Sorry for the post hiatus, school has been hitting hard as I near the end of the last academic semester in my DPT program. I am five months from graduation and couldn’t be more excited. But enough about me ~ let us get to the next edition of The Secrets of Strength!
When it comes to strength training it seems to be common practice for everyone to attempt PR’s everyday. Week in and week out, people pile the weight on the bars and lift as heavy as they can until they plateau, form breaks or injury occurs. I myself have fallen into this trap. As a young lad I would lift heavy every day, play sports and consistently over train. The result was moderate strength and being injury plagued throughout high school and part of college. I have strained muscles, sprained my MCL, herniated a disc in my back, and broken bones. The list goes on and on. As I gained knowledge in training and program design I learned that you do not need to lift over 90% of your 1RM every single session to get strong. I am stronger now than I was when I was always lifting near maximal, and I have not had as many injuries or pain as compared to 4 or 5 years ago. The sooner you can come to understand this, I guarantee you will not only be stronger than ever, but also be injury free.
Why to use Pause Reps to get strong and back off your 1 RM
I have dabbled here and there with pause reps, but never fully incorporated them into my own programming. That is about to change. Once I finish the Simple and Sinister program by Pavel (which I will be writing about in the future), I will be adding pause reps into my program to aid in my strength goals.
The reason I want to add pause presses into my program, aside from using them to monitor my overall workout intensity, is to master my technique, assist me at key points of the exercise and use more muscle mass.
Mastery of Technique
Pausing at the bottom of a lift and maintaining tension is a self-limiting task. If you use a weight too heavy and try pausing, your technique will break and you will not be able to complete the lift. By pausing under moderate weight, you make sure your biomechanics are correct every time. This helps drive better technique. Even though you will be lifting a percentage of the weight you normally lift, it will still kick your ass.
For example, I tend to struggle with the transition between the eccentric and concentric phases of my squat. I will sometimes side bend or lean forward as I try to drive out of the hole. Pause reps will help me with this problem and allow me to hit some PR’s.
Use of More Muscle Mass
When it comes to lifting, we have an eccentric and concentric portion of the lift. As we complete the eccentric phase of an exercise, energy is stored. This energy is stored in the passive structures, (i.e. the tendons and ligaments) and assist us in the concentric portion by releasing that energy (think of pulling on a rubber band and letting go). When we pause in our lifts, we take these passive structures out of the equation. We require the muscles to actively hold us, and produce enough force to move a weight. This is the reason pause reps will still give you such a great workout. Think about holding a weight in the hole of the squat for 2-5 seconds before having to explode out of it… I am cringing at the thought of it. But no one said the process of gains is always fun!
How to use Pause Reps
Without thoroughly using pause reps, I am not going to prescribe percentages, reps or situations in which to incorporate them… at least not yet. If the “why to use them” (the reasons why I will be using pause reps) intrigues you, I will refer you to an article on T-Nation by Christian Thibaudeau. He goes into depth on how to use this methodology to help make you stronger. You can check that out here.