to be a second or so long depending on the weight you’re using and your relative skill with the given movement. Some coaches also advocate “tempo” movements, which incorporate the use of pause reps. With a tempo lift, you move slowly through the eccentric “lowering” phase of a movement (like descending into a squat or straightening your elbow during a bicep curl), pause at the bottom or halfway point, and then move at normal speed through the concentric “lifting” phase.

A post shared by Mario Vassall (@inspiredbyrio) on

Both tempo lifts and pause reps are intended to maximize physiological stimulation to your muscular and nervous systems. In effect, pause reps are the perfect opposite to plyometric training. That is, instead of using a momentum to help you perform a movement, pause reps specifically “force” you to rely on muscle strength and activation only.

You May Also Like: Leap Into Plyometrics With This Quick 20-Minute Workout

Known Benefits of Pause Reps

Here’s why serious lifters love pause reps:

  • Improved muscle fiber recruitment and activation
  • Improved elastic potential or “stretchability” of muscles and ligaments, which helps them produce power
  • Improved muscle fiber strength and size
  • Helps keep you “honest” by preventing you from using momentum or “bounce” to lift a given weight

Pause reps also give you a chance to check your technique and make sure that you’re maintaining proper form at all the important ranges of motion within a given movement. This may help you prevent injury on other training days when you’re going for a max lift since we tend to lose our form when we’re lifting close to the maximum that we’re capable of.

Press Pause: How To Work Pause Reps Into Your Workout

pause repsEveryone can benefit from the use of pause reps from time to time. They’re ideal for workouts that focus on building strength, although shouldn’t be utilized on days where you’re focusing on things like speed, power, and agility. You can really pause at the “top” or “bottom” of any movement. For serious lifters, pausing at other “mid-way” points in the lifting or lowering phase can increase the isometric muscle activation. You can simply layer in the pause reps onto your normal set and rep scheme, but you may need to change around the weights you’re lifting to make sure you’re safely and appropriately challenged.

For some specific suggestions, try these:

  • During a squat, pause with your hip crease below your knees (get a spotter!)
  • During a bench press, pause with the barbell just above your chest (get a spotter!)
  • During a deadlift, pause with the barbell just below your knees

Give pause repetitions a try in your next workout and let us know how they go by sharing in the comments below. Plus, if you have a friend who’s serious about their training, be sure to share this post–they’ll thank you for it!

3 day trial pass

0 I like it
0 I don't like it

Sara M. is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and freelance writer living and working near Boston, MA. As a former CrossFit gym owner and current fitness lover, Sara has a lot of personal and professional experience inside and outside the gym. She loves to write about various topics related to health, wellness, nutrition, human behavior, and self-mastery.