A technique-reinforcing accessory
Paused deadlifts exemplify what’s called a “technique-reinforcing accessory”. A technique-reinforcing accessory is any accessory that’s a direct variation of one of the big 3 movements.
While many powerlifters will say any accessory will work fine as long as it works the right muscle groups, you won’t see improvement on barbell technique unless the accessory actually uses one. That’s why paused deadlifts are such a good example. Compared to the RDL or deficit deadlifts, the paused deadlift leaves the actual movement pattern virtually unchanged.
The pause introduces more challenge to the lift without altering the bar path in any significant way. And since it’s equally useful for both conventional and sumo pullers, its versatility makes it a great choice for a wide range of lifters.
See Also: RDL's and Other Deadlift Variations on YouTube
Paused deadlift technique
How do paused deadlifts reinforce technique? Lifters will be forced to adjust their technique in order to execute the pause. Depending on the height of the pause, it will demand different adjustments that reinforce aspects of deadlifting technique.
Option 1: Pause right off the floor
For sumo pullers, pausing right off the floor ensures that the lifter is properly positioned with their hips wedged against the bar and the slacked properly pulled. If not done correctly, this makes the lift much harder. Therefore, pausing here results in a proper starting position for the lifter.
For conventional pullers, the same cues apply. The exception, in this case, is requiring the lifter to shift their weight into their heels to maintain position.
Option 2: Pause at the mid-shin
For sumo, the mid-shin pause will carry over the same benefits as the pause off the floor while also forcing them into a synchronized hip and knee lockout. This is done by the nature of the pause, which is almost at the end of the movement for the sumo deadlifts. Here, the most efficient lockout will come from pushing the hips and locking out the knees as close to each other as possible.
Conventional pullers, meanwhile, will have to actively use their quads to keep the bar close to their body. This small pause in the range of motion can provide big benefits for the lifter. Paused deadlifts have the capability to improve technique and also increase the time under tension, increasing strength.
If not done properly, the mid-shin paused deadlift will place the lifter with knees close to lockout and the shoulders way over the bar. This places an unnatural amount of tension on the low back, hamstrings, and glutes. The lifter will then have to properly position themselves in order to make this easier, thus ensuring proper technique.
Option 3: Pause at the knees
A pause at the knees for sumo deadlifts is almost useless, as most sumo pullers lock out right above the knees. At this position, the lifter is at the most mechanically advantageous portion of the lift, again making it the easiest pause for a sumo deadlift.
But for conventional deadlifts, pausing at the knees will force the lifter to properly lockout both knees and hips simultaneously. This is a similar effect to the mid-shin paused deadlift for the sumo deadlift.
Because the pause is at the top of the range for both, though, there won’t be any focus on maintaining proper technique at the start of the lift.
So, should you try paused deadlifts?
Be mindful of your accessories, and choose the ones that will have the highest impact on your squat, bench, and deadlift. For the deadlift adding a pause might just be the key to unlocking great technique and strength. Whether you are a sumo or conventional deadlifter, a technique reinforcement accessory such as a paused deadlift can benefit your technique and boost your performance.