How to Do Pause Deadlift: Muscles Worked & Proper Form

Pause Deadlift exercise technique

Muscles Worked in Pause Deadlifts

Muscles worked by pause deadlifts

Primary muscles worked:

Secondary muscles worked:

How to Do Pause Deadlifts

  1. Step up close to the bar, so that it is about over the middle of your foot.
  2. Inhale, lean forward, and grip the bar.
  3. Hold your breath, brace your core slightly, and lift the bar.
  4. Pause the movement when the bar is just a few inches above the floor.
  5. After a pause of a second or two, complete the lift by pulling the bar close to your body, until fully extended.
  6. Lower the bar back to the ground with control.
  7. Take another breath, and repeat for reps.

Benefits of Pause Deadlifts

The paused deadlift is a variation of the barbell deadlift in which you incorporate a pause in the lift – usually close to the beginning of the pull.

By pausing the lift for a few moments before you finish the pull, you accentuate the hardest part of the deadlift but also multiply its potential rewards.

Below, we list five of the biggest benefits you can get from incorporating paused deadlifts in your back training, as well as how to program them.

1. Paused Deadlifts Clean Up Your Technique

The hardest part of the deadlift is, in general, the beginning off the floor.1

When you pause in the most challenging position of the deadlift, your body will automatically search for the most mechanically advantageous position.

Most likely, this will engrain keeping the barbell pressed close to your body and your center of gravity above your midfoot.

This tends to happen subconsciously and is generally not something you need to think about.

Just pause and let your body figure out where to hold the barbell.

You will then carry this newfound technique with you into the regular deadlift.

2. Turn Off, Turn On

When you’re staying in a hard position, you need to conserve energy.

Again, your body will try to optimize.

You’ll decrease activity in muscles that do not need to be tense in this position and only contract the ones that have to.

This will make your deadlift more efficient and decrease the risk of you unintentionally having your foot on the brakes by tensing the antagonist muscles.

3. Strong Where It Counts

For most people (even those who fail their deadlifts near the top), the deadlift is determined at the start.

Strength is specific and gained mostly around the joint angles you train. And in the pause deadlift, I recommend you pause close to the start of the lift.

In my opinion, this is the best exercise you can do to get stronger off the floor.

4. Back Muscles of Wired Steel

Isometric training is far more effective for building muscle than most people think.2

By spending more time with your low back muscle fibers exerting high force in the paused position, you will stimulate muscle growth effectively and in a directed manner to this critical muscle group.

5. Easy But Hard Training

Pause deadlifts let you work your muscles and strength effectively in a critical position, but with less weight than you’d need for a similarly stimulating workout of regular deadlifts.

This can help in decreasing joint stress while still providing a great training stimulus.

It also makes the pause deadlift a great choice of exercise for a second, lighter deadlift workout every week, which is how we program it in our deadlift specialization program Deadlift Disco.

How to Incorporate Paused Deadlifts in Your Training

If you want to add paused deadlifts to your training routine, begin by just adding a few sets initially in order to avoid increasing your training volume by too much too soon.

Program-wise, around 5–15% lighter than your typical deadlift training weight (for a similar number of reps) is reasonable once you get the hang of it.

Paused exercises of any variety, not just deadlifts, don’t lend themselves well to high rep numbers. Instead, stick with a low number of reps per set and focus on doing high-quality reps. If you want to increase the volume, do more sets instead.

Something like 3–5 sets of 2–4 reps with 60–75% of your deadlift 1RM is a good workout once you’ve got the technique down, but start lighter if you’ve never done them before.

Use our 1RM calculator to estimate your one-rep max in the deadlift.

How Long Should You Pause?

Long enough for it to work its magic. 😉

This means long enough for your body to be forced to effectivize the position and muscle recruitment pattern.

How long is that?

From my experience, at least one second.

With regard to how time seemingly dilates when you hold a paused deadlift, this means that you should probably count to at least three before resuming the pull.

It is a good idea to record a few of your sets when training paused deadlifts. The camera might show you that your pause isn’t nearly as long or crisp as you thought.

Training Programs That Include Pause Deadlifts

Pause deadlifts are included in two of our training programs.

  • Deadlift Disco. 2x/week. Our deadlift specialization program that is six weeks long will have you training regular deadlifts in one session per week and paused deadlifts in another session.
  • Powerlifting Polka. 4x/week. Our 4-day powerlifting program involves similar deadlift training as Deadlift Disco, meaning that you will deadlift twice a week, with one of the workouts being paused deadlifts.

For more training programs, see the links below:

Want to delve deeper into the science of deadlifts and how to train it?

Check out our guide on how to deadlift.

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  1. Journal of Trainology. 2012 Nov;1(2):32-35. Isometric Strength of Powerlifters in Key Positions of the Conventional Deadlift.
  2. Int J Sports Med. 2019 May;40(6):363-375. Brief Review: Effects of Isometric Strength Training on Strength and Dynamic Performance.