The squat is an awesome movement. Sadly, it is also one of the most neglected movements as well. This is in part to the birth of many “alternative” movements developed in recent years to work legs. The squat is next to none when it comes to building thicker, stronger legs. It also helps out with burning fat and muscle growth everywhere else on the body due to its intensity and workload stress on the body. If you are working out, you should be squatting in some way, shape, or form.
Many folks out there work on building up their squat. The form is down, the discipline to do squats is in place, now it is time to test what can be done and how strong can one actually get when it comes to putting a bar on their back and getting low!
There are many (I mean many) techniques that can help increase squat strength. Many will find out though there are other important facets to get stronger in a squat other than just simply increasing weight as you lift. This article will approach those facets.
Believe it or not, working on your speed during a squat, especially during warmup sets, will help contribute to overall strength. Focus on the explosion upward in your squat. Try putting bands on the bar to help out with speed and even use chains which are great for the acceleration of the bar overall. Working with an intensity or speed of 65%-85% is a good focus.
Box squats, box squats, and more box squats! These once again allow you to focus on the upward explosion while working with more weight than you would while training for speed. Also do big Olympic lifts (properly and safely) such as power cleans and focus on that explosion under the bar.
This is a biggy and often overlooked. Focus on pausing during reps, using safe weight of course. Pauses should be done during 3 different points in their own respected sets. Those points are the lockout (top part of squat), midpoint, and bottom end. The pause engages a form of static training which will help get those muscle fibers thicker and stronger.
Another one that many bodybuilders and power lifters can easily over look. Some of the most powerful squatters are also the most flexible athletes believe it or not! Squatting involves the hips and shoulders. Getting those more flexible will surely help with getting down deeper, being stronger, and staying safe. Another thing that needs to be looked at is thoracic extension. If your upper back is rounded, getting deep with the squat bar will be a challenge. Make sure you get that upper back warmed up (using a roller will help) so the upper back does not roll forward.
There are many programs out there that claim to help out with getting a bigger squat, but the proof is in the pudding (or muscle). 5x5 programs have proven themselves to be the most effective with athletes across the board. Doing 5 reps and 5 sets in different variations pay off! A fun variation of a 5x5 routine is called the “Madcow 5x5” where the athlete does 3 lifting sessions weekly, alternating between light, medium and heavy training sessions. Give it a try.
This all just skims the surface of the topic at hand, but it provides you will a start to get that bar bending the next time you get under it to squat.
How does the saying go, “If the bar isn’t bending, you are just pretending”?
Go make that bar bend!