If you have yet to add pause squats to your lower body workout routine then you have no idea how much you’re missing out.
This squat variation mimics all the motions of the regular squat, except you pause at the bottom position, or halfway between the top position and its parallel.
You can include the pause in any squat, including the front squat, barbell back squat, kettlebell squat and dumbbell squat.
In this article, we describe how to do it with a barbell.
- Place a barbell behind your neck.
- Push your shoulder blades back and rest the bar on your upper trapezius muscles.
- Position your feet either at hip or shoulder-width apart with your toes turned out.
- Get your back into an arch, inhale deeply and tighten your lower body muscles.
- Bend at the hips and knees to lower your body into the bottom position of the squat.
- Make sure to maintain an upright posture and tension in your legs throughout the exercise.
- When you get the bottom position, hold the position tightly without moving or bouncing for 2-3 seconds.
- Explode into your starting position with your hips and knees together to keep your posture upright. To make sure your posture stays upright, try to lead the upward movement with your shoulders and head.
- Do as many reps as you desire.
WHAT MUSCLES DO PAUSE SQUATS WORK?
The primary muscles worked during pause squats are the quads, adductors, glutes and lower back, while the secondary ones are the calves on your lower legs.
BENEFITS OF PAUSE SQUATS
BUILD EXPLOSIVE POWER
Pausing the squat at the bottom position reduces the amount of pressure on your lower back, but it forces your legs to work a lot harder to push you back to the starting position.
This is because the pause gives your leg muscles greater time under tension (TUT) and increases muscle engagement.
This way, it increases muscular strength and the explosive power that you develop from having to push yourself out of the bottom position.
IMPROVE ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
There are so many sports that require you to explode suddenly from a bent-knee position, such as football, basketball and sprinting.
Pause squats make it easy for you to perform these exercises by training your ability and strength to come out of the bottom position explosively.
ALTERNATIVES TO PAUSE SQUATS
SMITH MACHINE FRONT SQUAT
The Smith machine front squat enables you to effectively target your lower body muscles by working them through a vertical bar path.
Since the barbell is fixed, you won’t need as much stabilization as you would when using a free weight barbell.
This will allow you to perfect your squat form with minimal risk of injury.
- Place a barbell across your shoulders.
- Position your feet at shoulder-width apart, and unhook the barbell.
- Bend your knees, and then lower your body until both knees get to 90 degrees.
- Drive through your feet to push your body up, and then sit back into the heels.
- Repeat these steps and when you are done, hook the barbell back to the Smith machine to lock it.
The goblet squat is a pretty simple movement that requires minimal equipment to execute and a relatively small space.
- Select your preferred dumbbell and hold it in both hands underneath one of its ends so that it is in a vertical position.
- Place the dumbbell in front of your chest, with your elbows tucked towards your body and pushed forward.
- Position your legs shoulder-width apart, with the toes pointing out.
- Lower your body into a squat.
- When you get to maximum depth, drive through your feet to get into an upright position.
- Make sure you squeeze your glutes and quads throughout the exercise.
- Repeat these reps as many times as you desire.
BOX PISTOL SQUATS
The box pistol squat is a single-limb movement that helps correct muscular imbalances, strengthens your chain of movement and improves your overall squatting ability.
- Place a bench or box behind you.
- Lift one of your legs off the floor and place it in front of your body.
- Bend the other leg until your glutes come into contact with the bench/box.
- At the bottom position, tap the box/bench, taking care not to place your entire bodyweight on it.
- Then, push yourself back into the starting position and repeat the steps as many times as you desire.
Backward lunges hit the same muscles as pause squats.
It is a simple exercise, but you can make it more challenging by including dumbbells for extra load.
- Pick two dumbbells and hold them in your hands, letting your arms hang at your side.
- Position your feet hip-width apart.
- Step one leg backwards and lower the knee on that leg, stopping just above the floor. The knee should be at about 90 degrees.
- Lift yourself back up, driving through your front foot. ‘
- Switch legs and repeat these steps on the other leg.
PAUSE SQUATS MISTAKES TO AVOID
COLLAPSING THE KNEES IN
Avoid letting your knees collapse inward as you lower yourself into the squat, as this will strain your knees and potentially damage your ligaments.
Instead, point the knees in the same direction as the toes.
LIFTING YOUR HEELS
Often, people lift their heels off the ground as they descend.
This shifts your bodyweight forward, hence increasing the difficulty of the exercise and straining your knees.
You should instead drive through your heels so that your weight is evenly distributed between your feet.
Whether you are a professional lifter or a regular lifter who wants to increase the strength and size of their legs, you should consider incorporating pause squats into your training routine.
This movement forces you to rely more on the strength of your quadriceps, increases the TUT of your muscles and your ability to maintain the center of gravity of your body under a load.
Try it out the next time you are doing a squat and get to enjoy these numerous benefits!