Work Smarter Using Pause Reps

Work Smarter Using Pause Reps

This is Your Quick Training Tip, a chance to learn how to work smarter in just a few moments so you can get right to your workout.

Whether you’re in a car, on a bike, or running for a long pass, generally speaking (and as long as you’re being safe), moving fast feels good. Your motion fuels a sense of power and competence, and in the gym, you’ve likely also noticed that working quickly allows you to bang out more reps. Part of that is due to momentum, but that proficiency is also the result of your muscles acting a bit like rubber bands.

When you stretch a muscle—lengthening your quads when you drop into a squat, for example—it stores energy much like a piece of elastic. This energy is short-lived (and to be precise, most of it is stored in the tendons rather than the muscle), but as long as you don’t pause, it gets released when the muscle contracts, providing an extra boost when you drive up from the bottom of a squat, curl a dumbbell, press a barbell, or otherwise heft a weight.

In some situations—such as when you’re attempting a one rep max or performing an explosive move like a snatch or a clean and jerk—this elastic assistance is a good thing. But if you start relying on it too heavily in your workouts, you’ll allow your muscles to get off easy. That can wind up shortchanging your results if building strength and size is your ultimate goal.

Your move: Give pause reps a try. These are exactly what they sound like: at some point during each rep (typically when you transition from an eccentric [lengthening] to a concentric [shortening] muscle action) halt your movement. The pause need not be long (a few seconds will suffice), but in so doing, you’ll dispel any elastic energy you’ve built up and rob your muscles of any boost it would provide.

Just make sure that you introduce pause reps with weight you can handle. Again, this isn’t a technique for your one rep maxes, when you need to give as much effort as possible to get a clean lift off with good form.

Pausing will make every rep more challenging, but that’s exactly why you should do it. Adding the technique is also a great way to introduce progressive overload to your workouts without adding more weight. The harder your muscles work, the more they’ll adapt and grow—and the greater your gains will be.

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