The squat, commonly known as the “king of exercises” and for good reason! Pounds of muscle can be gained using the squat in the correct fashion. Here are some tips on how to perform a squat, how to get the most out of them and how to get the weights moving up. This information has been gathered from experienced strength and conditioning coaches from observations over 35 years+.
Keep your hands as close to the body with your elbows inside to keep your core tight. Keeping your core tight is important to maintain a solid movement and avoid injures. If you don’t keep your shoulders, back and abdomen tight, you risk arching your back and not bending so much from the hips.
Your feet should be just outside shoulder width with a slight point out of the toes. When pushing back up, use the entire foot to push, not the heel, not the balls of your foot, the whole foot. Engage every muscle available to get the maximum amount of weight moving at any one time.
Your knees should follow the line of your foot, over your toes. The MYTH of having to keep your knees behind your toes often stops people getting lower in the squat as it puts “too much pressure” on the knees. Your knees CAN go over your toes, increasing flexibility in your ankles can help improve the depth of your squat. On the upwards drive phase, beginners especially often drop the knees inwards during the drive, maintain the outwards push of the knees to keep them tracking in line with the toes. It is helpful to squat in front of a mirror to check your technique.
Get low. A full squat, can go below 90o and if you do, you will increases the muscle recruitment of the movement. You may have to drop the weight slightly when first starting deep squats, but for a greater response I think it’s worth it! Integrate a deep squat into your training program and watch the strength, size, explosiveness and performance increase.
It is far too often that people squat just once a week and expect to make substantial gains in strength. Squatting once every 5 days (twice a week) can increase your squat and allow plenty of time to get to a squat that is 2x your bodyweight, which is a good target weight to aim for. To get beyond that, it is evident that squatting more frequently is necessary. Want to get to 3.6 x bodyweight? You’re likely looking at anywhere from 5x to 15x per week!
This doesn’t just stand for the squat, it should be a focus for every movement in the gym. Maintaining tension throughout the movement will lead to greater muscle fibre recruitment, greater strength gains, and greater hypertrophy!
Chances are you can’t breathe properly when squatting. Knowing how to breathe and properly brace your spine for performance will be an essential tool in improving your squat. Focus on breathing into your lower back (pretty impossible but gets the correct results) therefore tightening the abs and supporting the spine and lower back. Don’t forget to flex your glutes while doing this on your way down so that you are fully braced and creating as much tension as possible.
The squat is an explosive movement, training to squat heavy weights with a powerful drive requires some form of explosive movements alongside it. Box jumps will help to develop that powerful squat by increasing the explosive power. Make sure to land in a parallel squat or higher rather than turning it into an exercise that sees how high you can get your knees. Depth jumps are a great tool for improving squat, however are very taxing on the central nervous system and on the joints. Strategic depth jumps will be a great tool, relative to body weight squat will determine how high you can drop from.
Don’t be scared
It is more than likely that you are scared of the pain and effort that a heavy squat session requires. To get the maximum stimulus you need to get your head in the game and prepared to squat heavier than you have ever done before! Get to that point that it could be game over if you don’t squeeze every last bit of energy you have into that final rep. Confidence in yourself, and your ability while under the bar is a MASSIVE part of the squat.
Start with the technique, build up using that technique to a heavier weight and then start implementing different methods of increasing the squat. It won’t increase drastically straight away, so don’t forget to give it time!