Why Pause Squats?

I LOVE goheavy.com
It’s got so many people there, discussing weightlifting and why they SHOULDN’T be doing an exercise.

In this case, the pause squats

Read this;


It just makes me so so very confused on why anybody would think that, getting stronger is a bad thing. Especially when you’re competing in a strength sport. Okay, their idea is that, it’s unlikely that you’ll be in that position, and still miss a clean. At that position, you’re perfectly straight and there should be no trouble whatsoever trying to stand up with the bar. So it’s “un-sport specific” and thus wouldn’t benefit the cleans and should not be done because it’s a waste of time and affects recovery whateverblablabla.

Watch this video and see how many lifters actually do get pinned at the bottom, or have an out of position clean which they had to save. Now this was in 1999 and yes, technique has evolved and lifters are far more efficient with their lifting now. However mistakes can and will happen, so it’s not a bad thing to future proof yourself.

Okay, why I’d continue to use the pause squats, both front and back.

1. I look fucking badass.

When I squat down, and people think I’m pinned then I stay there for a few seconds and then suddenly just stand up again, imagine how hardcore that is? They’d probably think “Oh, he’s fucked” and then you stand up again. It’d be like a phoenix rising from the ashes! Roar! Yes?

2. It’s a different variable that can be trained

In training, we always say there are few things more important than constantly progressing and overloading. Sometimes we overload in the weight, often the repetitions and sometimes the sets. Why should we stop there? Overloading can be done on other variables such as tempo, footwear (heels and flats make huge differences), speed. Plenty of things can be used as variables to overload and ensure consistent progress in a lifter. These variables all will contribute to making a stronger lifter.

Now will a stronger lifter, be a better lifter? Not necessarily, but if the technique is already perfect, and strength continues to rise, it may help. With our current understanding of weightlifting (albeit much more than 10 years ago), there still is a limit to how much technique you can perfect after all. Play with the variables. Tempo is one variable.

3. Pausing increases the amount of muscles recruited

Now unfortunately (Or fortunately if you think about it), I don’t know the so called technical terms on this. The idea however, is the same as a gymnast. When they pause, they increase muscular recruitment. As fast twitch muscles (okay that was an technical word!) continue to fatigue, the slow twitch muscles are recruited in order to continue holding one’s body at that odd position. This, consequently allows the mind to fire up more muscles every single time we do a movement, because it gets better at “switching on” those muscles.

The same goes to squatting. When we pause, at half-squat position, our muscles are firing like mad trying to hold that point. As we continue to do this, we eventually eliminate our weak points in the squat and thus get stronger. Train the movement, not the muscle rmbr?

4. It cuts out the stretch reflex, thus forcing us to use more muscles.

This is somewhat alike point 3, but there’s a slight difference. When the stretch reflex is used, momentum allows us to drive out the hole faster. However, when you are forced to just cut the stretch reflex, your body has to summon all the muscles that it can, to lift a weight that’s considered light with the stretch reflex.

What the devil is a stretch reflex? It’s kinda like… potential strength. When we go down and bounce, we release this bit of power and find ourselves in a much more advantageous position thus enabling us to use our muscles more effectively against gravity to stand up again. Biomechanics and physics baby!

When you cut this out, it’s the whole gravity VS you. What you gonna do? Let gravity win? Or fight? That’s why it’s hella useful to pause.

Which brings me to another method of training. The bottleneck method. Find the position where you’re weakest, and put the bar (on a power rack) at that point. Then position yourself under the bar and get up as quickly and powerfully as you can. Then drop right back down. When we work on our weak points like this, our bodies start to understand that at this point, it’d better recruit all the muscles because gravity ain’t playing a game with you at this point. The advantage of this training is also, that you do not have an eccentric portion because after each lift, you just drop the bar back on the rack. No with a good bar, you won’t bend it. Or you can easily use a squat rack for this.

When you train without an eccentric portion, you’re able to recover quicker as there is less muscular tear. There is also less stress on the CNS and recovery on our CNS is quicker, thus enabling us to train more. More training, with enough recovery? Improvement. There are coaches out there who are marketing this as “Eccentric-less/Zero-tear/ Training”. Though the name is utter bullshit, the concept on itself works.

So for me? I’d continue using eccentrics, drops, pauses and normal squatting to achieve my goals. I rock.

7 replies
  1. Bryan
    Bryan says:

    This is similar to box squating in powerlifting, which is used to increase rate of force development I believe. Supposedly if you do pulls often there isn’t much need for this kind of exercise. That being said the pulls would have to be very close in body position and depth.

    • Kirksman
      Kirksman says:

      I wouldn’t really say that if you pull planes and trucks, means you can’t/don’t/won’t benefit from pause squatting. I look at training, as filling a pyramid shaped box from the top.

      At the bottom of the pyramid, you can put tons of stuff and still benefit from all of them. This is the most fun phase, as you’ll look forward to training as just about anything will help.

      As this pyramid gets higher, you need to be smarter with what you put in this pyramid. Improperly sized blocks (exercises) need to be eliminated, to put only the most useful/transferable blocks into your pyramid. And that’s how I make up the programs basically. Just throw out shit that has minimum transfer after a few months.

      So in the beginning you will see push presses, pull-ups, bench presses, military presses and towards the end, it’ll probably be just squats, pull, snatch, cnj and its complexes.

      • Pas
        Pas says:

        ‘As this pyramid gets higher’
        Is this referring to as time goes on whilst training or as your plan gets more details and finalised before actually being used?

  2. vimax
    vimax says:

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  3. Prateek
    Prateek says:

    One thing.

    As opposed to training to grind out of the bottom of a heavy clean, would it not be more ideal to train to pull the bar higher and receive it at a higher position, so that the lifter only has to bounce down and up after receiving the clean?

    There have been lifters with the strongest legs in the world who have been pinned down by heavy cleans, while lifters with less strong legs managed to break records. F.E.


    “The author witnessed the Soviet superheavyweight Aslanbek Yenaldiev pinned with a 240 kg clean at the 1979 Spartakiade. He tried bouncing 6 – 8 times but was physically unable to recover form the squat. He was the “champion squatter” among the soviet lifters with a 455 kg back squat (23).

    According to Leonid Taranenko (11), his best front squat was 300 kgs for 3 repetitions. Yet, in exactly the same manner as Yenaldiev, the author witnessed Taranenko pinned with 250 kgs at the 1983 Soviet Spartakiade. It is does not make sense that a lifter would be unable to stand with a weight 50 kgs below his personal best in the front squat.”


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