Mastering the Pause Deadlift [Elevate Your Training]

Written
Daniel Fisher
Medically reviewed
Andrea Nardi
3

 min

Published on 

June 26, 2024

Transform your deadlift with the pause method. Find out how pausing can increase muscle engagement, improve your form, and boost your strength.

Mastering the Pause Deadlift [Elevate Your Training]
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Key takeaways

  • Pause deadlifts are set up like normal deadlifts but incorporate a pause a few inches off the floor.
  • The paused deadlift increases time under tension and doesn’t need as much weight.
  • The main pause deadlift benefits are improved initial movement, primarily knee extension by the quadriceps.
  • Suitable for intermediate or advanced lifters looking to strengthen the lower portion of their deadlift.
  • Can be programmed similarly to deadlifts, typically in the 3-6 rep range.
  • Build correct technique and positioning through the weakest part of the lift.
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We’ve discussed a few different deadlift variations that require different equipment or changing the form of the conventional deadlift. Well, today we’re looking at a variation that keeps everything the same as a conventional deadlift… except for one key element: the timing. That’s right: today’s lift to elevate your training is the pause deadlift, an interesting deadlift variation that – like the behind-the-back deadlift – can add variety to your muscle targeting. Let’s dive into what makes a pause deadlift so effective and why you should be adding them to your lifting routines!

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Pause Deadlift – What Is It?

A pause deadlift, also known as a yielding isometric deadlift, is a supplemental deadlift variation that increases time under tension with a pause a few inches off the ground. The pause is typically added at the weakest point of the lift or at multiple positions starting from mid-quad to just off the ground for a top-down training progression. Unlike a conventional deadlift, a paused deadlift uses less weight and is volume-focused rather than intensity-focused. The deadlift pause reinforces your technique near the beginning of the pull while leaving the actual movement pattern unchanged. The pause deadlift is a great deadlift accessory exercise for engaging your quads and posterior chain muscles.

Variations of the Pause Deadlift

Paused Sumo Deadlift

The paused sumo deadlift is similar to the regular paused deadlift but with a Sumo stance (wider). This ensures proper positioning with hips wedged against the bar and forces synchronized hip and knee lockout. As with other Sumo deadlift variations like the deficit sumo deadlift, the wider stance targets the inner thigh muscles (adductors) and the quads more than the narrow stance and helps build technique and positioning through the weakest part of the lift.

Eccentric Pause Deadlift

The eccentric pause deadlift involves pausing during the lowering phase, helping to reinforce position and technique. This variation primarily targets the lower back, hamstrings, and glutes and is particularly effective for improving control and strength throughout the entire range of motion.

Pause at the Knees

Pausing at the knees during the paused deadlift forces proper lockout of both the hips and knees simultaneously, ensuring the lifter maintains correct form and positioning. This variation primarily targets the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings and is especially beneficial for improving your top-end strength and control.

Pause at Mid-Shin

Pausing at mid-shin in the deadlift emphasizes maintaining tightness and proper positioning, particularly focusing on synchronized hip and knee lockout. This variation primarily targets the quads, hamstrings, and glutes and helps lifters improve control and strength in the most challenging part of the lift.

Double Pause Deadlift

The double pause deadlift is an advanced variation of the pause deadlift in which you pause 1-2 inches off the floor and again at the knee before pulling to lockout. It is used primarily for improving your bottom-end positioning and is programmed for techniques with lighter loads.

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How to Do the Pause Deadlift

Next up, we’ll help you understand how to pause deadlift correctly and run through some tips to maximize the benefits of this exercise. As always, with deadlifts, your flexibility can affect your performance, so consider doing a Flexibility Test to ensure you have the necessary range of motion to perform the exercise safely and effectively.

Set-Up

  1. Set up like a normal deadlift.
  2. Grab the bar outside of your shins.
  3. Position shins forward to the bar and out to the elbows.
  4. Lift your chest and take a big breath.
  5. Step up close to the bar so it is about over the middle of your foot.
  6. Inhale, lean forward and grip the bar with a double overhand grip.
  7. Try to lift raw; a belt is okay, but no straps.

