Pause Squats and Deadlifts For Deceleration
Pause squats and pause deadlifts, two of my favorite variations. An issue though you see discussed around Instagram is about how often people really aren’t pausing. A 1 second pause turns into .5 seconds or maybe not even a pause at all. I am here to say something probably a bit surprising, but based on the intention of why the pause was programmed, to me that’s not as big of an issue as you’d think. Above we have examples, with Brandon hitting a very good 1 second pause versus Shane’s probably looking more like a tempo squat than a pause squat (CLICK HERE). And in the 2nd video we have Joey with a rushed pause deadlift, followed by a long pause where he gave a little call out to Abbee to show he could pause a deadlift! For both Shane and Joey I instructed them to pause longer, but that was to fulfill the desire to self limit rather than to induce the training effect I was looking for from a pause squat or deadlift. The training effect I was looking for was accomplished, even with the rushed pauses.
The more I program pause squats and pause deadlifts the more I realize the true intention behind their benefit to my system of programming is their ability to create patience and deceleration in parts of the movement where many lifters rush. While the length of the pause can create added needs for stability, reduced stretch reflex effect, and self limiting capabilities, I find the major benefit is how it affects the descent of the squat and the setup of the deadlift.
For squats, without cueing, lifters will naturally control their deceleration better when they know they are pausing, regardless of pause length. A fault of many lifters is trying to accelerate into the bottom position to get a greater rebound effect, and many times this just results in a breakdown of bracing, control, and position. Whereas when we know we are pausing, we decelerate with more control knowing that for a split second, there is nowhere to go. There is no rush to come back up because we first must come to a stop. Which is exactly the training effect I want. I want lifters to command control throughout the entirety of the movement, wherein often times that is lost at the bottom. For Shane, this particular rep turned into a tempo squat. And not because it was a tempo squat, but instead because he inadvertently controlled the descent more with the knowledge that he would need to decelerate at the bottom. On other reps he paused longer, but that didn’t mean this rep was a lost cause. I cued him to make sure to pause longer as the other intention I had of pause squats being programmed was to self limit. But the primary intention of the movement was still accomplished with the goal of controlled deceleration.
For pause deadlifts, it’s fairly common to find lifters who can almost pause deadlift their regular max, and consistently will say how if they don’t have pause deadlifts programmed their form starts to regress. This all comes back to what a knowledge of an incoming pause subconsciously does to the intention of your setup. If you know that as soon as that bar breaks the floor that you have to stop, you naturally will be in less of a rush to set up. Like clockwork, I see noticeable set up improvements when lifters perform pause deadlifts over their regular deadlift, especially with sumo pullers. On conventional deadlift you can get away with a rock and roll style jerk and explode deadlift, but with sumo you have to be very intentional. With Joey, he can basically pause deadlift his competition PR, and whenever we take out pause deadlifts we tend to see a regression in form. He starts to rush his setup, he isn’t as intentional about foot pressure, and he will lack the same tensioning with the bar. Notice none of that has anything to do with how long he pauses, just the fact that the knowledge of a pause creates a sense of patience. Unlike pause squats, I don’t typically program pause deadlifts to self limit, but rather as an accountability measure to force this patience during the setup. A common thing talked about with pause deadlifts is it helps with strength off the floor. And with what I covered we can understand why. It’s not that it truly increases strength, it’s that it improves our setup through this patience to allow for a stronger position to break the bar off the floor. For many of my lifters, I cue them to “pause deadlift their regular deadlift, but then just don’t pause”. I want them to have the same intention in thought that they don’t need to rush. While we need to get that bar moving, we don’t want to sacrifice position to do so, so the intention of pause creates the subconscious reaction not to rush.
In conclusion, I am not saying everyone should go start rushing their pauses, but I do think we should understand what the intended training effect truly is of these movements before rushing to judgement (this does not apply to bench, bench needs to be paused to a competition standard). In regards to creating more control through deceleration on the squat and patience on your deadlift set up, a shorter pause still accomplishes this training effect. Just don’t go bragging about your pause squat PR that wasn’t paused, that should be instead compared to your regular PR.