The upper body squat is the foundation of every no-BS strength training program. It is known as the king of all exercises because of how quickly it makes you stronger. Aside from adding layers of muscle mass to your frame, the squat also improves your immune system, blood circulation, willpower, and your ability to do hard things in general.
Here’s a quick video to inspire you before you read on 🙂
It would be unfair if something as beneficial as the squat was easy to do, well it obviously isn’t easy, and everyone who squats knows this. Unfortunately, the vast majority of lifters perform the squat in a suboptimal manner, and this ends up limiting their squat numbers.
If you’re struggling with your squat or feel that your squat is just outright weak, consider trying these 10 tips that would certainly help you boost that squat!
1. Concentrate on your squat, not on the mirror
Never, ever look in the mirror while squatting, even if you do so to check your form. Aside from the dangerous neck position it produces, looking in the mirror also decreases your focus and gives you a wrong picture of how you’re squatting.
Instead, your line of vision should be maintained perpendicular to your face, and your head should be aligned with your torso. Also, instead of worrying about how you look during the squat, try to concentrate really hard on the movement so you can gather up the mental resources to push that bar back up.
Oh, and if you need to check your form, you can just video yourself.
2. Rocket your squat
Yes, you read that right. This point actually refers to a very useful mental cue that can significantly boost your ability to push hard on your way back up during the squat.
Here’s what to do, think of the floor as the surface of planet Earth, and at the bottom of the squat, think of yourself as a rocket that’s about to launch from the surface of the earth. Push the ground really hard just like how a rocket produces force to fly away from the ground’s surface. This may sound fictional but it really works!
3. Close your eyes
Paired with the previous tip, closing your eyes can help you concentrate even more and squat more weight. People have mixed thoughts about this since some people feel uncomfortable about looking too intense in the gym.
But if it helps you squat more weight, then why not?
4. Break parallel, but no further
If you squat above parallel (your thigh is above parallel to the ground at the bottom of the squat), then you should fix that immediately and go deeper.
Squatting above parallel may let you lift more, but it’s no good for your joints, particularly the knee. The forces around your joints are in equilibrium only when you break Parallel (thigh parallel to the ground at the bottom of the squat).
However, going deeper is not always a good thing. I say this because some people tend to go way below parallel to make the exercise harder. While I appreciate the masochism there, going below parallel is bad for your knees, period. Also, it limits how much you can lift and doesn’t provide any extra strength or gains.
You’re better off breaking parallel to the ground, but no deeper than parallel.
5. Fix your mobility
Limited mobility during the squat can create problems later on and trust me, an injury is the last thing you want. If you have mobility issues, fix those first. You will be able to squat more if your mobility is up there.
Most people have limited mobility in their shoulders, ankles, or hips. Mobility issues are correctable, for example, exercises like shoulder dislocations can improve your shoulder flexibility really quick.
6. Make sure your glutes are firing
The gluteus maximus (aka. Butt or Glutes) muscle is the largest muscle in your body. This means it can produce large amounts of force as well. However, many people can’t utilize their glutes properly, so they end up using their lower back and quads to compensate, significantly limiting their squat.
If you’ve never tried getting sore glutes from squats, you’ve probably got inactive glutes. Here’s what you should do: do high rep sets of glutes exercises right before you squat, make sure you feel the burn in your glutes to ensure they’re firing. If you have the hip adductor machine in your gym, doing high reps on those can burn your glutes quickly.
If you’re not already, activating your glutes while squatting will feel like you suddenly got so much stronger. If you want a stronger squat, You MUST make sure your glutes are firing.
7. Chest up, Big breath, Abs tight
Before every rep, perform this three-step check. Once the bar is on your back, first make sure your chest is up, then take a big breath, and finally squeeze your abs as if someone was going to punch you in the stomach – do all this before going down for the rep.
Make sure you maintain these three points for the entire duration of each rep and only reset when you exhale after each rep. The importance of “Chest Up” during the entire rep cannot be stressed enough. Make this a habit and watch your squat go up.
8. Belt up
Wearing a weightlifting belt on your squats will let you squat about 10% more weight unless your core is already made of steel. The belt gives your core something hard to push against, thus producing more force to drive up. However, this is only recommended for intermediate to advanced lifters. If you’re still a novice, you’re better off building your own “belt” (your core) by squatting more and more. As a novice, you should not need a belt because you can still linearly increase weight on the squat. Only use a belt if you’re stuck and want to progress quickly.
9. Go faster during the upward phase
You will generate more power by going faster in the upward (concentric) phase of the squat. Power, in Physics, is measured by how quickly one can do work. In the context of the squat, if you do the rep faster on the way up, you’re doing the same movement (work) faster, thereby generating more power. Overtime, you will quickly become stronger and more powerful by regularly generating high amounts of power from your legs.
10. Eat big and rest well
No one has ever gotten big and strong by eating like a bird or resting like a Giraffe. Zoology aside, recovery from squatting is equally important as squatting itself. As Mark Rippetoe would say, you become stronger in the recovery phase rather than on the actual exercise itself.
An exercise like the Squat takes a heavy toll on your body (especially if you’re complementing them with deadlifts), and this is exactly why you need to eat high amounts of calories and protein to recover properly. Apart from high-calorie whole foods, you can also consider taking whey protein supplements post-workout to initiate fast recovery. Also, supplements such as Fish Oil and Omega-3 DHA help you recover better and faster from heavy squatting.
Aside from nutrition, you need to be getting enough sleep for optimal progress – at least 8 hours every day. It is safe to say that if you’re doing everything correctly but still struggling to get your squat up, there’s a high chance you need to eat and/or sleep more.
So there you have it, 10 tips that will undoubtedly make you a better squatter. Follow these 10 tips and you will be amazed to see how much more weight you can squat. We hope these tips will prove useful to you! If you have any additional squatting tips that proved useful to you, you can share them below in the comments!
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