If you don’t do squats, then what are you doing with your life?

Squats are an activity you do on a daily basis whether you know it or not.

Sit on the toilet? Guess what, you just completed the descent phase of a squat. I’m guessing you also got off the toilet therefore completing the ascent phase. Yay! You squatted!

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Remember this next time you say you can’t squat because something hurts.

Varieties of squats

I think what happens is that there is a visual association between the word “squat” and the image of someone straining with a loaded barbell on their back.

But that’s just one of many…

Squats can be done assisted or unassisted, with a barbell, kettlebell, dumbbell, med ball, powerbag, plate, body weight etc. That list can go on forever. I won’t even throw in the various types of bars you could use for squats.

pause squats_2We’d be here for longer than necessary and quite possibly over some sort of word limit. Either that or you’d just get sick of reading about my ramblings about squatting and go do something else. Like squat!

Still here? Good. Let’s get into the real reason you clicked. Pause Squats!

What exactly is a Pause Squat?

Well it’s a squat where you pause at a designated moment during the exercise, most commonly at the bottom or “in the hole.” These pauses can last any designated amount of time you want, but since we don’t want to be cruel, 2-3 seconds is a good place to start.

The most important tip I can give you is to make sure you maintain tension throughout the squat, especially once you hit the bottom.

Too often I see clients hang out at the bottom of their squat, thus doing absolutely nothing but putting undue stress on tendons and ligaments rather than the actual muscles.

This isn’t a pause squat, this is just sitting in the hole and resting. Don’t do this.

Two last pointers:

1. Make sure you come to a complete stop when doing pause squats
2. Use lower loads

So why add pause squats into your program? What possible benefits would you get out of it?

Teaches maintaining tension

This is probably the most important aspect of doing pause squats and probably where most people struggle when learning to squat. They ineffectively keep tension in their body, especially at the bottom.

One the keys to squats and especially pause squats is keeping total body tension, most notably through the core.

pause squats_3What pause squats help you accomplish is maintaining that tension because otherwise you’d just fold in half.

Mobility

At the bottom part of your squat, you end up testing and potentially improving how much mobility you have through the hips and ankles.

Specifically related to the hips, a pause squat can act like a loaded stretch to the surrounding soft tissues.

In order to hit depth on the squat, a good deal of ankle mobility is also necessary. Pausing can aid in improved dorsiflexion as well.

Strength

Lastly, pause squats have tremendous potential to increase your strength.

The hardest part of the squat is coming back up from the bottom. Pause squats build strength by increasing the time your muscles are under tension and decreasing or completely eliminating the stretch reflex, which is that little bounce you usually get when you squat straight down and pop up. This forces your muscles to do all the work.

More work = more gains.

Additionally, your supportive muscles like your back and core have to increase strength in order to keep you upright. This ties back into teaching your body to maintain tension.

We also know that building strength is about altering variables like sets and reps. By adding in pause squats, you have the potential to alter a third variable. Thus the ability to further increase strength.

Takeaway

If you’re looking for a way to change up your squats, break through a plateau, or just want to be a better squatter in general, consider putting in pause squats somewhere in your program.

Whether it’s with a barbell, dumbbell or just bodyweight, you will find that pauses will significantly improve your gains.

Connect with Expert Chris Cooper.

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