Pause lifts are a great way to help you burst through strength plateaus. Not only do they strengthen your lifts, they force you to develop eccentric strength, which is very important to being able to transfer strength to sports. They are also a great hypertrophy tool. This article describes some sample variations of these exercises and also provide a comprehensive 20- to 32-week program to help you increase your strength.
The most commonly used pause lifts are Pause Squats, Pause Bench Presses and Pause Romanian Deadlifts. In each case, the bar is lowered, there is a pause for a full count (one-one-thousand),then you explode from that position. Pause Squats can be done with any type of Squat (Back, Front, Split, Overhead, Goblet, even a Pistol Squat). Pause Bench Presses can be done with a barbell or dumbbells, with Incline Presses or even Decline Presses.
Lesser-known variations are the 3-Position Clean or Snatch. This involves starting the lift from the mid-thigh position and holding the starting position for a count before performing the exercise. The second rep is done with the bar at knee height. The final rep is done with the bar at below knee height.
Pause lifts are extremely intense and taxing. Because of that, volume should be extremely low, generally 3 to 5 sets of 3 to 6 repetitions. Pay close attention to your technique during these lifts. Normally, I begin athletes with 50 to 60% of their maximum on the regular version of the lift. Eventually athletes may be able to work up to 80 or 90% of their regular maximums.
Below is a program to show you how to incorporate the pause lift into your strength and conditioning program. Don’t just dive into this exercise. This is something you need to prepare for.
This program has three steps:
- Build your strength base
- Peak your strength
- Maintain your strength
Build Your Strength Base
You must develop a strength and hypertrophy base prior to trying to add pause lifts to your program. The first 8-12 weeks of any program should be spent on this kind of base work. This program is meant to be an off-season program. Below is a sample four-day-a-week program that you can perform for 8-12 weeks.
- Back Squats: 3-5 sets x 8-12 reps @ 75-85%
- Romanian Deadlifts: 3-5 sets x 8-12 reps
- Bench Press: 3-5 sets x 8-12 reps @ 75-85%
- Bent-Over Rows: 3-5 sets x 8-12 reps
- Standing Military Press: 3-5 sets x 8-12 reps
- Power Snatch: 3 sets x 3-6 reps @ 60-70%
- Power Cleans: 3 sets x 3-6 reps @ 60-70%
- Push Jerks: 3 sets x 3-6 reps @ 60-70%
- Front Squats: 3-5 sets x 8-12 reps @ 65-75%
- Lunges: 3 sets x 12-15 reps each leg
- Good Mornings: 3 sets x 12-15 reps
- Reverse Hyperextensions: 3 sets x 12-15 reps
- Dumbbell Bench Press: 3-5 sets x 12-15 reps
- Dips: 3 sets x Max
- Pull-Ups: 3 sets x Max
- One-Arm Dumbbell Rows: 3 sets x 12-15 reps each arm
- Superset: Biceps/Triceps: 3 sets x 12-15 reps each
Peak Your Strength
Once you have invested 8 to 12 weeks building your foundation, it’s time to peak your strength levels. This program can be done for 4 to 8 weeks but should not be done longer than that without a break. This program is meant to be done over the last four to eight weeks prior to the beginning of the season. This is also a four-day-a-week program.
- Pause Squats: 3-5 sets x 3-6 reps @ 60-70% of Back Squat maximum
- Deadlifts: 3 sets x 3-6 reps @ 80-90%
- Incline Press: 3-5 sets of 4-8 reps @ 80-90%
- One-Arm Dumbbell Rows: 3 sets of 4-8 reps @ 80-90% each arm
- Kettlebell Presses: 3 sets of 4-8 reps each arm
- Snatch Pulls + Power Snatches: 3 sets x 6 + 3 reps @ 60-70%
- Power Clean + Front Squat + Push Jerk: 3 sets of 3 + 6 + 2 reps @ 60-70%
- Kettlebell Pulls: 3 sets x 6 reps
Day F our
- Back Squats: 3 sets of 3-6 reps @ 60% of max + bands
- Good Mornings: 3 sets of 4-8 reps
- Pause Bench Press: 3-5 sets of 3-6 reps @ 60-70%
- Kettlebell Rows: 3 sets of 4-8 reps each arm
- Seated Military Press: 3 sets of 4-8 reps
- Split Snatches: 3 sets x 3-6 reps @ 50-60% of Snatch on each leg
- Split Cleans: 3 sets x 3-6 reps @ 50-60% of Clean on each leg
- Push Jerks: 3 sets of 3-6 reps of 60-70%
Maintain Your Strength
After four to eight weeks of the previous intense program, you need to back off some—especially since at this point you should be in-season. What follows is a two-day-a-week program you can perform to maintain your strength during the season.
- Clean-Grip Deadlift + Power Clean: 3-5 sets of 6 + 2-3 reps @ 80-90% of Clean
- Pause Back Squat + Squat Jumps: 3-5 sets of 3-6 reps @ 65-75% of Squat + 10 Jumps
- Romanian Deadlifts + Medicine Ball Forward Toss: 3 sets of 3-6 reps + 10 Throws
- Pause Bench Press + Medicine Ball Chest Pass: 3-5 sets of 3-6 reps @ 80-90% + 10 Throws
Day Two (at least 48 hours after Day One)
- Snatch-Grip Romanian Deadlift + Power Snatch: 3-5 sets of 6 + 2-3 reps @ 80-90% of Snatch
- Front Squats + Counter-Movement Jumps: 3-5 sets of 3-6 reps @ 75-85% + 10 Jumps
- Good Mornings + Supermans: 3 sets of 8-12 + 20-25 reps
- Bent-Over Rows: 3 sets of 3-6 reps