The Squat is one of the best overall exercises that you can do…. Period.
It hits your full body and it will test you mentally as much as physically.
A squat needs to be done correctly and below I am going to go over some tips that lead to a nice squat.
1. Set Up
Like every lift I teach the squat is no different. Set Up – Set Up – Set Up.
How you set up the squat matters and any good lift is made with a good set up. Set up wrong and expect a bad lift. Set up correctly and your chances of making the lift are much higher.
When setting up the squat you want to pay attention to everything. Rack Heights, Bar Grip of your hands to be even, bar placement on your back, how you unrack the bar, the walk back, your foot positioning, all these are aspects of “The Set Up”.
When setting up find a set up that works for you and do it over, and over, and over.
Treat your light weights like Heavy Weights and get a solid set up this will carry over to every lift you do.
Megan Squatting 300 lbs for 6 Sets Of 1 Beltless
2. Create Full Body Tension
Tension is key in having a strong squat but also in having a safe squat.
When creating tension think that when you squat you are trying to use every muscle from your toes to your traps to squat.
With tension you want to “Get Tight”. Have your legs pushing intro the ground, have the bar wedged into your traps, have the bar being pulled down by your arms and lats, have your core braced and ready.
“Getting Tight” means having everything ready for the squat. The more full body tension you can create the stronger you will be overall.
If you lack tension you will not be as strong as possible and also you have a higher chance of injury so learn tension.
3. Brace Your Core
This is critical when squatting you must learn to Brace Your Core.
Now when I say brace your core I mean flex your abs and push out as hard as possible in your core but also your sides and back. You want your whole core area to expand and get big as possible. A simply way to explain it is if I was going to punch you in the stomach your natural reaction is to clamp down and push your core out. This is the start of a good brace.
A note on bracing, be sure to NOT hollow. The last thing you want to do when bracing is to hollow. Hollowing will make you weak.
If you use a belt take a breath and push your core out against your belt. If you want more info on if you should use a belt check out this “To Belt Or Not To Belt?”.
4. Hip Hinge
The Hip Hinge is a primary human movement along with squatting, but somehow it’s a movement we lose over time. Losing the Hip Hinge will lead to movement issues down the road and my guess is that if you have hurt your back you need to work on your hip hinge.
Once I learned how to hip hinge correctly I learned how to protect my back and load up my hips and hamstrings and my back pain is no longer a big issue anymore. Hip hinge + Strong Core = Big Squat.
For a hip hinge you want to learn to slightly bend your knees and learn to push your hips backwards. It’s not easy to learn for some people but once you learn to hip hinge your deadlift, swing, squat, clean, jump will all improve. The better your hinge the better your training and movement.
5. Sit Your Bum Back
After you hip hinge then you start to descend into the squat. It’s critcal that after you hip hinge you sit your bum back and down. This will allow a good deep squat pattern.
If you have trouble learning this to use a box. You simply place the box behind you and learn to sit on the box like you would sit down in a chair. Sitting your bum back allows you to descend properly into a squat.
Don’t think about bending your knees think more about sitting your bum back and down.
If you have trouble getting depth in a squat this could be numerous issues. Tight calves and ankles, weak core, mobility issues or more. A simple fix sometimes is elevating the heels with a wodden block or 5 lb. plates under the heels.
If you wear running shoes remember they are for running and I’d highly recommend you invest in a good set of squat shoes from a place like Rogue Fitness as the difference they will make in your lifting is huge. My squat shoes were one of my best investments ever.
6. Eyes Up Chest Up
As most people squat they have a tendency to fall forward. This can be seen even more with a high bar squat coming out of the bottom of the squat.
A great cue for this is to keep your eyes up and on the horizon and also to drive your chest forward and up.
I always say “Big Chest” or “Eyes Up Chest Up” this will create better posture coming out of the hole of the squat.
Another create cue for some is driving elbows forward as if your elbows are back towards your spotter chances are you are leaning forward and losing tension in the lats and upper body.
Drive your chest up high, pick a spot on the horizon and keep your body tight and upright.
7. Speed Out Of The Hole
If you want to squat a lot of weight get fast.
Speed in squatting is key and when you come out of the bottom of the squat (aka “The hole”) you want to drive out with power and speed. The faster and more powerful you come out of the hole the better your squat will be.
Always be trying to drive out of the bottom of a squat as fast as possible. This will improve strength and teach you to lift fast. When the weight gets really heavy and you come out of the bottom the bar may not be moving fast but you are applying maximum speed and strength so this is very important.
Another great tip for improving speed out of the whole is using Pause Squats, you can read more on the benefits of this on my blog post “The Benefits Of Paused Squats”.
This is my third squat from IPF Worlds In South Africa. I thought it was good depth but the judges didn’t agree. So it’s important to get depth and have good speed out of the hole when squatting.
Fast forward a year later and I worked hard to improve my squat depth and the speed out of the hole. Here I hit 215 kg /475 lbs for all white lights
8. The Lock
Once you come out of the hole of the squat and get to the top position of standing you want to focus on “The Lock”.
The lock is the top of the squat where you squeeze your quads, squeeze your bum, and lock your hips to show you finished the lift strong.
At the top of the squat the lock should finish the squat where you are in a perfect standing position of legs tight, hips locked and bum tight.
If you do any PowerLifting competitions you will need to finish the lift with “The Lock” in order to get three white lights.
Putting It All Together
When squatting make sure to slow things down, get a good feel for squatting and don’t rush anything. Be sure to really dial in your form first then add weight.
Always remember that Strength Is A Skill and to get strong you must practice.
One of the biggest moments of my training and competing was this squat where I broke the 83 kg M1 Squat Record hitting a 211 kg squat
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