Pause training involves using a pause (isometric hold) of 2-5 seconds at a very specific position of an exercise either during the lowering (eccentric) or lifting (concentric) phase of a lift. Pause training is primarily used to increase strength at specific ranges of motion, such as the bottom of a squat or at the lockout of a deadlift so is perfectly suited to athletes requiring raw strength.
How To Perform
To perform pause training choose a compound movement using 60%-70% of a true 1RM. Decide which specific portion of the lift the pause will be performed for 2-5 seconds during each rep. Simply perform the exercise as you normally would keeping good form throughout, when you reach your chosen pause position of the lift hold that position for 2-5 seconds ‘fighting’ as hard as possible to remove any momentum of the lift, continue to come out of the stationary position and perform the remainder of the exercise.
If performed correctly pause training will remove the momentum of the lift and it will become incredibly difficult to get the weight moving again. Essentially pause training will deliberately force a lifter to ‘grind’ through reps and overcome the break in momentum and gravity.
Pause training is most optimal when applied exclusively to
Bottom of Squat: Include a 2-5 second pause at the bottom of the squat below parallel to remove ‘bounce’ reflex, before completing the lifting (concentric) portion of the squat.
Above the Hole: After reaching the bottom of the squat begin the lifting (concentric) phase of the squat but only go up a few inches before pausing for 2-5 seconds, then finish the lift.
Quarter Squat: Using a front squat or narrow stance, squat to a position above 90 degrees pause 2-5 seconds and explode back to the top starting position.
Pause Off Floor: Set up from the deadlift from the floor, grasp and lift the bar only 5-10cm from the floor at the very beginning of the pull, pause 2-5 seconds before continuing the complete lift.
Pause Below Knees: Lift the bar from the floor to below the knees pausing for 2-5 seconds here whilst maintaining a stable torso, continue to pull the bar to the hips to complete lock out.
Pause Above Knees: Keeping the bar close to the body pull the bar from the floor to 3-5cm above the knees pausing here, continue to pull the bar up the thighs until the hips lock out.
Pause at Chest: Perform the lowering of the bench press as normal stopping 3-5cm short of the chest and pausing for 2-5 seconds before exploding the bar to the top position.
Floor Press: Perform exactly as above however complete the movement lying on the floor as opposed to on a bench.
Pause training trains isometric strength throughout the most important positions within a movement, the bottom of a squat demands an upright torso similarly as the bar moves in front of the knees in the deadlift a high level of isometric back, hamstring and glute strength is required under maximal loads. This ability of pause training to build raw strength across specific positions within a movement makes it a great training tool to target ‘sticking’ points throughout a lift, as an example pausing midway through the concentric (lifting) phase of a bench press will carry over to increased strength in the triceps and a stronger lock out.
Ligaments, tendons, joints and muscle tissue all have the potential for storing and releasing energy and acting somewhat like a rubber band, consider plyometrics or ‘bouncing’ out of the hole during an explosive squat. Pausing during a movement effectively removes the ability to take advantage of this elastic energy, forcing an individual to draw on their raw strength alone to produce the force required.
Pause training requires a reduced load typically 60%-70% of 1RM and is therefore a fantastic tool for mastering technique. Pausing at various positions of a lift allows a quick mental check to ensure that body position is optimal and will quickly highlight any weaknesses that are often missed when lifts are performed in an explosive manner.