In a powerlifting competition, you must pause the bench press on your chest before being allowed to drive it up. For this reason, it’s best to use a paused bench press in training, but does the touch and go bench press have a time and place?
The touch and go bench press refers to touching the barbell on your chest without a pause and immediately cycling through to the next rep. For powerlifters, the touch and go bench press should be considered a low priority exercise with not much carryover to their competition 1 rep max.
I instruct all of my powerlifting athletes to use a paused bench press no matter what the load or rep scheme. However, there are still some powerlifters who believe the touch and go bench press has a benefit.
In this article, I’ll cover:
- Touch and go bench press vs pause bench press
- The reasons for using the touch and go bench press
- Why you should reconsider using the touch and go bench press
Let’s get started!
Touch And Go Bench Press vs Pause Bench Press
There are two main styles for bench press:
- The touch and go bench press
- The paused bench press
The touch and go bench press is used by most people in the gym. The lifter will bring the weight down to their chest using a light touch before switching direction to drive the barbell straight up. Touching the chest ensures the lifter is executing the bench press using a full range of motion.
In contrast, the paused bench press is used by powerlifters because of the bench press rules that they will face in competition. The lifter will bring the weight down, pause the barbell on their chest, and then drive the weight back up.
In a powerlifting competition, it’s not enough touching the chest with the barbell to ensure it’s a full range of motion. The lifter must take one step further and make sure the barbell is motionless, not having any up or down, or side-to-side movement, before being allowed to press the weight.
Reasons For Using The Touch And Go Bench Press
You would think that most powerlifters would want to practice the technique that they will face in competition. However, several powerlifters see a benefit using the touch and go bench press. Let’s cover those reasons now.
1. “You can get more volume by doing touch and go”
Volume is one of the main drivers of both strength and hypertrophy.
It refers to how much work you’re doing as measured by multiplying your sets by reps by the load. For example, if you bench press 200lbs for 5 sets of 5 reps you’re doing 5000lbs of volume (5 X 5 X 200lbs).
The idea that doing the touch and go bench press leads to a greater amount of volume is simply because the reps will be easier. Since you won’t have to pause the bar on your chest, you can theoretically do more weight for the same protocol.
So if before you were only doing 200lbs for 5 sets of 5 reps (5000lbs of volume), you might be able to do 210lbs now using the touch and go bench press. This would equate to a 250lb increase in overall volume (5250lbs of volume).
Any extra volume that you’re able to get from doing a touch and go bench press is merely a vanity metric. In other words, yes, you can say you did more volume but did the volume actually relate to the specific outcome that you’re trying to accomplish? Not really.
If you’re a powerlifter who needs to develop the pec and shoulder strength to stabilize the barbell on your chest in competition, then any extra volume that bypasses this specific adaptation is pointless and not working you toward the goal of increasing your 1 rep max.
2. “It’s not as taxing, so you can recover faster”
Some lifters on high-frequency bench press programs, where you’re bench pressing 3-4 times per week, suggest that the touch and go bench press is less taxing and so they can recover better leading into their next workout.
For example, if the lifter has four bench press workouts scheduled within a week, they might alternate between one workout being touch and go and the other workout paused.
If recovery is an issue, the strategy to ‘recover more effectively’ shouldn’t be to alter the technique that you will ultimately need to practice to become a better bench presser in competition.
You should look at other programming factors that you can manipulate in order to build recovery protocols into the program (rest, tempo, sets, reps, etc).
Notwithstanding, your body is really good at adapting to stimulus if the stimulus is done progressively and spread out over several weeks and months.
In other words, if you’ve built up to benching four days per week using the paused bench press the entire time, then your body would have adapted to the specific stimulus, i.e. pausing on your chest. If it didn’t adapt, it’s because you implemented the touch and go bench press early on in the process.
Why You Should Reconsider Using The Touch And Go Bench Press
There are far too many benefits to the pause bench press that outweigh any perceived benefit you might get from doing the touch and go bench press.
1. Learn How To Decelerate The Barbell
One of the most important skills for any powerlifter is to learn how to decelerate the weight as they bring the barbell to their chest. Let me be clear about what “decelerating the barbell” means.
Think of a car that needs to drive 50m and then come to a stop. At about 25m out the driver presses on the break and the car begins to slow down. The car rolls slowly up to the 50m mark and stops.
In this scenario, it would be like a lifter getting about halfway to their chest and begins turning on the breaks to pause the barbell. This is not actually how you want to decelerate the barbell. So let me give you another visual.
Picture now that the car is approaching the 50m mark as fast as possible and then at 5m out slams on the break and stops just before the endpoint.
This is how you want to bench press. You want to maintain as much speed as possible on the way down until it’s time to ‘stop the bar on command’, which is right on your chest. This is a much harder technique to master than ‘gradually slowing’ down into your chest. It requires focus and practice.
By implementing the touch and go bench press, you don’t learn how to ‘stop the bar on command’. It’s almost like you forget to break and instead blow past the mark where you’re trying to stop. As such, you’re not developing the motor control needed to master the technique for competition.
2. Develop Pec & Shoulder Strength
The touch and go bench press does not give you the chance to develop your pec and shoulder strength.
In the bottom range of the bench press, your pecs are most activated. This is especially true as you bring the barbell to your chest on the way down, and just off your chest as you drive up.
In addition, at the deepest range in the bench press (when the bar is on the chest), the stabilization muscles of the shoulders, the rotator cuff, are working hard to keep the upper arm bone in the correct position.
If you are consistently using the touch and go method for bench press then you are bypassing the necessary stimulus for your pecs and shoulders to adapt to the strength required in the bottom range of motion.
3. Improve Touchpoint Consistency
The best bench pressers in the world have the exact same touchpoint on every single rep.
Any deviations on the touchpoint will create different bar paths from rep to rep, which can lead to inefficiencies, i.e. not using the correct musculature or pressing more range of motion than necessary.
When you use the paused vs touch and go bench press you can have greater confidence that the touchpoint is going to be the same on every rep. Increasing your touchpoint consistency will make you a better bench presser.
Notwithstanding, many lifters who use the touch and go bench press will begin to ‘bounce the barbell’ off their chest. So rather than lightly touching as they’re supposed to, they slam the barbell on the chest to try and get a rebound effect. This will lead to further inconsistencies for the touchpoint.
Read my article on bench press accessories to learn how to develop strength at each range of motion in the bench press.
4. Won’t Get Surprised Under Heavier Weights
If you consistently use the touch and go bench press, you might feel surprised by how heavy the weight feels on your chest when you are required to pause it.
The paused bench press will give you practice with what you need to do in a competitive environment under heavy weight.
The last thing that you want to happen is to bring the weight down to your chest in competition and have to think about how to pause the barbell. At this point, you want to have the movement pattern feeling natural and automatic.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much weight difference between touch and go and paused bench press?
As a general rule of thumb, the touch and go bench press is about 5% stronger than the paused bench press.
The touch and go bench press can be used by non-competitive powerlifters. However, for competitive powerlifters, the drawbacks far outweigh any benefits. As such, the paused bench press should be prioritized in training.