Pause Squats: Proper Form, How To & Benefits

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: November 29, 2023
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Pause squats are a great squat variation that uncovers any weak link in the squat.

If you're trapped in a cycle of the same benefits in your technique with no strength improvements, pause squats are one variant that can accelerate your progress forward.

However, performing the pause squats with proper form is critical for maximum gains.

As a certified fitness coach, I will detail my findings and expertise on performing the pause squats correctly, their benefits, muscles worked, tips, and how to program them in your training regimen.

Quick Summary

  • A pause squat involves coming to a complete stop at the bottom of the action, holding the posture for as long as required, and then returning to the beginning position.
  • The pause squat, compared to other squat variations, is excellent for improving squat technique, lower body power, and explosive strength.
  • You can pause in any squat position that is difficult for you. If you discover that you struggle as you approach closer to the peak of the squat, right past parallel, you may incorporate a pause squat there.

What Are Pause Squats?

A woman at the gym doing pause squats

Pause squats are similar to regular squats but with a pause at the bottom position.

You can also pause midway between the squat's peak and parallel, however, pausing at the bottom is more typical.

You come to a full pause at the bottom of the action and maintain that position for a few seconds during a pause squat.

You then burst out of the hole, which is the squat's lowest position.

It's vital to notice that just because you're halting at the bottom of the squat doesn't mean your tempo (the rate at which you squat) will change throughout the eccentric phase.

You'll still squat at your typical rate, but you'll hold it at the bottom this time.

This may be performed on any squat, such as a barbell front, back, kettlebell, or dumbbell squat. However, the back squat allows you to raise the most weight.

How To Perform Pause Squats

A person performing pause squats at the gym

The pause squat is performed similarly to the squat, except that you will pause for a few seconds at the bottom.

Before returning to the starting position, you want your hips to remain in the halted posture without sinking any lower.

The idea is to go straight up using as much force as possible.

"You must also maintain tension at the bottom. That is essential. Don't rely on the passive restrictions, such as ligaments and tendons, to perform the job for you."

- Tony Gentilcore, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist

  1. Place your legs about hip distance apart, toes facing outwards or forward at a small angle. The location of your feet is determined by how comfortable you are in your stance.
  2. Distribute your body weight equally between your feet, heels, and midfoot. Inhale deeply and begin your abdominal bracing with diaphragmatic breathing.
  3. Begin your squat with your knees front, hips slightly back, and legs straight down. Ensure your knees are parallel to your toes. Maintain a forward gaze.
  4. Maintain an upright posture as you descend into your squat. As you reach the bottom of the squat, pause for three seconds (it may range from two to five seconds) while maintaining tension in your abdominal brace. Take a deep breath.
  5. Exhale strongly and drive out of the "hole" at the bottom of the squat.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

What Are the Muscles Worked

A lifter preparing to do pause squats

The muscles used in the pause squat are similar to those used in the standard back squat:

  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Erectors
  • Inner Thigh Adductor Magnus (AM)
  • Upper Back and Lats
  • Calves
  • Abdominals and Obliques

One of the key distinctions between the pause squat and the normal squat is the focus on the quad muscles workout.

There is more time under stress during the pause squat because the knee extensors are at their most compromised position.

As a result, the quads will have to work much harder to create force from a complete stop.

The Benefits of Pause Squats

A person doing preparing to do pause squats at the gym

Pause squats are a terrific method of mixing up your usual squats and have several benefits.

Enhances Concentric and Quad Strength

Lifters use their stretch reflex muscle to bring the weight back up in a typical squat.

This reduces the strength of your quad muscles. Technically, a pause squat works the same muscles as a regular squat - hamstrings, glutes, calves, quadriceps, and abdominals.

When performing the exercise, you must depend on your quad's concentric power – strain on your leg muscles as they shorten — to propel the load back up from the hole.

This will render your squats considerably more difficult, but you'll gain bigger quads and a stronger conventional back squat [1].

Enhance Other Olympic Lifts

An olympic lifter doing pause squats at the gym

Olympic lifts and weightlifting lift variants, such as the power clean and snatch, require you to push up from a pause posture and out of the hole.

