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How To Perform The Perfect Pause Deadlift From Technique To The Muscles Worked

 Written by 

Jordyn Snyder

 Last updated on 

There are cool deadlift variations like block pull deadlifts, sumo deadlifts, and deficit deadlifts, but have you tried the pause deadlift? Keeping the same range of motion and similar knee extension, it’s very similar to the regular deadlift with a few modifications and we’re here to teach you how to get the correct position and form when performing the pause deadlift.

The Muscles Worked During A Pause Deadlift

The main muscle groups are the glutes and lower back. However, the secondary muscles used for a pause deadlift are the quads, hamstrings, adductors, trapezius, and forearm flexors

A man performing a perfect pause deadlift
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The Proper Pause Deadlift Technique

In the simplest form, the pause deadlift is a regular deadlift except you pause the bar mid-movement for a moment and then continue, during it with each rep. Even if it might not seem like “such a big deal” or not that impactful, that tiny change can make a huge difference. And here’s how to do it.

The Pause Position And Level

The pause level can change and should be where you struggle the most. So if you notice you are weaker when you’re performing a deadlift when the barbell is at knee level then pause there. Most people tend to find issues when breaking contact with the floor, so pausing 1-2 inches from the ground is a great place to start.

While you’re testing out where you need the most improvement just make sure the pause is implemented somewhere between your knees and the floor. Any higher can lead to an incorrect form.

The Pause Time

Your pause should be motionless for a whole two seconds before you continue the movement. If you’re noticing it’s more than two seconds or below, make a conscious effort to count. One. Two. And then move. Saying it out loud with each rep is a great idea as well to get into the habit of it.

An athlete doing the pause deadlift workout
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The Bar Location

Make sure that during your deadlift you keep the barbell as close to your body as possible. This ensures that your lats are engaged because if they’re not the barbell will drift away from your body and pull you forward and out of the correct form. This will mean you’re going to be using more energy and strength, which will tire you and your muscles even faster.

Torso And Shoulder Position

For the pause deadlift, you’ll have a very similar positioning as a regular deadlift with your shoulders slightly in front of the barbell and your torso a good 45 degrees to the ground. The key to this is even while you pause those angles shouldn’t change that much. If you notice your hips are dipping or you’re leaning too much in either direction while you’re lifting you need to readjust.

Drive From The Legs

In order to keep the proper position whilst moving, it’s very important you drive from your legs first. Press your feet into the ground, your weight balanced midfoot. If you use your glutes and spinal erectors to lift you’ll end up changing shoulder and torso angles. Instead, use the knee extensors and drive the weight from the ground. Imagine “pushing the floor away” by extending your knee and using your quads.

Be Explosive

Once you’ve paused for two seconds, explode to a standing position using the maximum amount of force. Don’t pull slowly or lazily. If the load is too heavy you’ll risk failing the rep. You’ll also want to ensure that the barbell does not droop after the pause is done. The goal is to hold and lift from the same level.

Pause Consistency

Once you figure out where you need the most assistance, be consistent. Don’t change levels mid-set or alternate the entire time. Pick a level and stick to it otherwise, you’ll risk bad form and are less likely to notice results. Also, pick a rep set in the 3-6 range when starting out and only increase when you feel you can without failure.

A man at the gym doing pause deadlift
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The Top Benefits of Doing Pause Deadlifts

Pinpoints And Fixes Weaknesses

As mentioned above, the torso and shoulder angles are important if you want to lift more effectively. The great thing about pause deadlifts is that it’s good at training your shoulders to stay over the barbell and the paused portion of the lift can help strengthen your weakest position.

It’s Great For Beginners

Since it helps call out your weakness and gives you a good feeling of what a proper deadlift should be, this exercise is often used to teach beginners the correct position.

Stronger Quadriceps

Overall the pause deadlift is greater for the lower half of your body, especially your quads. Since your quadriceps are responsible for moving the knee extensors, there will be more stress on them. If your quads are a weak spot for you, pausing by the ground is going to help build that muscle group the most.

More Time Under Tension

When you pause you’re increasing time under tension, which also increases strength. An exercise like the pause deadlift requires more control and is a very specific way to train your lower half. Overall, it’s just a great muscle-building exercise to add to your routine.

A man during his pause deadlift workout
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Pause Deadlift: Mistakes To Avoid

The Bar Is Not Making Contact

The top mistake that’s seen is the barbell does not stay in contact with your body the entire time. People will let the bar flop or swing outward and that can cause back pain from being in that compromised position. If you notice this try going slower on the rise up to the pause and then exploding upward after the two-second hold. Another reason this could be happening is you started with your legs too far from the bar. If that’s the case keep readjusting your starting position until you fix the problem.

A Rounded Back

Though some lifters do accomplish a rounded back safely during sets, there is a big difference between lower back rounding and upper back rounding and it’s that the first one is NOT safe for anyone. Rounding your lower back can set you up for all kinds of injuries and going to rounded on your upper back can have you stalling just being your knees on reps and also puts you at an increased risk for injury. Make sure your starting position is correct and that your back is neutral and comfortable enough to allow the lift to happen through your legs and don’t “yank” with your arms.

Leaning Too Far

Keep your angles as we mentioned above during this deadlift variation. If you have your lips too low or high this can cause you to lean too far one way and cause you to be off balance and exert more energy trying to keep yourself in the correct position. It can also limit your max deadlift rep and range of motion so be careful to keep the bar path in the same route and that your torso and hips are at the proper angle.

Starting Too Far Away

One of the most important notes to take away is the proper starting position. You’ll notice your knee position being too far away or your knees being bowed in or out if you’re not in the correct starting position so use your training session to focus on these problems before going to a heavier weight. Your starting position, your lock-out position, and the range of motion should be nearly identical to a standard deadlift so keep that in mind.

Also, remember that your feet should be about shoulder width apart or less (it’ll change per person). If you find yourself with your feet too far apart in something like a sumo deadlift stance then you need to bring it back in.

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