T Nation

Paused Bench Press

Hey guys. I have a question for guys out there who have competed a bit. I’ve looked around and I’m having trouble finding a clear enough answer, so I hoped some people around here might be able to help out.

Bench has always been my weakest lift. Recently, I started doing a lot more paused benching, and I feel like it has helped me a lot with control, speed, tightness, and so on. Plus, I just like the idea of practicing the way I would have to press in a competition. Slowly but surely, I’m moving almost all of my benching to paused benching.

The last time I maxed out, however, I noticed that as the weight got heavier I sort of let it sink into my chest a little bit as I paused it, which gave me more pop out of the bottom and made the lifts nicer and easier overall. Ever since, however, I have been trying to get rid of this “sinking in” on my paused reps. I know that in competition, you aren’t allowed to REALLY sink the bar in and “heave” it, So I have been trying to, in training, pause with the bar just barely touching my chest and press like that. It definitely took some of my power out of the bottom, but I’m slowly but surely putting more weight on the bar again. Still, I’m a little torn. I don’t know whether to be “competition strict” with all of my training lifts so that I don’t get into bad habits, or whether it would be better to be a little bit more lenient with form in order to get more weight on the bar and therefore be more comfortable under heavy weight/have the potential to get stronger, etc. And I think part of that “not knowing how strict to be” is because I don’t know how much I am allowed to let the bar “sink in” in competition without it being a problem.

So, I’m posting a couple videos of the last time I maxed out. I guess the bottom line question are 1) would they be good lifts in a competition? 2) what would you suggest: training as I would for competition almost all of the time, or being a little more lenient with form (ie letting the bar sink in on pauses or doing touch n go work) just for the sake of working harder with heavier weights?

Thanks guys.

I’ve recently also added in a lot of paused reps ( barbell and dumb-bells ) , so Im in for discussion’s sake . and my press sucks balls too .

IMO…short pauses on anything more than a single. (your lift looks like what I would call a short pause). Full pause on all singles. The rule in most federations states ‘the bar must be motionless on the chest’, if it is sinking most judges would not give the press command. In the bottom waiting for the press command is not a place to hang-out!

Okay BCT thanks for the response. So it sounds like, in your opinion, the sinking in itself isn’t a problem as long as I realize that the press command will only come once the bar is motionless. So the sink-in isn’t a big deal as long as I come to a full stop at the bottom and give a pause then, instead of counting the bar being in contact with my chest as “paused.” Thanks. I’m starting to feel like I was overt-hinking it a little bit. I just worry that I will get into bad habits, those bad habits well get worse over time, and then three years down the line I’ll be kicking myself when I have to take some BIG steps back and fix form issues. But it seems like the sinking in really isn’t a big deal as long as I don’t let it get DRASTICALLY worse, and in reality I am far too weak to be worrying very much about it right now haha.

I’d be doing pause bench with a 2-3 second iso-hold just touching your chest, don’t let it sink and lose tension. Should really help with your competition bench.

Just to be clear you can let the bar sink in to your chest as much as you want in a competition, that is not illegal. What is illegal is if you get the press command and then you sink it further and then try to press it up, sometimes called a heave and press. As the post above stated, if you let it sink then it needs to settle so the press command might be delayed a bit. I just watched the video of the first bench and it looked okay to me, although ideally the camera should be significantly closer to catch the little things.

Back to original point, the bar can descend as low as you want it on your chest (as long as it is on the sternum and not the belly) but once you get the press command there can be no downward motion of the bar at any point before lockout.

Hope that is more clear,

Hey Tim, thanks for taking the time to respond. That’s exactly what I was looking for - when I read the IPF rulebook they talked about the heave and press, and I just wasn’t completely clear on how they defined it. I wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t get in trouble for what I was doing, even though I really didn’t feel like I was heaving at all, just letting it sink in. Now I have a much better idea of what’s legal and illegal, I can bench the way that feels strongest for me - I’ll just work on extending the pause so that the bar is completely motionless, instead of rushing it like i might have done in the videos. Thanks again to everyone who posted, I really appreciate it.

I’ve also been building paused press into my workouts using a three-second iso hold at my chest on speed press days. Seems to be working well; it’s now easier to pause my ME lifts.