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Paused bench presses

An isometric pause in the bottom bench-press position does wonders for building strength and power out of the hole. That’s because under normal conditions, when you reverse direction out of the hole, built-up elastic energy helps propel you over the bottom portion of the lift. But when you stop at the bottom momentarily, that built-up energy is lost, so you now have to work harder getting the bar out of the hole.

The process is simple. Use loads between 80-90 percent of your 1RM and pause for 3-5 seconds in the bottom position, holding the bar slightly off your chest while maintaining full-body tension. Once you’ve paused for the prescribed time, press the bar as fast as possible.

Paused bench presses

This method works well in conjunction with speed bench presses, by the way. Perform the paused reps on your other weekly bench-press day.

Here’s a simple way to program paused bench presses:

  • Week 1: 4 sets of 3 reps at 80 percent of your 1RM with 4-second pause
  • Week 2: 4 sets of 3 reps at 85 percent of your 1RM with 3-second pause
  • Week 3: 5 sets of 3 reps at 85 percent of your 1RM with 3-second pause
  • Week 4: 3 sets of 3 reps at 80 percent of your 1RM with 5-second pause

Remember, you need to know you one-rep max for the bench press, and then simply multiply it by the percentage you’re doing that week. That becomes the load for all your sets.

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