Pause or Power Through? Should You Pause at the Bottom of Your Bench Press?

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To pause or not to pause, that is the bench press question?

There are various techniques you can use to improve your bench press, strength, and muscle-building capabilities.

However, one of the most popular methods is the paused bench press, as opposed to the standard touch-and-go bench press.

So, I’ll discuss the pros and cons of both methods, thus allowing you to make an informed decision for yourself.

Pausing at the bottom of bench press is the best way to improve strength. Plus, your pecs are most activated at the bottom of the bench press. Therefore, if you struggle to get the bar away from your chest, this points to a weakness in your pecs. So, utilising a pause will help you to get stronger and eventually bench press more weight.

Paused Bench Press is Better For Strength

Firstly, I will say that whether you should pause at the bottom of the bench press or not is a matter of personal preference.

And for me, my personal preference is a resounding YES.

My reasoning behind this is that I only ever bench press for strength purposes.

Basically, I bench press in order to get stronger at the movement, and hopefully increase the weight I’m benching on a regular basis.

So, when it comes to aesthetics I would typically focus more on other chest-related exercises.

Some of my favourites include incline dumbbell chest press, dips, push ups, and standing cable variations.

This is not to say that you can’t produce an aesthetically-pleasing set of pecs from bench press alone, but I much prefer it as a strength movement.

If you are also looking to regularly lift more weight when you bench press then I suggest that you add a pause at the bottom.

The pecs are most activated at the bottom of the bench press, so they are working their hardest when you need to push the barbell away from your chest.

"If you want to build a chest like a wall, you gotta stop and smell the roses at the bottom of the bench press." - Arnold Schwarzenegger

Plus, if you find that getting the barbell away from your chest is a struggle, this points to a potential weakness in the pecs.

It’s also interesting to note that during a powerlifting meet, competitors must pause at the bottom of the bench press before pressing and straightening their arms.

And powerlifters are some of the strongest bench pressers you’re ever likely to meet.

By the way, this doesn’t mean that you can’t build muscle with the paused bench press.

In fact, I would argue that pausing is better for hypertrophy, as it increasing time-under-tension and focuses far more on the eccentric part of the move.

Therefore, for me, whether I want to get stronger or build muscle I will add a pause.

Paused Bench Press | Pros and Cons | A Balanced Appraisal

The bench press is a staple exercise for building upper body strength. 

However, when plateaus arise, introducing variations like the paused bench press can become tempting. 

But is it a magical muscle-builder or a momentum-killer? 

Here’s a list of the pros and cons.

Pros of Paused Bench Press

Enhanced Muscle Activation: During a pause, momentum is eliminated, forcing pure muscle recruitment through the eccentric (lowering) and isometric (holding) phases. This targeted engagement in the pecs, triceps, and deltoids can lead to greater muscle growth compared to touch-and-go reps.

Improved Strength Gains: By eliminating the “bounce” from traditional repetitions, pauses force your muscles to work through their weakest point at the bottom of the movement. This translates to building raw strength, enabling you to lift heavier weights over time and break through plateaus.

Refined Form and Control: The pause acts as a spotlight on your form. Maintaining a stable core, engaged shoulders, and controlled bar path becomes crucial during the hold. This focus on technique can reduce the risk of injury and improve overall movement quality.

Mental Toughness Building: Paused reps are inherently more challenging, requiring greater mental fortitude to push through the burn. This grit-building aspect can translate to improved determination and focus in other areas of your training and life.

Cons of Paused Bench Press

Reduced Weight Capacity: Unlike standard reps, pauses significantly increase difficulty. To maintain proper form and avoid injury, you will likely need to use lighter weights for paused repetitions. Prepare for a temporary adjustment in your usual load.

Faster Fatigue: The increased muscle engagement from pauses leads to quicker fatigue. Start with lower sets and reps, gradually increasing as your muscles adapt to the increased workload.

Technical Demand: While effective, paused reps require precise execution. Improper form, especially during the hold, can lead to shoulder and elbow injuries. It’s crucial to prioritize proper technique, potentially seeking guidance from a qualified coach if you’re new to the exercise.

Making an Informed Decision

It's all about finding what works for you. Some thrive on pauses, some dominate with touch-and-go. Experiment and see what builds your best bench." - Dorian Yates

Whether or not you incorporate paused bench press into your routine depends on your individual goals, experience, and fitness level. Consider these factors:

Experienced lifters: If you’re stuck in a plateau or want to target specific muscle weaknesses, pauses can be a valuable tool to add variety and challenge.

