Pause Squat: The Ultimate Exercise for Lower body

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What is a Pause Squat?

The pause squat is one of the most difficult variations of squatting. It requires you to force yourself to maintain proper positioning in the bottom, which will help in improving your overall squatting technique and also explosiveness in your legs.

As this needs extra effort than regular squats, keep in mind to lift at least 15% less on a pause squat.

Muscles worked during Pause Squats

  • Quadriceps, Hamstrings
  • Glutes ( Read here for isolated Glutes Workouts)
  • Adductors
  • Core / Abdominal Muscles
  • Lower back & Upper back

Pause Squat Benefits

  1. Improves the technique of squatting and also increases the mobility in your hips, ankles, knees and thoracic spine.
  2. Develops strength in hamstrings, quads, glutes and abs. Yes, abs as well.
  3. You will strengthen the weakest portion of your squat. You will learn to become more comfortable “in the hole.”
  4. Greater Time Under Tension (TUT): Your muscles adapt and grow based on the increase of stimulus they are exposed to, called progressive overload principle. This can be done in a few ways like increasing the weights or sets and reps but you can do this alternatively by increasing the time under tension – How long your muscles spend under resistance.
    1. In the case of pause squats, your muscles are maintaining an isometric hold in the contraction phase at the bottom of the movement or we can call it as “in the hole.”
    2. The idea is not to just hangout in this position. You have to actively engage your entire body. People who experience lower back pain are the ones who bring a passive approach.

Simply, TUT = bigger muscles.

  1. Improves Concentric and Quad Strength: In normal squats, you rely on the stretch reflex muscles to bring you back to normal position. In pause squats, you’ll be working the same group of muscles in your lower body. Pausing at the bottom will force you to use your quad’s concentric strength to drive your weight back up from the hole. This will make your quads much harder and build a stronger standard squat.
  2. Improves Knee Extensor Strength: Your quads extend your knees, and this pause squat exercise will require you to explode from the bottom rest position where your knee is in a flexed position.
  3. Improve Athletic Performance: Pause squats are extremely useful in sports and many sports require you to explode from a knee-bent position – including basketball, football, CrossFit and many other sports. Pause squats also engage your core for stability which is essential in any athletic activity.
  4. Refined Movement control and Stability: Pause squats will force you to stabilize your body and maintain a good position throughout the movement. You need to actively engage the core and balance yourself on both feet. If you do any jerk movements, you are going to end up falling forward or backward and this can also lead to improper form and may cause injury.

Proper Pause Squat Technique – Where do you pause during squatting?

  1. Stand-up straight with your feet shoulder width apart and Maintain a straight back.
  2. Now, bring your body down by bending at knees and hips.
  3. Do not drop your body but lower it down in a controlled motion.
  4. Your bottom position should be ‘below parallel’ which means that your hip should be below your knee when looking from the side.
  5. Stay in this position for a count of at least 4, if you are doing these squats with weights then you can reduce the count to 2.
  6. Do not stay loose in this position, keep your body engaged and especially your core.
  7. Now, just retract your body from this position to standing. Remember to keep the movement in control rather than throwing yourself.
  8. And keep in mind, Maintain a straight back with a natural flat spine.

Common Mistakes during Pause Squat

It is very important to maintain a good position and also to pause long enough. Most people would just do a mediocre pause and come back up. Do not count while going down, but start counting the time after you have become motionless.

For how long should I pause squatting?

Bodyweight pause squats should be done longer than weighted pause squats. 

  1. Bodyweight pause squats: 4-5 counts
  2. Weighted Pause Squats: 2 count

What should be the reps count for Pause squat?

Pause squats are extremely hard. Even if you can consider yourself as a king of squatting, it can still test your strength. I would recommend starting doing it by at most 4-6 reps per set. And, this is given by considering that you are good at regular squats.

A very important point, Maintain a proper form and pause at the bottom completely in every rep. If you are not able to finish a rep, then lower your count of reps and start building strength. Finishing a set with improper reps will not benefit you.

Are pause squats better than regular squats?

Yes, Pause squats require you to actively engage your entire body muscles and not just the lower body. Moreover, when you pause at the bottom, the natural reflex of your muscles is deactivated and you are forced to use your muscles to lift up your body. This will increase the work done by muscles and also increase explosiveness and the stability of your body.