T Nation

Squats with a long pause at the bottem

About 2 and half months ago, I posted here about a leg workout – and someone recommended that I try squats with about a 5-6 second pause at the bottom of the squat movement.

I’ve been doing them ever since – but on a Smith Machine. I’m also wearing a belt – because that seems to help to alleviate the lower back muscle discomfort I am having.

Does anyone else do squats with a long pause in the parallel position?

I’m not too sure if it is my form (I don’t have this problem with regular BB Squats without the long pause), or the fact that the pause just blasts the lower back muscles (not to mention the legs and the hip muscles as well). I also regularly do good mornings and back-hyper extensions, so it is not a question of not regularly working out the lower back.

I don’t want to stop doing these – because I am experiencing fantastic lower body growth. As a note, since the beginning of December-- with one cycle of Androsol and one cycle of Nandrosol, plus no cardio, and every other workout now being a leg workout, I have put on 28 pounds. Upper body is bigger too – but not like legs. I’ve been working out for several years and had plateau’ed – so to see this growth now is great.

It’s just as I am doing more weight doing squats with pauses, I’m noticing the discomfort in the lower back is getting worse. Literally have to take about a 7 minute break between sets to stretch the back muscles out.

Any tips from anyone?

Get rid of the belt!!! Get rid of the Smith machine(as you found out they’ll hurt you)–Do a deadlift program for the next 3-4 weeks

I agree with Logan; ditch the belt and smith machine. But, I have to add: ditch the long pause in the bottom. You will eventually damage your knees. If you are young you can get away with it for a while. A long pause in not recommended as it overstretches the tendons, which causes a knee instability. Again, for a short period, three weeks or a once a month shock, but no longer. Just because you are gaining doesn’t mean its not doing permanent damage. Try some of the variations from Ian Kings leg workouts. You don’t have to do the program as outlined, just add in the ones you want.

I’m a beginner, and i have been doing rock bottom squats for about 3 weeks now and my legs have already gotten good results, when i first began squats i didn’t no any better and squatted to the floor anyways, i’m glad i did. I’ve noticed that my left knee bothers me a little, not while squatting but other times, its not serious or anything, but then again i don’t want to to become serious. I read that you shouldn’t pause at all at the bottom, and i’ve been doing that a little, i think that’s whats doing it, i also lift my heel just a little bit, but i don’t think that should affect anything, but if i end up lifting it higher later on then i will use a piece of wood for my heels, can anyone help me on this one? Am i right?. thanks.

Here’s what I have to say. Ditch the belt and the Smith machine. Do NOT ditch the pause on the bottom instead try to Hack squat. It will relieve the back ache. Slow down while going down and pause and then come up. After you’re done with that, go to the rack and do front squats. If you haven’t done 'em before you won’t know how uncomfortable the position is. It is a real pain to get used to but the benefits are great. You’re back will no longer be tourmented. I have a herniated disk and I’ve been able to keep up these really, grueling leg workouts. The key is control and concentration on the negative side of the rep.

Definitely go back to free squats. Do yourself a favor and do NOT squat in a Smith machine. They force your lower back into unnatural positions that put your lumbar region at risk. Please stop before you injure your back like I did! I had to learn the hard way.
I experienced the same thing 3 months ago after pausing at the bottom during Smith squats, using the new tempos I discovered here in T-mag. I herniated a disc, and am only just now getting back into light free squats. The free squats don’t bother my back at all. Take care of your back and good luck! - Nylo

I actually tried the long pause yesterday. I did the pause on my warmup set (135#, no belt, normal free squats). The tension on my knees was tremendous. I could push out of the bottom ok with the light weight but I could feel it stretching my patella tendon and hamstrings and that didn’t feel too good. I don’t think I’ll try it again.

John, yes, the heel lift is causing the knee pain. You must not lift the heel…Period! If you place a board under your heels, you are working more quad and your knee will hurt more. If you find that you are lifting your heel, either lower the weight, find a good coach or go see an active release therapist. You could also try what I get my clients who have the same problem do. stretch your calves before squatting. Stand on the calf machine and lower into the bottom and let your calf stretch as far as possible for about 30 seconds to a minute. Try squatting again. If after a few of these between sets of squats doesn’t help…try doing the Ian King “lazy man’s guide to stretching” right before you squat. You may have tight hip flexors. Good luck. LIPO…glad you found out now.

You work legs every other workout? No wonder you’ve seen a difference in your upper body but not so much in the legs! Train em once a week and they will improve.

John, yes, lifting the heel is what is hurting your knee. You are also changing your biomechanics, by shortening the muscles you need to lengthen. You need to practice squatting until you can keep your feet flat. Putting a board under the heels will only make your problem worse. Try this: with just your bodyweight, hold hands straight out, cross armed or above your head; squat down all the way to ground. Sit there, rock back and forth, side to side, settling into it. If you cannot perform this simple test and be able to just sit in this position with your feet flat on the ground, you should not be doing full squats. #1 try stretching your calves off a block or inside a calf machine. go as deep as possible. shake it off and do another set. Go immediately to the squat rack and squat. see if this helps. If not try doing Ian King’s “Lazy man’s guide to stretching” routine before you squat. You might have tight hip flexors. If this does not work either forget about squats, you’re not built for them or before you do that, try getting some “active release” done on you. LIPO: glad you found out before you did some damage.

Bodz, thanks. I saw on Draper’s site, that he used a piece of wood while squatting, isnt that allright?

John, a couple of things. #1 You should learn to squat properly with heels flat. #2 If your knee is bothering you now, eliminate the pause as you stated. #3 If the pain does not go away, then your form is bad. #4 If you place a board under your heel, you will put more stress on the quads, which also puts more stress on your knees. #5 If you always rely on the board, you will eventually get an injury. Hope this helps.

John, almost forgot…the reason guys put a board under their heels is two reasons. #1 They are just doing a quad specific exercise. Which is ok, as long as it is not replacing full, correct form squats. Or at least only for a short period. #2 They never learned to squat properly and now never will, because they have shortened their calves and hip flexors. Making it worse the more they do and setting themselves up for an injury. These are also the same guys who, when they get older, will say that squatting ruined their knees.

I don’t like the idea of that long a pause at the bottom of the squat. There’s very rarely any reason to ever pause beyond four seconds in any movement regardless, and in the squat you have the disadvantage of having the bottom portion being the most technically critical to avoid injury. If you’re not vacuumed very tightly in the bottom position, back injuries can easily result. And it takes a long time to learn to vacuum under load anyway, much less hold this position for six seconds with a heavy weight on your back. As the other guys said, I’d ditch the Smith machine and the belt, and relearn how to squat, starting with no weight. Gradually you can work your way back up.

Thanks to all that provided input on my posting. My regular leg work-outs indeed include regular free squats with a barbell – no belts – plus hack squats as well. It is just when I heard about the squat with the pause at the bottem – I thought I would give it a try instead, and thought I could be a little more comfortable holding in the pause position if I was in a smith machine. And when my back muscles started to ache – the belt seemed to help somewhat.

Sounds like the consensus is to go back to the free squats. So far-- the smith squats haven’t bothered my knees at all – just the lower back muscles – but from the input received – it sounds like I should maybe back off of this one (maybe do occasionally) because of potential knee problems. Or do the pause in the hack squat machine.

Combining this with my recent andro/nandro cycles and the leg workouts now every other workout, plus eliminating cardio -- when I put on 28 pounds in 3 months -- I sort of hate to change things when things are going so well right now. Although that is probably also a part of the reason for the gains -- the fact that I did some changes.

So maybe it is time to go back to free squats – it will be interesting to find out how these go after doing the pause squats for several months.