The paused squat is a fantastic permutation of the squat pattern to rotate into your own programs, be it within your own training or for those you're coaching.
- They increase the difficulty of the movement without adding load. Whenever I can find a way to challenge my athletes or clients without piling more weight on their backs, that's a win-win in my book.
- For beginners, paused squats are a great teaching tool. Most people feel pretty uncomfortable with the bottom position of a squat , so this is a great tool for coaches to use to help their clients get more comfortable with what is often the most feared/uncomfortable portion of the movement for them.
- Dovetailing off the point above, any time you can get someone to slow down the movement will always help with coaching. Getting a trainee to pause in the bottom of a squat can help you, as the coach, "poke and prod" them into the position they should be in upon hitting depth, and really cement that motor pattern into them.
- They build awareness. The bottom of the squat is where anyone, beginner or advanced, spends the least amount of their time. Get better at holding your position in the bottom, and you'll get better at the second (and most critical) portion of the squat: driving up out of the hole.
- For the advanced trainee, they'll help blast through sticking points. By taking away the stretch shortening cycle at the bottom, it offers a new stimulus through which to train rate of force development and starting strength.
- One could make the argument, from a sport specificity standpoint, that they can help athletes such as volleyball players and football players, who need to be able to explode up or forward from a position of prolonged hip, knee, and ankle flexion.
Note that any type of loading protocol can be used: bodyweight squats, goblet squats, front squats, back squats, even overhead squats.
I recommend keeping the rep range on the lower end (5 reps max), and you can experiment with pauses ranging from two seconds to five seconds. And, if you're using a barbell, make sure you use significantly less weight than you would for "normal" squats at that same rep range. Paused squats are deceptively difficult!
Here's a video to see them in action: