Should I Pause My Squat?
If you have no idea what a Pause Squat is, please check out The Power of The Pause.
There are a lot of questions about our use of Pause Squats and if they are necessary for every athlete. At the end of the day we know that the Squat is probably the most important exercise for any athlete. There is simply too much carryover into every other aspect of training for it to not become a part of your training protocol. And if you squat regularly then its probably a good idea to incorporate Pause Squats in your training. And if you don’t squat regularly then Pause Squats are a great place to start.
Every athlete in our gym is training with us for a different purpose. Some might compete or have competed in strength events in the past. Others are endurance athletes and others are fighters. But across the board they want to get as strong and fast and durable as they possibly can in the short time they have to train with us. So for us as coaches we need to prescribe them with exercises that allow them to get the most out of their training. Exercises that will have the most carryover not only into other gym activities, but also activities outside the gym.
Enter the Pause Squat.
In our experience there isn’t a single other exercise that we’ve introduced our athletes to that has had the same carryover as Pause Squats. We started incorporating this exercise into our training after working with 2x Olympian Chad Vaughn. Chad uses Pause Squats to develop range of motion, comfort and strength in the squat. He basically considers the Pause Squat the ultimate mobility exercise. Not only does it improve your mobility and your proprioception, but it makes you really strong as well. Not with just the Squat, but also for the Clean and Snatch. It also greatly improves your comfort in not only receiving these lifts, but also your ability to finish these lifts.
When you start using the Squat to get as flexible and comfortable in the bottom of a lift as possible your relationship with the Squat changes. It stops being a punishing strength only exercise and starts being the best lift you can do. The byproduct of getting flexible and comfortable is that you end up getting really strong.
The Pause in the bottom of the squat accomplishes all of these things. It first gets the athlete used to what a complete range of motion is. This is huge for athletes that have such limited mobility that they struggle to get to parallel. Or athletes that come from a powerlifting background that struggle to find depth because they have never trained that way before. As the athlete holds a pause in the bottom of the squat, both time under tension and loading forces them deeper and deeper into a squat. In order to maintain this position the athlete has to keep a strong, active back and core. This is where the athlete starts to learn about proprioception. They are forced to relax portions of their hips, while maintaining their core and low back stability. While this might seem unduly torturous for most, if you are interested in improving your lifting technique, both in the squat and in the Olympic lifts and you also want to improve your mobility, strength and explosivity there is no other lift that will have quite as much carryover.
Do you need Pause Squats? If you squat regularly and you want to get the most out of your time training it’s a good tool to have in your arsenal. It gives you variety and also allows you to train at a lighter load and volume and still see an ample strength benefit. This happens for two reasons. First because you are in a much deeper squat position there is greater motor and muscle recruitment to not only maintain an upright torso, but also allow you to get out of that rock bottom position while still maintaining that upright torso. Second as you get more comfortable with this exercise you won’t be bouncing in the bottom of this exercise. This means that you won’t get the extra stretch reflex boost out of the bottom. Which in scientific terms makes you: Really Effin Strong.
If you’re an Olympic lifter or Olympic lift regularly Pause Squats need to be something you are intimately familiar with. Few things have the carryover to help your pull, your catch, your explosion your comfort and your mobility like Pause Squats. Pause Squats are also a lifter’s insurance. The stronger and more comfortable you are squatting out of deeper positions the more insurance you have in catching and standing up with lifts that aren’t ideal.
If you’re an endurance athlete it’s especially crucial for you to do Pause Squats. Repetitive movements such as running and cycling keep the ankle from working in a complete range of motion. Over time this severely limits ankle mobility, which in turn can lead to injury and movement dysfunction. By working in a full range of motion in the squat the athlete is forced to get the most range of motion out of their ankle. This strengthens neglected portions of the lower leg that are necessary for keeping endurance athletes healthy and training at a high volume.
From our experience the Pause Squat is the magic pill for fixing crappy movement and getting strong athletes even stronger. It gives your joints a break from being under heavy loads all the time and allows you to experiment with bar and torso position. Also because you are holding positions for extended periods of time, you are given the opportunity to make adjustments in your form and technique.
We typically incorporate some version of Pause Squats every couple of weeks with at least one cycle a year focused specifically on Pause Squats.
If you want to see how we do it check out our 8 Week Corrective Squat Cycle. This cycle is dedicated to not only improving your mobility, but also getting you strong as hell.