Strength-focused athletes: Powerlifters and those prioritizing pure muscular power can benefit from the isometric strength gains of paused reps.

However, paused reps might not be ideal for:

Beginners: Focus on mastering proper form with standard bench press before adding the complexity of pauses.

Injury-prone individuals: If you have pre-existing shoulder or elbow issues, consult a doctor or physical therapist before attempting paused reps.

Explosiveness-focused athletes: Olympic weightlifters and athletes relying on explosive movements might find paused reps hinder their speed and power.


Start light: Gradually introduce paused reps with lighter weights to prioritize proper form and minimize injury risk.

Prioritize technique: Seek guidance from a coach if needed to ensure you’re executing the pause correctly.

Warm-up and cool-down: Always warm up properly before paused reps and cool down afterwards to maximize recovery.

Experiment and adapt: Listen to your body and adjust the weight, sets, and reps based on your individual response.

Touch-and-Go Bench Press is Better For Volume

The “touch-and-go” bench press is what the vast majority of lifters do in the gym environment.

As the name implies, you lower the bar until it lightly touches your chest and then immediately press it straight back up.

There’s nothing wrong with the touch-and-go bench, and it certainly allows you to get much more volume.

However, in truth, getting more volume is often nothing more than an ego trip (sorry).

With that being said, more volume can also be attributed to those who are benching more than once a week.

Your aim is to increase and improve your bench press as quickly as possible, so you specialize the lift for a few weeks.

In effect, you could be training bench press 3-4 times a week.

This is where the touch-and-go bench can be an advantage, as it is far less taxing on the Central Nervous System than the paused bench press.

"Don't overthink it! Touch-and-go keeps the intensity high and burns calories like wildfire." - Mike Matthews

Nevertheless, additional volume doesn’t always translate to increased and improved strength.

So, it really comes down to why you’re bench pressing in the first place.

You will always achieve better pec and shoulder strength development through the paused bench press.

But, you will always achieve more volume with the touch-and-go bench press.

It is estimated that most of us should be able to lift 5-10% more weight when using touch-and-go.

However, it’s important to remember that as your pecs are mainly activated at the bottom, you may not be doing much to improve your strength by using touch-and-go.

To make matters worse, touch-and-go can often be used to “cheat” the bench press.

Essentially, the bar is literally bounced off the chest and you end up using momentum to get the bar back up.

Obviously, “bouncing” has many dangers of its own, and if you don’t have proper control over the descent, you could end up injuring yourself.

Furthermore, the use of momentum should generally be avoided when lifting weights anyway.

You’re really not getting the best out of an exercise if you’re using momentum.

So, if you do prefer the touch-and-go bench, ensure that you have full control of the bar at all times, and only lightly brush your chest at the bottom.

Touch-and-Go Bench Press | Advantages and Considerations

The touch-and-go bench press, where the bar barely touches your chest before immediately pressing back up, is a popular variation with distinct advantages and limitations. 

It’s crucial to understand both sides of the coin before incorporating it into your routine.

Advantages of Touch-and-Go

Increased Volume: Touch-and-go reps allow you to handle heavier weights compared to paused reps due to the momentum assistance in the concentric (lifting) phase. This enables performing more sets and reps, leading to potentially greater training volume and muscle hypertrophy.

Faster Workout Pace: By omitting the pause, touch-and-go reps can significantly improve workout efficiency. This can be beneficial for individuals with time constraints or seeking to perform high-intensity interval training.

Improved Muscular Coordination: Touch-and-go reps emphasize the stretch-shortening cycle, where muscles like the pecs and triceps work in sync to lengthen and shorten rapidly. This can enhance neuromuscular coordination and contribute to explosive strength gains.

Lowered Technical Demand: Compared to paused reps, touch-and-go reps are technically less demanding. This can be advantageous for beginners or individuals with limited mobility, allowing them to focus on building basic strength before progressing to the complexity of pauses.

Touch-and-Go Considerations

Reduced Muscle Activation: Eliminating the pause minimizes the time under tension at the bottom of the movement, potentially leading to less muscle activation, particularly in the pecs and deltoids. This might be less effective for isolated muscle growth compared to paused reps.

Increased Injury Risk: Momentum from touch-and-go reps can place greater stress on joints like the shoulders and elbows. Improper form or excessive weight can further exacerbate this risk. Prioritizing proper technique and using appropriate loads is crucial.

