By Aaron Fondry
Since I posted a video of my paused eccentric deadlifts about a year ago, (which have now been so awesomely named the “Fondry Deadlift” by Drew Spriggs himself) I receive a ton of questions about how to program them into an already existing deadlift program and also, just how to properly do them.
So, what exactly is this exercise and why would you do them? I have never believed in, or seen the benefit of paused deadlifts being performed on the concentric phase of the lift. In my opinion, it teaches a bad motor pattern, in which you purposely slow down and then negate any raw power and speed you tried to execute and create off the floor. Instead, you can create and mimic the same isometric time under tension on the posterior chain (if not even more), on the eccentric phase of the deadlift rather than on the concentric phase. This allows you to still create and work on breaking speed from the floor while still being able to perform a paused deadlift. The benefit on overall tendon health, as well as continual time spent in a sticking point that comes from the paused deadlift is very important.
Like anything else, these are nothing more than an accessory to help supplement and attack specific individual issues. I use this lift to help me focus on my own very specific sticking point, which generally happens (for me) in the transition point between the momentum accrued from the breaking speed off the floor and the continuation of the actual pull once the momentum has cut off, or more simply put…just below my knees.
A strong and powerful deadlift is built from consistent progressions, constant form/ (personal) bio-mechanical pulling position changes, and just plain hard work. I cringe everytime I hear the blanket advice given to others to “just do block pulls if your lockout is weak” or “pull from a deficit to build more speed”. These are very individual based problems, that often times will not be fixed by throwing random accessory exercises at them. Generally speaking, the pulling mechanics are usually wrong or inconsistent which is actually the cause of these issues. But I digress on this point, because it is well past the spectrum and point of this article. The only point to take out of this is that accessory movements will maximally amplify results on an already consistent and correct lift. They should never be used to fix a shitty deadlift.
So how do you program these into in your deadlift days? I often struggle to have a simple answer that fits everyone. I believe that they can be used to address a number of different issues in strength development which are all dependant on how you perform them. I will quickly address a couple of different methods and ways to use them that I personally like, but are by no means gospel. You also have to remember, that these and any other accessory lifts need to be programmed in a way that elicits some form of progression. Whether that be linear, or other forms of progression, really makes no difference so long as there is growth in the program.
Often times, I try to choose a weight between my 55% and 70% of one rep max. I try to stick between these percentages for a couple reasons. First, it is a manageable weight to be able to execute the lift properly, while being able to focus on positional changes and form. Second, it is a great percentage to be able to work on developing speed in the pull. I have found them to be the most beneficial after the main working sets/weights are complete. Rep ranges will vary dependent on the weight used as well as the isometric hold time. I used to perform these solely as a controlled and slow eccentric to an isometric pause (reps 3 and 4 in the video) but since using these so much I’ve adapted a different way to perform the eccentric phase to allow a fast drop into the pause (reps 1 and 2 in the video) which I have really grown to like. The force and contractile effort needed to abruptly stop the weight directly in the paused zone from the much faster drop has great carry over into overall strength and allows the lift to be used for a longer progression cycle.
Another benefit I have found is to maximize the posterior chain’s time under tension, by holding the pause for a near maximal length of time that still allows a to return to a full lockout position (rep 4 in the video). I generally wouldn’t perform them all in a single set but for the sake of explanation in a video, that was the easiest.
Hopefully this sheds some light into a better understanding of the exercise itself and how to start using them in your current program.
If you are in the New York Area Aaron Fondry is hosting a press and deadlift workshop with Todd Giorgi on August 19th. find more info HERE
Aaron Fondry is the owner and head strength and conditioning coach of Atlas Training Systems located in Saint Johnsbury, Vermont. He is well known for his deadlift strength with a personal best lift of of 815 pounds at a bodyweight of 200lbs/90kg.
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