How To Do The Paused Bench Press Properly

The paused bench press is exactly what it sounds like; a bench press where you pause at the bottom of a rep to increase the time your target muscles spend under tension.

The bench press itself does a fantastic job working your muscles but when you add a pause to it, you automatically take the difficulty level a notch higher which most certainly makes it more effective.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Set the barbell at a height where it will be easy to unrack. It should be at eye level when you lie flat on the bench.
  • Plant both feet on the floor.
  • Push your shoulder blades back as though you were holding something between them.
  • Arch your upper back slightly to help you maintain a neutral spine.
  • The appropriate grip width will depend on the length of your arms or your fitness goals, but ideally you should go for something just a little bit wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Make sure you grab the bar as tight as you can.
  • Squeezing your glutes and core, unrack the bar and press your back against the bench until the bar pops out.
  • Inhale as you lower the bar down slowly.
  • Keep going down while driving your chest upward to meet the barbell. This should create a slight arch in your spine.
  • Let the bar rest on your chest (or a few inches above it) and tense your muscles.
  • Initiate the upward motion by engaging the glutes and driving both feet through the ground.
  • As you are going through the mid-range portion, exhale deeply.
  • Continue driving the bar upward until it is locked out above your body. It should travel through a J-shaped path until you get back to the starting position.
  • Do as many reps as you want.

WHAT MUSCLES DOES THE PAUSED BENCH PRESS WORK?

The paused bench press primarily targets the pectoral muscles in your chest and to a lesser degree, your triceps and shoulders.

BENEFITS OF THE PAUSED BENCH PRESS

MORE TIME UNDER TENSION

When you pause at the bottom of a bench press rep, you increase the time your muscles spend under tension.

The few extra seconds you spend in that position not only activate your muscle fibers more but also train your body to adapt to resistance when under heavy load.

TRAINS YOUR FORM

With the traditional bench press, you can easily get away with not keeping your muscles tense the entire time, which could be detrimental to your form.

But with the paused bench press, the extra time you spend at the bottom of the rep forces you to keep all your muscles tight and maintain the correct technique, which makes it even more effective.

ALTERNATIVES TO THE PAUSED BENCH PRESS

FLOOR PRESS

The floor press is just like a bench press, except you do it lying on the floor instead of a workout bench.

It works the same muscles as the paused bench press.

Here’s how to do it properly:

  • Lie on your back on the ground, with your legs extended.
  • Hold a barbell with both hands across your chest and your palms facing out.
  • Push the barbell upward by straightening your arms.
  • Pause for a few seconds at the top before lowering the weight until your arms come into contact with the ground.
  • Explode up again to begin another rep.
  • Perform 3 sets of 12 reps each.

DUMBBELL FLY

The dumbbell fly mainly targets the pectoral muscles on your chest, but is also recruits your upper back and shoulders.

With the dumbbell fly, you may not be able to go as heavy as other dumbbell chest exercises, so you should choose light dumbbells especially if you are just starting out.

Steps:

  • Hold one dumbbell in each hand.
  • Lie on a bench with your back pressed onto it.
  • Plant your feet on the floor.
  • Extend your arms to bring the dumbbells over the center of your chest.
  • Slowly, drop your arms to each side, making sure to maintain a slight bend in your elbows.
  • Stop when the dumbbells get to shoulder level.
  • Using your chest, pull the weights back to the center.
  • Do as many reps as you desire.

INCLINE DUMBBELL PRESS

This variation of the traditional dumbbell chest press specifically targets your upper pectorals and shoulders.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Set your bench to an incline of about 45 degrees.
  • Hold one dumbbell in each hand.
  • Press your back onto the bench.
  • Place your feet flat on the floor.
  • Bring the weights up to shoulder level, with your palms facing out.
  • Extend your elbows to push the dumbbells overhead.
  • Release the weights, bringing them by the sides of your chest. This is a complete rep.
  • Push the dumbbells up again to begin another rep.

PAUSED BENCH PRESS MISTAKES TO AVOID

USING MOMENTUM

Try to lower the bar slowly and with control instead of bouncing it off your chest or using momentum.

This increases the muscles’ time under tension to give them a better workout.

HALF REPS

The barbell should come into contact with your chest, or stop at most two inches above it. If it doesn’t travel that far, then you’ll have done an incomplete rep.

ARCHING YOUR LOWER BACK

You may need to arch depending on the goals you are looking to achieve with the paused bench press.

If you do need to arch, make sure it comes from your mid or upper back; never your lower back.

Cramping in your lower back during the movement could be a sign that you are not using the correct form and you are at risk of injury.

HEAVY WEIGHT

In the paused bench press, technique should always come first before load.

You are unlikely to get any gains from this movement if you use heavy weights with an incorrect form.

CONCLUSION

If a stronger upper body is in the cards for you, there’s no doubt you’ve tried the bench press.

But if you want to get even more out of this workout, add a pause to it the next time you are doing it and your chest will thank you!