How to Improve Squat Performance [EXPERT GUIDE]
In the bodybuilding world the squat is one of the most complex exercises – yet most fundamental to our success. When it comes to performing the squat properly there are so many factors that come into play.
Understanding that the squat is a full body movement that many people will need to utilize in order to make the most of their leg strength is essential.
Any big exercise, like the squat, which requires movement across multiple joints (hip, knee, ankle – even low back) will require you to be strong in many aspects of your lift. Any weakness in your movement – any weakness in your body will hold you back from increasing your squat.
For the purpose of this blog, we won’t really be touching too much on form. Of course, if it essential to your success in the gym – but to ensure you are still growing stronger we will be addressing the specific measures you can take in order to increase your squat.
Here are the most effective ways to improve your squat:
This is the biggest and easiest way to improve your overall squat performance. This lies hand in hand with a principle of training called specificity.
This principle states that if you want to get better in a skill or lift you need to complete it more often. Think about it – if you were to never do a pushup – and then you try one, you’d probably be quite weak.
The idea here is to ensure that when you are squatting your form is on point. Through constant repetition over the course of weeks and months on a high volume, your body will not only grow stronger, but it will become more efficient at that specific movement.
In other words – if you want to get stronger in the squat, you should squat. Duh, right?
We suggest you trying to squat 2x a week (at least). This also means that you should use variations in your training – this leads us to our second point.
Train with Variance
Many people get so caught up on improving their squat from one specific foundation – usually the back squat, and forget about all the other squatting movements you could be doing.
Changing the position of the load form a back squat, to a front squat or lumberjack squat can help to train different muscles, muscles that could have been weak and not used frequently.
In turn, this increased muscle activation could lead to much more profound success in improving your overall squat performance. In order to grow stronger, you must remember that variance in your training is completely essential.
Use all the squatting exercises you can think of and find online. If your goal it to get better in the squat there will be no harm in doing more complex movements.
One of the most overlooked aspects to any weight training plan – nevermind when we discuss big movements like the squat. If you are to grow stronger in the squat you must take mobility into account.
Your body needs to have a strong base of support through a full range of motion. This means training though mobility work to mobilize joints and build more strength in the deep ranges of motion.
Just remember – as you grow stronger you will be putting more weight onto each load-bearing joint. If they are weak – so are you.
Use Overload Techniques
Squatting with variance is important, but too much random exercises will not take you very far. All of the great athletes or gym-goers will be recording all of their results to ensure they are growing stronger throughout the weeks and months of training.
My personal favourite technique for the squat is to split between an 8 x 3 and 6 x 4 rep scheme. This is called set cycling.
Here’s how it works:
Week 1: 8 x 3 rep scheme – here you will train with moderate weight for 8 reps by 3 sets. Eg. 155(8×3)
Week 2: repeat with higher weight.
Week 3: 6×4 rep scheme – here you will train with high weight for 6 reps by 4 sets (longer rest)
The idea here is to constantly put more tension on the muscles without actually damaging the muscles or leading to injury. In this example, you are always completing 24 reps per exercise, but the total amount of weight on the muscle will change from week to week.
I don’t mean take a protein shake after a workout – when I say supplement intentionally I am talking about using a creatine or amino acid mixture. Creatine is my preferred supplement for anyone looking to get stronger – especially in big lifts like the squat.
You see, the squat is a compound lift that is generally completed within 20-30 seconds of work – this is perfectly within the glycolytic system, perhaps even the ATP-PC system. Yeah, I know these are fancy words, but the basis behind this is that creatine will help to provide you with energy for these systems.
In other words, the more creatine you take, the faster you can recover between sets and after a workout – especially in big lifts like the squat. I’d recommend supplementing with 5-7g of creatine every day.
Never Forget Accessory Movements
Accessory movements are one of the most important foundations to your success in a heavy squat. Yes, training in the specific squatting movement and using overload techniques will help you to become more effective in your lift, but accessory movements will help to limit injury – thereby improving your performance in the long-term.
When you look at strength for accessory movements it is important to recognize the bread and butter of the idea is to train the external rotators and abductors at the hip.
These are the muscles that stabilize the movement and when become weak can lead to overcompensation of other muscles, and eventually, injury.
Training these muscles is as simple as using band assisted movements like glute bridges and other exercises where you are forced to stabilize the knee while moving into extension at the hip.
A quick google of hip abductors exercises will blow up your feed with information. I’d suggest training these exercises with each of your squatting workouts to avoid injury and build up a better balance of strength.
How to Improve Squat Performance
Improving your squat will take time. These are merely methods that I have found work best for the majority of people to increase strength without entering into injury territory.
You can easily use these exercises to ensure you are always growing stronger, pushing your squat performance – and best of all, building massive legs.
Train intentionally, take your time and understand that all of this is a process. There is absolutely no need to rush your strength – that extra 5 pounds today won’t make a difference in the long run.
Stay on the program that you create and trust the process.
Gabriello is a writer and strength expert best known for his science-based and practical approach to Exercise Physiology, Nutrition and Strength. After serving in a directors position for The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology Gabriello moved towards writing to help more people understand the importance of living a healthy life. Gabriello’s writings have been published in several languages on some of the largest health and fitness websites helping people learn, grow and understand the complex components of optimizing human performance in a simplistic way.
Gabriello also takes on specialized, high-performance athletes who are in need of strength, mobility and conditioning programming to optimize their fitness through his Earned Fitness program.
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