3 Reasons to Pause Squat

I was recently asked about pause squats. The individual had seen it used in the training of weightlifters, had done the exercise in his own training, but wasn’t sure exactly why it’s used. He was wondering if pause squats have application and transferability to the training of field sport athletes. The short answer is yes. The pause squat does have application and transferability to the training of field sport athletes (in addition to weightlifters!).

First things first: As a coach you always must be able to answer the question WHY? Why am I doing this movement? Why is my athlete doing this movement? If you can’t answer WHY then essentially you’re just throwing exercises into your training because you’ve seen other coaches or athletes doing it. In this case, you’re not only doing a disservice to yourself, but also-and more importantly- you’re doing a disservice to your athletes.

When it comes to training and programming, a coach’s ultimate goal is to drive specific adaptations based on the demands of the athlete’s sport. This is the basis of the SAID Principal (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands). If I have my athletes perform a specific exercise, or prescribe a specific load and/or volume, I should expect a precise adaptation to occur.

Furthermore, a coach must also understand what training qualities you are trying to impose on your athletes with this specific exercise. From there, you can determine if it will drive the adaptation you are looking to improve. Below, I’ve outlined the 3 main reasons WHY you may consider implementing this exercise into your training:

1) Development of Starting Strength: This pertains to an athlete’s ability to produce a rapid increase in external force at the beginning of the concentric muscle tension/contraction. A concentric muscle action is the process whereby the muscle shortens, i.e. standing up from a squat, or extending your leg.

For weightlifters, this is an important quality to develop in order to improve an athlete’s ability to break the bar off the floor at the start of the lift. Additionally, this helps to develop a weightlifter’s strength when coming out of the bottom of a clean.

This is important quality to develop in most field sport athletes because they generally begin in a fixed start position and have to explosively move at the start of a play or buzzer. For more fluid sports like rugby, soccer, basketball, etc., athletes will find themselves transitioning from a standing, or slow paced position to an explosive, fast paced environment at any given time.

2) Development of Eccentric Strength: Having the athlete maintain a controlled tempo descent develops eccentric strength. An eccentric muscle action is when the muscle lengthens. The greater tension in the muscle lengthening provides increased stimulus to the muscle fiber. This becomes an important quality to develop because it improves a weightlifter or athlete’s ability to decelerate and absorb impact forces, i.e. force reduction and injury prevention.

3) Development of the Torso: An athlete has the least amount of mechanical advantage, and is therefore the weakest, in the bottom position of the squat. The torso becomes one of the bigger limiting factors at this point. The time under tension helps to develop that “tensile” strength in the torso.  The stronger and more rigid the torso becomes, the more weight the athlete will be able to lift, the more efficient they will be at transferring energy and power, the faster they will sprint, and the harder they will hit.
Again, when it comes to programming, there must be a specific reason WHY you are incorporating an exercise, volume or load into your or your athlete’s training. Ultimately, the exercises, in addition to the volume and load, should be dictated by the specific adaptation you’re seeking to develop or improve that will make you or your athlete better in competition.

The pause squat is an effective way to improve starting strength, eccentric strength, and torso strength for both weightlifters and field sport athletes alike.

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