Reduced Strength Specificity: Touch-and-go reps primarily target concentric strength, where the muscles shorten to produce force. Paused reps, on the other hand, also emphasize eccentric and isometric strength, making them potentially more specific for building overall bench press strength.

Form Issues: The lack of a pause can mask technical flaws in your form. This can lead to bad habits and potential injuries in the long run. Paying close attention to your technique and ensuring proper core engagement, shoulder stability, and controlled bar path is essential.

Making an Informed Choice

"Don't get caught up in the pause vs. no pause debate. Focus on form, progressive overload, and consistency. That's the real recipe for progress." - Menno Henselmans

Whether touch-and-go bench press is right for you depends on your individual goals, experience, and risk tolerance. 

Here are some things to think about.

Beginners: Start with standard bench press to master proper form before attempting touch-and-go reps.

Volume-focused athletes: Touch-and-go reps can be beneficial for increasing training volume and promoting muscle growth.

Strength-focused athletes: Prioritize paused reps for building raw bench press strength and improving technique.

Injury-prone individuals: Use lighter weights and prioritize proper form to minimize injury risk.


  • Warm up properly before performing touch-and-go reps.
  • Choose weights that allow you to maintain proper form throughout the entire movement.
  • Pay close attention to your technique, focusing on core engagement, shoulder stability, and controlled bar path.
  • Consider incorporating both touch-and-go and paused reps into your training program for a well-rounded approach.

Mix Up Your Bench Press Training

Personally, I don’t believe one you should choose method or the other, but this does of course also depend on your training goals.

But, variety is definitely the spice of life, so I see no reason not to regularly perform both versions of the bench press.

After all, most of us want to get stronger and bigger.

So, the best way to achieve this is to focus on both strength training and hypertrophy training (and even “power training” too).

Bench Press Training - Strength - 1-5 reps 85-95% of one-rep max, Hypertrophy - 8-12 reps 65-85% of one-rep max, Power - 3-6 reps 30-50% of one-rep max.

But, there’s more to this.

Additionally, I also think it’s a great idea to throw some power training into the mix.

This would typically involve benching with a much lighter weight, but at a much faster pace.

Plus, by learning to control the descent and then quickly powering a bar off your chest, you can certainly improve any weakness at getting the bar off the chest.

In fact, this is generally where most people fail or stall on the bench press.

Basically, they don’t have the necessary strength (as they fatigue) to press the bar away from them.

Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to work all three training protocols, i.e. strength, hypertrophy, and power.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Should I Pause?

Determining the ideal pause duration for your paused bench press depends on several factors, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. 

However, I can provide you with some guidelines and considerations to help you find the sweet spot

General Recommendations

Beginner to Intermediate: Start with a 1-2 second pause at the bottom of the movement. This provides sufficient time for muscle engagement and control while minimizing technical difficulty.

Advanced: Once comfortable with shorter pauses, gradually progress to 2-3 seconds. This increases time under tension and further emphasizes muscle activation, particularly in the chest and shoulders.

Competitive Lifters: Powerlifters may utilize pauses exceeding 3 seconds to meet competition requirements and maximize isometric strength gains. However, this requires advanced technique and should be undertaken with caution to avoid fatigue and potential injury.

"The pause bench press is like kryptonite to plateaus. It forces you to confront your weaknesses and build real strength." - Eric Cressey

Factors to Consider

Your Goals: Shorter pauses prioritize technical refinement and strength development, while longer pauses focus on muscle growth and isometric training.

Strength Level: Choose a pause duration that allows you to maintain proper form throughout the entire rep. Start lighter and gradually increase the pause as you get stronger.

Fatigue Level: Longer pauses lead to faster fatigue. Adjust the pause duration based on your energy levels and training progression.

Individual Response: Experiment with different pause durations and observe your body’s response. Choose the duration that feels most challenging and effective for you.

Additional Tips

Focus on Quality: Don’t prioritize longer pauses if you lose control or compromise form.

Maintain Tension: Don’t let the bar rest completely on your chest during the pause. Keep your core engaged and shoulders retracted.

Count Out Loud: Mentally counting seconds during the pause can help maintain focus and ensure consistent timing.

Vary Pauses: You can experiment with different pause durations within a workout or cycle to target different muscle groups and keep your training program stimulating.

Does Pausing Build Muscle Faster?

Whether pausing builds muscle faster depends on several factors, so a simple yes or no wouldn’t be accurate. 

Here’s a breakdown of the key considerations (some of which I have already discussed).

