Exercise of Note: Pause Squats

This is a recurring column that discusses exercises that are maybe not super commonly performed, or more basic exercises that I might program in an non-standard manner. Today’s exercise is the Pause Squat

The back squat is probably going to be the non-olympic cornerstone of most athletic strength programs. As a strength, power, and mass builder, it’s pretty much unmatched. However, endless sets of squats can be extremely taxing on the athlete. Furthermore, slow grinding reps don’t do much to develop the power that is needed in sporting activities. How can we stimulate the same muscle as the squat (quads, glutes, low back) in an manner that builds speed without causing soreness?

Enter the pause squat. As seen in the video above, a pause squat is performed by pausing at the bottom of the full range of motion for a true 2-3 seconds before driving up with max force. During the pause, the athlete must remain tight and ready for the concentric explosion. In order to develop the most force/time (power), the weight being used should be between 55-70% of the athlete’s max. However, bar speed should be monitored at all times. If the weight starts to slow appreciably, either lower the weight or cut the set. Programming pause squats can be done in 2-6 sets of 2-3 after a main squat set, or 15-8 sets of 2-3 as the primary lower body lift.

A further benefit of pause squats is that because they are less physically and mentally taxing on an athlete than a normal work set of squats, they can be programmed as a dynamic effort or low intensity day of the week without being a waste of time. Additionally, pause squats can be used (on the lower end of the percentage spectrum) instead of normal squat work in the day or days preceding competition.

Give them a shot next time you’re in the gym, get a sense of how it feels to move weight quickly, and stick them in your programming.


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