This is a re-post of an article I wrote earlier this year.
It’s the start of the New Year and many people are just making their new year’s resolutions. Most health and fitness facilities are already getting busier. However there are a select few who train year round, their new year’s resolutions are not to start working out, or lose a couple of lbs. They have loftier goals, they want to get bigger, stronger, become more savage in the weight room. One of the places to start is to hit a new Squat Personal Record this year. Here are 5 tips to help you lift more than ever before.
5. Get New Shoes
One of my biggest pet peeves is people who lack sufficient foot strength attempting to squat in bare feet or socks. I am not saying that people who have spent some time doing other bare foot training methods and have generated the strength necessary in their arches to not collapse under weight should never squat without shoes, but your average person just does not have this pre-requisite strength.
It makes sense when we play basketball that we get a shoe that is designed to help our performance, or how about soccer we often will wear cleats. 100m sprinters wear spikes so that they are better able to perform their event. So why is it acceptable to just squat in whatever old beat up pair of non-supportive runners we have laying around? The answer… IT’s Not OK. I encourage anyone who is looking to add weight to their squat to get out an buy a pair of highly supportive, stable shoes to give themselves a solid platform for which to perform the lift.
With the increase in popularity of Olympic Weightlifting it is only getting easier to purchase a pair of weightlifting shoes, as well as there are many hybrid shoes being made with lifting in mind. Powerlifters will often use wrestling shoes, or Chuck Taylors. The point is that if you want to get better at Squatting get yourself some footwear that will allow you to do so. You’ll thank me after your first workout.
4. Daily Mobility
One of the biggest problems I see with many squats is that the people performing them just do not have the required mobility to perform the exercise correctly. It goes without saying that if you cannot perform an exercise correctly than you are going to have trouble getting stronger at it.
The first change I often make with an athlete when they are having trouble getting in a squatting position is daily mobility exercises focused on the squat pattern. Try this routine for a few weeks and see if your squat pattern gets any better.
TSpine Extensions on a foam roller 2-3 passes over entire tspine
CKC ankle mobility against wall 2-3 x 10 reps
Yogaplex Series 2-3 x 5-8 reps each side
Squat to Stand drill 2-3 x 5-10
Spend some time working at some of these drills every day as part of your warm-up and your squat patterning is sure to get better.
3. Front Squats
Front squats are probably the number 1 squat strengthening movement. That is if you want to increase your back squat spending some time on the front squat can help you achieve this. When we place the bar on our front it increases our quad activation, as well as engages our torso more because of the need to stay upright.
Training with this increased quad and torso activation can have great transfer to the back squat. The ability to stay upright with heavier weights will stop you from falling forward when the weight gets heavier increasing your leverage and helping you achieve new records. The increased quad stimulus will help you to lock out those heavy reps because of your new found strength.
Try switching your workout to heavy front squats for a phase and take advantage of the new strength and stability you will gain from this change. Watch your squat max soar in 2015.
2. Squat Heavier
I know what you are thinking with this one…. DUHH. However it still needs to be said, if you want to squat more than…. SQUAT MORE. Get outside of your comfort zone once in a while, if you can always do 2 plates for sets of 10 and you do that every single time you are in the gym… than you will only ever be able to do 2 plates for sets of 10.
Take advantage of the days where you feel good… push the envelope, go for a record… hit a new max. These days are few and far between, even fewer the stronger you get. Take advantage when they come and make the most of them.
1. Squat Faster
Finally squatting faster is a great way to increase your power output. If you have been spending your life under a bar striving for more and more weight than eventually you get to a point where your squatting gets into a groove. Its time to break this groove, using lighter weights for more speed can greatly increase your power output.
If you don’t feel like squatting lighter weights than squat every rep with the intent to move the bar faster. Doing this increases the activation of your nervous system and trains you to exert maximally. This makes heavier weights lighter over a period of time. Basically if you want to bring your squat up in 2015 you need to spend more time doing what you haven’t been doing and less time doing what you have.