Potential Muscle Building Benefits of Pausing

Increased Time Under Tension: Pausing at the bottom of the movement prolongs the time your muscles are under load, especially during the eccentric (lowering) and isometric (holding) phases. This increased tension can stimulate greater muscle growth, particularly in the pecs, triceps, and deltoids.

Enhanced Muscle Activation: By eliminating momentum from touch-and-go reps, pauses force your muscles to work through their entire range of motion and recruit additional muscle fibers for stabilization. This targeted activation can contribute to more efficient muscle growth.

Improved Strength Foundation: Building raw strength in the bottom of the movement, where you’re weakest, translates to higher potential weight lifting across the entire rep. This progressive overload can further stimulate muscle growth over time.

"Touch-and-go gives you momentum, pauses give you muscle. Choose your weapon." - Jim Wendler

Considerations When Building Muscle with Pauses

Reduced Weight Capacity: Due to the increased difficulty of paused reps, you’ll likely need to use lighter weights compared to touch-and-go reps. This can limit the overall training volume and potentially slow down muscle growth compared to heavier sets with shorter rest periods.

Technique Demands: Proper form is crucial during the pause to avoid injury and maximize muscle activation. This can be challenging for beginners, and improper form can negate the muscle-building benefits.

Fatigue & Recovery: Pauses lead to faster fatigue, requiring careful adjustment of sets, reps, and rest periods to allow for proper recovery and avoid overtraining.

Building Muscle: Pauses vs. Traditional Reps

Overall Volume: Touch-and-go reps might allow for higher total volume due to heavier weights and shorter rest periods, which can be a stimulus for muscle growth.

Targeted Activation: Pauses offer greater emphasis on specific muscle groups, particularly during the bottom of the movement, potentially leading to more focused muscle growth in areas like the chest and shoulders.

The Verdict

Pausing can be a valuable tool for building muscle, but it’s not necessarily a faster track than traditional bench press variations. 

Its effectiveness depends on your individual goals, experience, and training program design. 

Think about these factors:

Experience: Beginners should prioritize mastering proper form with standard bench press before incorporating pauses.

Muscle Focus: If you want to target specific muscle groups, pauses can be beneficial.

Strength Focus: For pure strength gains, paused reps can be effective, but ensure you maintain proper form.

Key Takeaways

  • Pausing can be a valuable muscle-building tool, but it’s not a “magic bullet.”
  • Consider your individual needs and goals when deciding whether to incorporate pauses.
  • Prioritize proper form and adjust weight and volume accordingly.
  • Experiment with different bench press variations to find what works best for you.

Is Pausing Dangerous?

While the paused bench press can be a valuable training tool, it’s not inherently dangerous when performed with proper form and appropriate weight selection. 

However, like any exercise, there are factors to consider to minimize risk and ensure safety.

Potential Risks

Increased Stress on Shoulders: The paused bench press places additional stress on the shoulders, particularly if your form is compromised or the weight is too heavy. This can lead to impingement, rotator cuff issues, or other shoulder injuries.

Elbow Strain: Improper wrist and elbow position during the pause can put undue stress on these joints, potentially leading to pain or injury.

Fatigue and Form Breakdown: Longer pauses lead to quicker fatigue, which can compromise your form and increase the risk of injury, especially if using heavy weights.

Minimizing Risks

Focus on Form: Mastering proper form with standard bench press before attempting pauses is crucial.

Choose Appropriate Weight: Use lighter weights than you would for touch-and-go reps to maintain control and proper form during the pause.

Pay Attention to Technique: Maintain core engagement, shoulder retraction, and controlled bar path throughout the entire movement, especially during the pause.

Start Gradually: Begin with shorter pauses (1-2 seconds) and gradually increase the duration as your strength and technique improve.

Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to any pain or discomfort during the pause, and stop immediately if anything feels off.

Warm Up and Cool Down: Proper warm-up and cool-down are essential for any exercise, especially when challenging your muscles with paused reps.

Key Learning Points

  • Pausing at the bottom of bench press is ideal for strength training.
  • Your pecs are most activated at the bottom of the bench press, so if you struggle to get the bar away from your chest this points to a potential weakness. Using a pause can actually improve on your weakness.
  • If you want to get more volume into your bench press workouts (hypertrophy training) the touch-and-go method is better than pausing.
  • Training for power will involve lighter weights, a faster pace, and no pause at the bottom.
  • You should change up your bench press workouts and use different training protocols. Therefore, train for strength and use the pause for one session, focus on hypertrophy on your next session, and then power for the following training session.

Are you looking to significantly increase the size of your chest? Then make sure you follow these two fantastic bench press tips.

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