WATCH: Isometric Deadlifts vs. Paused Deadlifts

TAGS: explosive strength builder, three second pause, deadlift variation, Isometric Deadlifts, Paused Deadlifts, deadlift technique, clint darden, deadlift

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From the rack, off blocks, against chains, against bands, with reverse bands, non-competition stance, paused below the knee, paused above the knee, isometrically against the safety pins — there are many, many ways to vary your deadlift to target weaknesses and build a bigger pull. In this video, Clint Darden answers a question sent to him on YouTube about the difference between two deadlift variations and when they should be used:

"How do you like the isometric deadlift compared to a three-second pause deadlift?"

This is a very relevant question for Darden because he has many online clients and he often programs isometric deadlifts for them. Almost every single time he puts an isometric deadlift in a program for the first time, the client emails him asking, "Can I just do paused deadlifts instead?" The easy answer is "absolutely not," but to make his point, Darden has the client go into the gym and try the isometric deadlift and then try the paused deadlift. They find very quickly that these movements are not the same.


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To explain why he isn't a fan of the paused deadlift, Darden likens the deadlift to a sprint: You must explode and attempt to be as fast as possible the whole way through. Never in a sprint would you slow down, pause, and then start again. Instead, sprinters such as 100-meter sprinters train their technique off the blocks and then perform sprints that are shorter than 100 meters and sprints that are far longer than 100 meters. No matter the length, however, the sprinters go all-out. The deadlift is similar; you can train the beginning of the deadlift or you can train the end of the deadlift, but it still needs to be a sprint.

Darden goes on to say that the paused deadlift can build technique, just like if you slowed a sprinter down to improve their sprinting technique. This may work for some people with increased recovery abilities or those who need more volume training the deadlift. It's fine in these cases to program a pause at the place in the movement where the lifter struggles technically and then work on fixing that inefficiency.

The isometric is different primarily in one way: it's a maximum effort exercise. You will not do isometric deadlifts for long periods of times because it breaks down your body and your mind. Whereas the paused deadlift is a technical builder, the isometric deadlift is an all-out, explosive strength builder. You have to fight and fight and fight through the entire lift and keep going. You may make positioning and execution corrections during the isometric deadlift, but it isn't primarily about technique.

With these things in mind, Darden gives guidelines for who should use these exercises:

    • Paused Deadlift — Lifters who need technical work at a specific place in the deadlift (but there's probably a better way to train technique)
    • Isometric Deadlift — Lifters who need to be better at straining during the deadlift (such as Darden himself, who has developed a fear of straining on heavy deadlifts after tearing a hamstring the last time he did so, resulting in a long rehabilitation process)

By the minute:

  • (1:40) What deadlifters can learn from sprinters
  • (2:29) Benefits of the paused deadlift and when to use it
  • (3:17) Benefits of the isometric deadlift and when to use it
  • (4:40) Who should do paused deadlifts?
  • (5:01) Who should do isometric deadlifts?

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