Drive and Pause

  1. Hold your breath and brace your core slightly.
  2. Drive from the legs first to lift the bar, pushing the floor away while maintaining torso and shoulder position.
  3. Pause for a second or two when the bar is just a few inches above the floor.
  4. Ensure shoulders are in front of the bar through the pause.
  5. Stay tight during the deadlift pause, ensuring the bar remains motionless.

Lockout

  1. Explosively exit the paused position, pulling the bar close to your body.
  2. Lift the bar until your legs are fully extended.
  3. Stand tall at the top and gaze forward and down.
  4. Lower the bar back to the ground with control.
  5. Breathe and reset your back at the bottom, and repeat for reps.

Pause Deadlift Benefits

The main pause deadlift benefit is increasing time under tension to improve strength, control, and endurance, making it effective with less weight and reducing joint stress. Another important benefit of pause deadlifts is that they help with initial movement off the floor by primarily targeting knee extension and strengthening the hardest part of the lift, especially at the start. A few more paused deadlift benefits include:

  1. Cleans up technique and optimizes muscle recruitment by enforcing proper positioning and ensuring the right muscle groups are engaged at the right times.
  2. Builds isometric strength in the back muscles and reinforces position through the eccentric phase, enhancing overall deadlift performance.
  3. Improved balance and proper form throughout the lift by preventing lumbar flexion and ensuring spinal alignment.
  4. Emphasizes driving off the floor from the legs first and highlights weak links in the chain, building overall deadlift strength.
  5. Maintains a tight lifter’s wedge position to ensure engagement throughout the lift, enhancing performance and building endurance by reinforcing proper position.
  6. As with other deadlifts, it only requires a barbell to perform, making it a useful at-home exercise.

Pause Deadlift - Common Mistakes

Pause deadlifts can be a powerful tool in your fitness transformation, helping you build strength and improve technique – but, as with any deadlift variation, they can be challenging and potentially risky if not executed properly. Here are some common mistakes that lifters make when performing pause deadlifts:

  1. Not staying tight during the pause can allow your form to break down and increase your injury risk.
  2. Incorrect positioning of shoulders and hips during the pause compromises alignment and effectiveness, often resulting in technique breakdowns.
  3. Using too much weight compromises form, while not resetting the back at the bottom or allowing the bar to descend during the pause reduces effectiveness.
  4. Failing to maintain proper positioning and bracing in the belly, especially during longer pauses, can reduce effectiveness and safety.
  5. Not keeping the bar close to the shins and allowing excessive head movement can affect balance and form.
  6. Pausing above the knee is less effective for most lifters and should generally be avoided.
  7. Letting the bar move during the pause and not maintaining consistent pause positions reduce the benefit of the exercise.

Tips on Integrating Pause Deadlifts Into Your Training Program

  1. Program similar to regular deadlifts with reps typically in the 3-6 range to build strength and control, using 5-15% lighter weight.
  2. Start with a few sets of pause deadlifts to avoid increasing your training volume too much too soon and prevent overtraining.
  3. Combine with other deadlift variations by incorporating various techniques to enhance overall lifting performance.
  4. Modify for different skill levels or specific training goals using lighter weights for beginners to focus on form and technique.
  5. Use the opposite stance pause deadlift as a supplemental exercise to identify and strengthen weak points in your primary pulling stance.
  6. Focus on proper technique during the pause to maximize benefits and maintain good form throughout.
  7. Ensure the spine remains neutral and hips do not shoot up first to maintain proper alignment and be consistent with where you pause.
  8. For advanced lifters, consider the double pause method for additional technique reinforcement.
  9. If deadlifting more than once per week, use pause deadlifts on one of the additional workouts to vary the training stimulus.

Mastering the paused deadlift can take your training to the next level, helping you build a stronger foundation, improve your overall deadlifting performance, and positively impact your body composition. By incorporating these tips and techniques, you can maximize the benefits, minimize risks, and ensure steady progress in your strength training journey.

Need help prepping your next strength session? Try Zing Coach for personalized coaching and tailored workout plans that help you achieve any fitness goal, from weight loss to muscle gain. Check out Zing Coach for your go-to resource for expert guidance!

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FAQ

How much should you pause deadlift?

How heavy should deadlift pause reps be?

How many seconds should you hold a deadlift pause?

Should I do a paused deadlift or a deficit deadlift?

What are the benefits of paused sumo deadlifts?

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