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Improve Your Squat

Structural Balance As with other compound lifts, in order to improve and or hit that new PR, it is important to work back from the end goal, initially basing your programming and training around the muscles that are actively engaged when squatting. During the squat our entire structure is or should be actively engaged to perform the lift optimally and safely. Any structural weaknesses in the chain will lead to reduced performance, and or to injury. Taking several steps back from the squat, what muscles are actively engaged during the lift? Your calves, quads, glutes, hamstrings, VMO, lumbar spine, lats, scapular, abdominals, and forearms, are all actively engaged as you move through the squat. At this point it should be noted that a squat is not a squat, there are many variables surrounding the squat that determine the outcome, therefore dependent on what your goal is, how you squat will dictate the response. For example, high vs low bar squat (Olympic vs Powerlifting squat); wide, neutral or narrow stance, heels flat; heels elevated; narrow grip, wide grip, and one that created many debates, depth. In many video’s posted through various forms of social media you may often see individuals performing quarter or half squat depth, excessive forward lean, knees caving in (valgus knees), these are just a few observations. This could be for a number of reasons, from inappropriate coaching; poor body awareness (proprioception); excessive loading for the body to handle; a muscular imbalance, flexibility issues, and ego. If you are intent on attaining improving your squat, leave your ego at the door and work on the areas that are weak. Programming these would generally be in an accumulation phase of a training program. Training Frequency Power lifters squat multiple times a week, Olympic weightlifters squat multiple times per day, anywhere between nine to 15 sessions over the course of a week. Squatting once a week consistently you can achieve a double body weight squat, but If you want big numbers in your squat then you will need to up the number of squat sessions per week. Pin Squats & Pauses Similarly to the overhead press if you understand how the squat works mechanically you can strengthen where you are mechanically weak. `Futhermore by analysing your squat you can determine where your weak points are throughout the lift. This means that you can implement partial range lifts in your training. For example if you determine that bottom portion of the lift is a weak point, performing pauses for between two to seven seconds at lighter loads will help you become comfortable in you weak position, strength your quads, trunk stabilisers and your resolve when coming up from the bottom position reducing the need to use momentum or bounce out of the bottom position. Conversely if you are weak through the mid phase of the lift performing pin holds or mid range pauses from a parallel or just above parallel position will help strengthen your VMO. Partials are an excellent training tool to use, as the range of movement is generally short, and you can really isolate the weak point of the lift. Due to the shortened range of movement you will also be able to press a heavier load. Bands & Chains Using bands and chains will alter the strength curve of the movement. Bands allow for greater eccentric speed to be achieved, during the early stages of the muscle contraction, requiring the individual to exert greater force to slow the load down at the latter portion of the eccentric contraction. Bands are ideal power and strength development, below are a few guideline and tips on how to program bands into your training: - pulls down faster than gravity - build up of kinetic energy - use fast tempo under control - use every other upper body workout or three upper body sessions back to back - 40-60% 1RM load + bands Chains, increase your mechanical advantage, decreasing the load at the weakest joint position, and increasing it in the strongest position i.e. the weak point in a squat is usually in the bottom position. Furthermore due to the nature of the chains oscillating, your body will be forced into engaging stabiliser muscles at a far greater rate. Here are a few tips on how to incorporated chains into your training: - chains must be on ground at start - accommodates the strength curve - 60% of 1RM load + chains - workout progression chain/no chain/chain/no chain


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