How to Pause Squat Correctly and Safely

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PAUSE SQUAT VS SQUAT

The pause squat is a very close variation to the barbell back squat that requires you to come to a complete stop in the bottom position. They are by far one of the most difficult squatting variations possible.

They force you to maintain absolute tightness and proper positioning in the bottom position, which will help improve your overall squatting technique and your explosive strength.

Expect to lift at least 10-15% percent less on a pause squat than a regular squat.

 


PAUSE SQUAT FORM VIDEO

 

BENEFITS OF THE PAUSE SQUAT

  • Builds explosive strength as you are required to reverse the movement from a dead stop
  • Improves squatting technique
  • Improves confidence in the most difficult part of the movement
  • Improves mobility in the hips, ankles, knees and thoracic spine
  • Encourages strength development of the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and abdominal muscles
  • Pause squats increase time under tension (TUT), which can increase muscle mass/hypertophy

 

MUSCLES WORKED DURING THE PAUSE SQUAT

  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Adductors
  • Core
  • Low Back
  • Upper Back

PERFORMING THE PAUSED SQUAT WITH PROPER TECHNIQUE

  • The pause squat is performed exactly the same as a regular back squat
  • Approach a barbell that is set up in a power rack at the mid-chest (above the nipple) level
  • Set your grip on the bar just outside of shoulder width with your thumbs wrapped around the bar
  • Dive underneath the bar and position it on the natural shelf created between your trapezius muscles and the top of your scapula
  • (If you are performing  a high bar squat, the bar will go on top of your trapezius muscles)
  • Squeeze your scapulae together without shrugging and maintain this position throughout the entire lift

 

  • Stand up to the weight and take up to three steps back to position your feet just outside of shoulder width
  • You can point your toes straight, or angled out 15-30 degrees

  • Take a big breath, brace your core, and begin the movement by simultaneously bending at the hips and knees until your depth is just ‘below parallel’
  • ‘Below parallel’ means that your hip crease is below the top of your knee when looking from the side
  • Keep your head neutral, your feet flat on the floor, your core braced, and your back flat
  • Stay motionless in the bottom position for a 2 count

 

  • While in the hole, keep everything engaged, especially your core muscles
  • Reverse the movement by pushing straight back up with even pressure across your feet
  • Exhale at the top of the lift and squeeze your glutes to finish extending your hips
  • Maintain a flat neutral spine throughout the movement

COMMON PAUSE SQUAT MISTAKES

Not Pausing Long Enough

It is important to do this movement with a complete dead stop pause at the bottom of the squat. Far too many people do a half-ass pause and come back up. Pause for a 2 count  after you have become motionless at the bottom of the movement, otherwise, the movement is useless.

The same mistakes that occur in the Back Squat can also occur on the Pause Squat

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How Long Should I Pause Squat For?

Pause for at least a 2 count after you have become motionless at the bottom of the movement.

How Do I Implement Pause Squat Into My Program?

The Pause Squat can be implemented into your program in one of two ways.

  • First, you can use it as your main squat movement and progress just as you would any squat pattern.
  • Or you can use it as a supplemental squat exercise, using a different variation earlier in the week, and the pause squat later in the week.

How Much Should I Pause Squat?

Given that the pause squat is significantly harder than a traditional squat, always start off light. Expect to lift approximately 10-15% less than a back squat.

What Is The Optimal Pause Squat Rep Range?

Pause squats are hard! You will get out of breath fast.  As such, it is a good idea to not perform more than 8 repetitions per set.  I recommend performing 4-6 reps per set.

HOW CAN I INTEGRATE THE PAUSE SQUAT INTO MY TRAINING?

Check out The WCT Best Workout Template For Busy Professionals to find a simple way to add the pause squat and other great exercises into your routine.

 

PAUSE SQUAT ALTERNATIVES


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Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM CPTs, health & fitness experts, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a site dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals. Their advice has been featured on KevinMD, The Doctor Weighs In, My Fitness Pal, Reader's Digest, Livestrong, and The Active Times. Learn more about them here.

Learn More About Them Here

2 thoughts on “How to Pause Squat Correctly and Safely”

    1. The White Coat Trainer

      Hi Andrea,
      I recommend that you do not breathe at the bottom. Ideally everything should be kept tight and stable, which can best be accomplished by holding your breath and bracing your core. Breathe at the top of the exercise.

Comments are closed.

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