The chest is one of the biggest muscles in the upper body and although I am obsessed with having a big back, I still want a good chest to go along with it. A big upper chest will have a big impact on your upper body and will make your shoulders, traps and neck look better too because it will give your collarbones a more muscular look. Along with a nice looking chest, shoulders have always been one of my favorite muscles because they look badass and give you that width that most people don’t have.
Anyways, if you are serious about training then you want to have the complete package (not just one good looking body part). I personally have a pretty underdeveloped chest and it is all because of a small detail in my training that I have overlooked for years. My shoulders are probably my strongest point in my physique but they could still use some more work. Although I do train my shoulders very hard, my parents both have very well developed shoulders and don’t train. If your chest or shoulders are a lagging muscle group and you are trying to bring them up then you should consider what I am about to say below;
STOP DOING TOUCH-AND-GO BENCHING AND SHOULDER PRESSING WHILE NEGLECTING PAUSE PRESSES!
First off, let me say that Touch-and-go pressing is not bad, but when that’s all you have been doing for years and years it will become problematic for strength and size because the results won’t be optimal.
I have been doing touch and go bench and shoulder pressing for years and it has left me with small pecs, why is that? Let me explain, when you bench press for a bigger chest you have to understand that the triceps and front delts are heavily involved. The triceps work very hard at the lockout which is basically from the middle of the concentric portion of the movement up until your arms are straight, that is when the triceps get time to shine.
The chest is mostly engaged at the bottom of the movement (when the bar touches your chest) up until about the middle of the concentric phase (on average). The same thing applies for shoulder pressing, for 3 years I would shoulder press (seated or standing with a barbel or dumbbells) while lowering the weight to about the collarbone level and exploding back up by bouncing it off my body. From a strength perspective it might not sound so bad because you can use heavier weights, but at the same time you are just going to remain weak at the bottom if you continue on like this. The shoulders work hard at the bottom if you get rid of the touch-and-go reps which eliminates the stretch reflex by making your shoulders work harder which will lead to some good hypertrophy gains.
When you do touch and go reps on the bench press you are basically relying on momentum to do the work for you and while it might be cool to bounce around heavy weights and brag to your friends, your pecs will most likely look like shit or the development won’t be optimal! Most people bench press for a bigger chest or shoulder press for bigger delts so wouldn’t it make sense to make your chest do most of the work? I have been doing this style of bench pressing and my chest has been getting a bit bigger, but this is only the beginning.
The benefits of pause presses are:
• Stronger out of the hole (the bottom of the movement where most people are extremely weak such as myself).
• Bigger chest and delts
• Less ego and you will actually be able to tell people how much you really bench because in powerlifting competitions a touch and go bench wouldn’t count!
• less shoulder injuries due to less weight
How long should you pause at the chest?
This is a very popular question and there isn’t only one answer to it. I would say that a one second pause would be good but you can do two or three if you really want to, just know that you won’t be able to lift as much weight. I like a one second pause because it still lets you handle decent weights while hammering the chest. Anything where you eliminate the stretch reflex (the bounce at the bottom) could be considered a pause press to a certain degree in my books. I don’t like to count at the bottom, but one second sounds good to me.
How much weight will I have to drop when pause pressing?
This will all depend on your strength levels and it depends on the exercise too, but you might only be able to get half of the reps you would normally get. Example; if you bench 225×10 with touch and go reps then you might only get 225×5 with a quick 1 second pause bench because you can’t really use momentum. This may sound bad, but check this out, if you switch to pause benching you will notice that your 225×5 will go to 10 reps relatively fast because your chest will actually be getting stronger. Many people do touch and go reps on the bench press because they have a weak chest and they have been doing touch and go for as long as they can remember. Sometimes you have to take 1 step back to take 2 steps forward.
Can I still do the touch and go bench and do pause benching after?
You can do what you want, if you are doing 4 sets of 6 on the bench press then you can do 1 or 2 touch and go bench sets if you want and then the other 2 sets will include a pause. You could then do a back-off set with higher reps if you want. You can even eliminate the touch and go bench pressing altogether, the choice is yours. It all depends on your goals. I do chest and back on Tuesdays and back and shoulders on Fridays, here is what I would do if I was shoulder pressing.
2 sets of shoulder pressing for 5 reps (touch and go)
2 sets of shoulder pressing pause reps for 4-6 reps (slight pause)
2 sets of shoulder pressing for higher reps (shoulders respond well to high reps as well in my experience (8-12))
Does this rule apply to dumbbell benching as well?
Yes, if you are going for chest development then there’s no point in cheating and we might as well do it right. There is still a place for touch and go dumbbell pressing work, but I would rather eliminate the stretch reflex and only do 2 touch and go sets for my main chest barbell movement at the beginning of the workout. I don’t see a point in trying to ego lift on my accessory and assistance work.
What are the benefits of touch and go pressing?
Touch and go pressing is still useful and some of the benefits are:
• Lifting more weight which gets your nervous system used to heavier loads
• Confidence holding heavier weights
• Your triceps can handle heavier loads which can lead to strength/hypertrophy or whatever you may be training for.
So there you have it, if you have a lagging chest or shoulders then give the pause pressing a try, I think you will be happy with the results. Remember that building a good chest and delts take some time but if you eventually able to bench 1.5x your bodyweight for a set of 10 with a 1 second pause at the bottom of each rep then your chest will be huge. Which means that if you weigh 200lb and can bench 250lb x 10 with a 1sec pause at the bottom for 3 sets then you will have a bigger chest. For shoulders, if you can press your own bodyweight with a barbell for a set of 10 with a 1sec pause then you will most likely have bigger delts. Touch and go reps are still useful and I have nothing against them, but don’t neglect the power of pausing a bit. Let me know how it goes and don’t forget to subscribe!