Last week I had posted a video and asked if any of you implement techniques like the pause squat into your programs. I wanted to communicate how I view this exercise and talk about how I use it in my training personally….
Looking a bit deeper than simply "changing things up," I think it's important to have a method or reason why you are doing what you're doing. The MOST important factor in creating change is EFFORT. Whatever it is you are doing to do it to the absolute best of your ability. BUT, taking a somewhat intelligent approach towards what you’re desired end result may be will obviously make your practices that much more effective. So, for me, I'm always trying to get stronger, bigger, or both….
So, what do Pause Reps For Strength?:
In my opinion, pause movements have huge benefit when training to increase strength for two main reasons: isolating the contraction potential of the muscles involved and creating an efficient and functional movement pattern during the amortization phase.
What’s that mean in English? Let’s start by translating “Isolating the contraction potential of the muscle….”
Like elastic bands, muscles have something we refer to as 'elastic potential.' During the eccentric phase (or way down) of a squat, the muscle spindles within the muscles involved lengthen. This creates a level of 'elastic potential' that builds within the muscle cells on the way down which causes little boost out of the bottom as they snap back into a resting state.
Example: ever wonder why the first rep of a dumbbell overhead press or dumbbell bench press is significantly more difficult than the reps after it? Many of you ask your friends for a ‘boost’ on the first rep…. Why is that? You're fresh and just getting started with your set on the first rep... so why wouldn't you be able to apply the most effort on your first rep?
The explanation is because on the first rep, you are starting in the bottom of the press from a DEAD stop WITHOUT any created elastic potential. Then on the next rep and each one after that, you start from the top position. As the dumbbell is lowered to the start position, the muscles involved lengthen under the resistance and 'elastic potential' within the muscle spindles is created, and is then used during the next rep and each rep after that. So, on the first rep when starting from a dead stop, you are relying on the muscles ability to contract and generate force to lift the dumbbell. In the rest of the reps, it is the contractile potential AND the elastic potential that is created during the eccentric (lowering) phase.
SO, what a pause squat does is eliminate the elastic potential created on the way down. If you pause in the bottom for at least 2 seconds, the elastic potential will dissipate, which therefore isolates the contraction force potential of the muscles involved to stand back up. Isolating and strengthening the contraction potential of a squat and any other movement is a great way to increase overall strength. Improving any piece or factor of an exercise WILL improve the whole.
Now, my second point, in English: ‘creating an efficient and functional movement pattern during the amortization phase.’
Translation: First, the amortization phase is the portion of a movement where you change. So:
1. way down = eccentric phase (lowering phase with gravity)
2. bottom where change direction = amortization phase
3. way up = concentric phase (or the contraction phase against gravity)
When studying movement patters like the squat, we find that 99 times out of 100, things go to hell when you change direction. That's where we most often see breaks in technique.
So, get to the bottom of the squat, and stay there. During a pause squat when I'm in the bottom I'm mentally checking things off a list:
-are my feet flat
-are knee's open
-are my hips back
-am I full of air
-are my abs pulled in and tight
-where do I feel tension
-neutral cervical spine
-can I stand up?.... Ok, stand up.
Using this technique, you are able to create consistency in the bottom of the lift. This is beneficial in creating sound movement patterns which is super important as you continue to add weight to the bar. You will be able to continue to squat more weight properly, using the right muscles and mechanics, and avoiding potential injury due to unfavorable compensation.
See? So, add in some pauses. Heavy, precise, specific pauses to your squat workouts. Like I said before: improving any single aspect of a movement WILL improve the movement overall. It's that simple.
That's all for now. PLEASE throw me some feedback. Let's learn from one another.