If you’re into your health & fitness you’ll know how important squatting is. The humble squat has a multitude of health benefits outside of the obvious leg strength benefit. Done correctly, the squat can develop total-body strength and muscle growth. It will also improve athleticism. The squat is arguably the best bang-for-your buck exercises. Here’s a few tips on how you can improve your squat…
Read time: 10 minutes
Squat tip #1: Master the basics
Many of us will make the mistake of walking into the gym, grabbing a barbell, loading up weight and squatting. Whilst I’m sure there are those out there who can do this with no problems from the off, others will have poor form which leads to injuries. Squatting doesn’t just mean heavy weight. The humble air squat is one of the best exercises out there yet may of us still can’t perform this correctly.
Therefore, the quickest and most effective way to improving your squatting is to improve your air squat. Taking the time to master the simplest form of a movement is often the best way to improve it overall. Focus on keeping your stance shoulder width apart, weight in the center of your feet, knees tracking over your toes and heels planted. Doing so will translate into your weighted squats and help prevent any niggles or injuries.
Squat tip #2: Gradually build depth
You may have come across the phase “ass to grass” when reading/talking about squatting. What this means is getting your backside as low as possible when squatting before standing back up. Yes, the hips should travel below the hip crease in a full squat. However, this is not always immediately available for some people and can lead to poor positioning and injury. If you’re new to squatting or suffer poor mobility full depth may take time to acquire. Not only this, but by trying to get as low as possible, tension can often be lost and the movement loses some of its effect.
Therefore, whilst full depth should be the end goal, if you’re risking injury to the lumbar spine don’t jump straight into aiming for this. If you can’t maintain position for whatever reason, don’t force a deep squat. Instead take time to work on getting lower and lower over time. Add in mobility drills, aim for an inch lower each time you squat or practice form as per point 1. Whatever it is, take time to hit depth correctly, don’t just dive straight in.
Squat tip #3: Train different types of squats
There is more than one way to squat. As mentioned there’s the conventional air squat, but there’s also the:
- Back squat
- Front squat
- Overhead squat
- Box squat
In addition to those, there’s also more variations that I haven’t listed which can be found here. The point is, try not to get stuck doing one variation of the squat. Different squatting styles will target different muscles in the body. Getting as much variation as possible will benefit you the most provided you re-visit them consistently.
Try to learn the correct technique for a variety of different squatting styles. Then, periodically re-visit them to see how much you have progressed over time. By doing this you will allow your strength and squat to develop at a much faster rate. One variation may indirectly improve another and could even help iron out any imbalances you may have in your body!
Squat tip #4: Vary the purpose of your squats
Your squatting programme should be versatile as mentioned above. However, this versatility extends beyond the type of squatting you are doing – it all gets a bit inception like. Whilst point 3 adds variation by type, you can also add variation by rep, tempo and load focus. Manipulating how you perform a squat can change the stimulus and stress it puts on your body, this will then yield different results.
For example, using higher percentages of your 1 rep max for lower reps will develop maximal strength. So, 5 sets of 5 reps at 90% of your 1 rep maximum will get you stronger. In contrast, using moderate loads (40%-60% of a max) and moving explosively will develop your ability to produce power. Therefore, 5 sets of 5 at 50% of your maximum moved rapidly will help you produce more power. So, varying the loads and focus of your squatting will produce different results. Mix them up to see greater benefit to your overall squatting.
Squat tip #5: Incorporate different movements
What!? – Don’t worry I haven’t lost the plot. What I mean is look outside of purely squatting to make improvements. There are many different ways that you can train your body to improve your squat without actually squatting. For example, use explosive jumps that match the biomechanics of the squat closest. These include:
- Broad jumps
- Vertical jumps
- Box jumps
Some of you may recognise these as plyometric training and you’re not wrong. This type of training will develop your speed and in turn help develop your speed-strength. Essentially, you are working low load, high velocity to improve your squatting. The key here is to begin with single jumps before moving onto rebounding, repetitive movement. Whilst there is no load here, rebounding puts a huge stress on your joints. Like anything, this requires training to build up tolerance. However, this is one of the best ways to improve your squat out of the gym at home or on the road!