Exercises You Should Be Doing: Paused Deadlift

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I know this is going to come across as weird or unconventional to some of my loyal readers, and if you’re one of them (or if not, welcome!  I hope you stay awhile) you may wonder if my website was hacked into today by someone playing a practical joke.  I assure you it wasn’t, but I do have something to share.

Ready?  Here it goes.

I like deadlifts!! Like, a lot.

What did you think I was going to say? Something like “You know what, I could really go for a soy burger today!” or “That Tracy Anderson….she’s onto something.  She’s really smart.”

Come on.  Don’t be silly.

All facetiousness aside I don’t think it’s any secret I’m a fan of the deadlift.  A quick search on the internet shows I’ve written roughly 1,812 articles on the topic.  Give or take.

Me saying I like the deadlift is like Gray Cook saying he likes the Functional Movement Screen or Taylor Swift saying she likes writing songs about how much she hates boys.

It’s all in the same boat.

That being said, when it comes to the deadlift there’s a lot we can dissect.  Depending on one’s leverages, personal anthropomorphic differences, and postural considerations some deadlift variations will be better suited for certain body types compared to others.  As an example, those with limited ankle dorsiflexion and/or hip flexion, or even those lifters who are taller, will find that trap bar or Sumo variations fit them very well.

Along those same lines, regardless of what variation we’re discussing, some lifters will find “sticking points” within the arc of the lift itself, to the point where some may have issues off the floor while others will have trouble locking the weight out.

I’ve heard some coaches discuss initial (low) back positioning and how that may affect the mechanics of the lift itself.

Advocates for a more rounded back will note that it makes initial pulling off the floor easier (due to leverage), but things become more arduous at lockout.

Conversely, those who swear by a neutral or hard arch throughout will note that the bar is slower off the floor, however lockout is a breeze.  Again, due to leverages.

I fall in the latter camp and will rarely (if ever) advocate someone to purposely lift with a rounded back.  So it’s no surprise that I tend to be slower than molasses – a smidge above slower than shit – when I deadlift.

Without fail every FIRST rep off the floor for me is slow, which always makes any lift above 90% of 1RM interesting.

Yes, I’ve done deficit pulls.  And yes, I’ve done speed pulls vs. chains, all of which have helped some.  Lately, though, one of my favorite accessory movements – and something that’s been heavily influenced by fellow CP-coach, Greg Robins – is paused deadlifts.

We’re all familiar with the likes of  bench pressing with a pause or squatting with a pause, but rarely do you hear coaches talk about deadifting with a pause.

Paused Deadlift – from Floor

What Does It Do:  As noted above, it’s a fantastic way to help improve strength (and explosiveness) off the floor.  More to the point:

1.  It helps increase time under tension in a “trouble spot,” which then feeds into the explosiveness factor.

2.  Helps train people to engage the lats to a higher degree which will prevent the bar from getting away from the body.  In other words:  it helps maintain a better bar path.

Key Coaching Cues:  You won’t need to be too aggressive with the weight selection here, anything from 50-70% will suffice.  In addition, the actual pause can vary from 2-5s with the rep scheme varying from 2-5 reps.  We’re looking for QUALITY reps here, not quantity.

A sample cycle may look something like this:

Week 1: 4×3 (pause 2 inches off floor for 2s) @ 50%
Week 2: 4×3 (pause 2 inches off floor for 2s) @ 55%
Week 3: 4×2 (pause 2 inches off floor for 3s) @ 60%
Week 4: 3×2 (pause 2 inches off floor for 3s) @ 65%

I’ve also seen coaches stick with the same set/rep scheme throughout or stick with a set time for the pause – there’s no wrong way here.

The important thing to consider is that some semblance of progressive overload is being followed.

Give these a try and let me know what you think.

NOTE I: Just to clarify on my end, I’d consider this an exercise that should only be implemented if you’re pulling close to or over 2x bodyweight.  Anything less than that I’d be more inclined to focus on technique in general or just getting stronger.

NOTE II:  I normally don’t wear shoes when I deadlift.  It was a quick video I shot after training myself, sooooo cut me slack will ya.

NOTE III:  Apparently my skills in gym math are lacking.  The weight in the video is 275 lbs which is 48% of my 1RM.  Not 50-55% like I mentioned.  Oops.

Whatever.  It’s not like you listen to me anyways.  You never listen to me!!  You’re RUINING MY LIFE!!!!  *slams door*

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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  • Daniel

    Note IV (if you’ll permit me): I think you mean to say you’re in the latter camp–the one which advocates pulling almost exclusively with an arched/neutral spine. Yes?

    • TonyGentilcore

      Shiiiiit. Right. Thanks for the heads up…haha

  • Barath

    *knocks on door* Tony, come out, everyone’s waiting for you. There’s chocolate cake, and we promise we will never again say that your goatee is fugly and there’s no way in hell you’re pulling off that look.

  • Roberto Aguilar

    Gonna try this next week awesome!

  • Marcus

    Lol the last part was funny

  • Shane Mclean

    Great tips. If i’m not pulling 2 my weight can i go lower on my 1RM % and give it a try?

    Every considered doing the dead lift shirtless? Get more females viewers to your blog. Just don’t tell Lisa.

  • Tony A

    I started doings two count pauses under my knees then I started working on what I call Swan pauses (named after a buddy of mine.) Basically, you just pause an inch off the floor. These along with deadlifts to the knees have helped me reach 600 on deadlifts.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Awesome stuff Tony!

  • Nathan Rice

    Just a note (in case you still have this problem), if your first rep in a set is super slow, that is caused by not being fully tight before you start your set. The best fix for that is to switch to doing cluster sets of singles. A wave cycle of 15-10 singles at ~85-95% of your 1RM over a month or so will mostly solve that problem.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Yep, can’t disagree there. There are many avenues to solve the problem Nathan. I like the hover DL just to build context and to help people better understand what it means to get (and maintain) tension. I like the singles approach too, and use it often.