Pause squats, like power cleans, snatches, and clean and jerks (with all benefits), rely on briefly bending your knees and thrusting through your legs and hips.

Because pause squats force you to move upwards from a bent-knee stance, your deadlift will also improve.

Read More: Best Olympic Barbells of 2023

Greater TUT (Time Under Tension)

The progressive overload concept causes your muscles to expand by increasing the stimulation you apply to them. You may accomplish this by increasing your set or repetition count.

At the bottom of the squats, you're sustaining an isometric contraction - keeping your muscles tensed in a fixed posture.

Research on women discovered that these squats resulted in more hypertrophy than ordinary squats [2].

Strengthening of the Knee Extensors

A person with strong knee joints doing pause squats at the gym

Unlike many other versions, the pause squat requires more knee extension since the quadriceps extend your knees [3].

That's because you're coming to a complete halt with your knees flexed and then blasting out of the hole.

This squat variant is useful for lifters who struggle with the concentric portion of squats.

Enhance Athletic Performance

Many sports, including baseball, football, basketball, and CrossFit workout, require you to burst through your legs from a knee-bent position, similar to a pause squat.

Pause squats also work on your core stability and balance, which are important in athletics [4].

Tips for Performing Pause Squats

A woman doing proper pause squats with a barbell at the gym

Implementing a successful pause is complex and should be addressed. Below are tips on how to do a pause squat correctly.

Do Not Slow Down Into the Hole to Perform the Pause

"Keep the same eccentric pace as when completing regular squats. You should not slow down as you approach the hole just because you know you need to pause, it may lead to falling forward."

- Eric Serrano, Doctor of Medicine

Advanced lifters can manipulate the bar efficiently enough in a paused squat to use the same eccentric speed and then 'stop' the barbell on command when they need to pause.

Begin Counting the Pauses When the Hips are Motionless

An effective pause in a paused squat is when the hips remain still. A common mistake is when lifters believe they are halting, but their hips continue lowering.

Pause at the Bottom

A person working out with pause squats at the gym

The pause should be in most people's deepest end zone of the squat.

Depending on mobility, this may differ from person to person, but you should halt at the bottom position.

For powerlifters, this is 'below parallel' when the hip crease is located below the plane of the knee.

Go Straight Upward After the Pause

After you've halted for the required time, drive upward from that position. Another key mistake is when lifters lower their hips after the pause and then go up.

Lifters use their 'stretch reflex' rather than quad strength when this happens.

Build as Much Power as Possible From the Bottom Position

A person building power from pause squats

When pause squatting, you want to use the most effort possible to rise after you've committed to driving out of the hole.

You should avoid standing up sluggishly; otherwise, you risk failing the repetition if the load is too big.

Furthermore, with squat strength training, it's a good habit to always focus on moving the barbell as swiftly as possible, all through the concentric range of motion.

How to Program Pause Squats

A person doing pause squat at the gym for muscle growth

Anyone looking to enhance their leg power and hypertrophy, particularly their quadriceps, should incorporate pause squats into their leg regimen.

Pause squats could be a good way to break a barbell squat plateau.

The ideal approach to begin incorporating pause squats into your routine is to have at least two squat days each week.

The first squat session would consist of the traditional squat followed by pause squats.

At first, maintain your intensity and volume on the first squat day very high (as you would ordinarily) and utilize the second squat day only for squat technique purposes.

Once you've mastered the pause squat method, you may gradually increase the intensity and volume of the second squat session.

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How Long Should You Pause Squats?

You should pause squats for about two to three seconds. A 2-3 second pause is sufficient to eliminate the stretch reflex reaction. Longer holds can be used for extra postural strength exercises (such as trunk strength), but they have no impact on the rate of force generation.

Do Pause Squats Build Mass?

Yes, pause squats build mass. Extended time under tension and true exertion beneath the bar will force your muscles to grow.

What Are Paused Squats Good For?

Pause squats allow you to use more of your concentric and quads strength, lengthen the duration your muscles are under stress, and improve your ability to keep your body's center of gravity stable while carrying a heavy weight.


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