Hold It Right There

Readers, in the past couple years I have come to realize the (figurative) power of pause reps. In case you’re not aware, this is when you pause at a certain point in a movement during training, like holding the bottom of a squat for a moment before rising. This is done for different reasons, sometimes to emphasize strength in that position or sometimes to eliminate the assistance that the rebound provides. I have found that pause reps do wonders to help you clean up messy movements, get strong in sticking points, and prepare your body to harness that rebound effectively.

To paraphrase movement coach Carl Paoli, the transition point in a movement is when you are most likely to encounter big errors. The transition is when the movement changes directions or flows into another movement. An example of the former would be the point when you switch from descending in your squat to rising back up. This is when you’re likely to observe faults like the pelvis tucking under or the knees buckling. An example of the latter would be when you transition from the squat to the push-up phases of the burpee. It takes a bit of practice to enter a movement from an unusual position without compromising either. By practicing pausing with good mechanics in the position of transition, you ingrain that good position into the movement pattern. As you slowly wean yourself off the pause, you’ll find it easier to cultivate some quality flow between those positions.

It may seem counter intuitive that pause reps could help you develop your explosiveness, since you’re not really harnessing the elastic properties of your tissues; but there a couple reasons you should still consider them an important part of the process. First of all, if you’re going to be making a rapid change of direction in a movement, like the explosive change in directions when you’re preparing to jump, the potential to lose position during the transition is much higher. Think about it, if you were already have trouble hitting a good position at the bottom of your squat, how much is that error going to be multiplied when you jack up the force and speed? If you’ve used pause reps to build a solid transition position, you will have an easier time layering on intensity with good mechanics. Secondly, explosive movements put a huge stress on your tissues (muscles, tendons, etc.). It is very easy to develop overuse injuries if you do a bunch of explosive training before these tissues are properly adapted to handle that kind of loading. Pause reps can help you build a foundation of tissue strength in preparation for explosive movement.

Pauses are a powerful tool to add to your movement practice when used correctly. They allow you to isolate a challenging position within a movement and address it mindfully to build both quality patterns and strong tissues. If you’re struggling with the transition in a movement or flowing between positions, try implementing pauses for a few weeks and see what happens. It might be just what you need.

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