Squats are simple, yet an overlooked key exercise to achieving massive gains. Want to build bigger, stronger legs? Squat. Want to develop better overall total body strength? Squat. Want to boost natural testosterone? Squat. I think you get the idea by now that if you don’t squat in your current program, you definitely should. These listed benefits of squatting correctly are just the tip of the iceberg.
There’s only one problem, almost all “inexperienced’ lifters have zero mobility and lack the ability to squat at a safe and effective manner. If you want to get the most out of squatting, you need to be able to reach the proper position, and control the entire exercise through your active range of motion.
Use these 10 squat tips we’ve provided to improve technique, mobility, execution, and overall performance that will take your squat game and most importantly, your gains to the next level.
1. TRAIN FOR MAXIMAL STRENGTH
In order to actually get stronger you need to train heavy and that’s the truth. The issue here is how people tend to approach this subject, a common mistake is when people go to the gym and attempt a new PR (personal record) every session in an attempt to get stronger and you never hear from them for months because that person is now injured.
It’s fairly simple, lift heavy (once your form is nailed down perfectly) to find your maximal strength, which will give a set “max” number to work from. Lifting heavy is generally defined as lifting 85% + of your maximal strength (your 1 rep max – 1RM) for multiple sets of 1 to 5 reps. The best advice is to make a plan, prepare your mind and body, and to hit reps & sets that you know you can hit because missing lifts is a big no-no and unnecessary for your nervous system, technique, and ego.
- Lifting heavy is generally defined as lifting 85%+ of your maximal strength (your 1RM) for set of 1-5 reps
- Make a plan, prepare your mind and body, and to hit reps & sets that you know you can hit
2.TRAIN SUBMAXIMAL REPS FOR POWER & STRENGTH
If you really want a big squat, speed squats through submaximal lifts are a key step to getting there. We recommend using these as long as you have a solid 1RM base of strength to work from and your form is top notch. Moving loads of 40-60% of your max will help achieve maximum power.
3. INCREASE YOUR SQUAT FREQUENCY
Squatting twice per week is a great idea to optimize technique, improve performance efficiency, and allowing a variety of training intensities that you normally wouldn’t be able to fit into one training session. Multiple squat sessions per week will give you the opportunity to focus on a heavy session and a light or “speed” session.
Depending on your level of training, allotting at least 2-3 days between each session is recommended for full recovery and injury prevention. To help speed up recovery and improve performance in the gym, be sure to use the right post-workout supplementation.
A recommended way to structure training squats twice per week as mentioned is to have one heavy and one light day. This is what a typical heavy session would look like. Do a few warm-up sets, start your working sets to hit maximal strength using percentages to guide your numbers. Usually working up to 85-95% of your 1RM for sets of 1-3 reps, then doing a “drop-back” set to focus on speed and explosiveness. On a light day you typically only focus on speed and explosiveness and work within the 40-75% of your 1RM.
- Typical heavy squat days usually consist of working up to 85-95% of your 1RM for sets of 1-3 reps
- Typical light and explosive days usually consist of working within the 40-74% of your 1RM
4. SQUAT WITHIN YOU ACTIVE RANGE OF MOTION
As simple as it sounds, squat within your active range of motion. Everyone has different body types with different ranges of mobility. Squatting ass to grass (ATG) may earn you points in the local gym or on your IG account, but don’t squat ATG because you think it looks cool.
If you can squat depth without a “butt-wink” or “tuck”, by all means squat deeper. If your body’s anatomy or your core strength doesn’t allow it, squat to a safe depth and don’t force a deep injury promoting butt-winking ATG squat. You can improve your active range of motion by doing key squat mobility exercises.
- Squat within your active range of motion. Only squat deep if your body allows it
- You can improve your active range of motion by doing key squat mobility exercises
5. DRIVE YOUR KNEES OUT
This may sound easy to do, but it can make a world of difference when executed correctly. The best way to cue yourself for the knees is to pretend there is a compression band wrapped around both legs, when you begin the descent pretend to fight against that imaginary band forcing your legs out throughout the entire exercise. For your feet, just think that you’re trying to split the floor in half with your feet. Performing both of these cues will emphasize hip and posterior chain development and will shoot your squat strength up.
- Always remember to drive the knees out throughout the entire lift, as if there was a band pushing them together
- Performing both of these cues will emphasize hip and posterior chain development and will shoot your squat strength up
6. USE YOUR CORE
Engaging your core is one of the most important things you can do while squatting, yet it’s hardly ever done. Knowing how to activate the core is necessary to increase squat strength, technique, and mobility. Right before you begin the descent on your squat, note the following:
– Put air in the belly, not the chest or you’ll pass out
– Use this air to brace your core and begin your descent
Keeping the core tight will also prevent you from hyperextending your back. To prevent lower back injury it is important to keep your lower back as straight as possible throughout the entire lift.
7. BREAK YOUR HIPS FIRST
Always remember when performing any squat variation to “break” the hips first and never the knees. As you begin the descent of the squat, begin movement (AKA “break”) at the hips and allow the knees to bend naturally as you proceed with the downward movement of the squat.
Doing this will activate your glutes and hamstrings to control the movement, keep your spine in a safe neutral position, along with many other benefits.
- When performing any squat variation always break the hips first before the knees
8. TRAIN YOUR ACCESSORIES
In order to build a solid and long lasting house, you need to build a solid foundation. This is the same when it comes to our bodies. Training the squat is very important, but training your “accessories” is just as crucial for improvement and injury prevention.
Hitting exercises like front squats, leg press, hip adductors and abductors, abs, and so on will help build and strengthen muscles that the squat doesn’t hit. Training your accessories will really test your endurance in the gym, taking an inta-workout designed to increase endurance and strength is essential to better performance during training. This will not only strengthen and increase overall muscle, but prevent injury as well.
- Training accessories is a great way to increase strength, muscle, and prevent injury
9. SQUAT ON YOUR HEELS
Something not often thought of during a squat is weight distribution. This is critical to maintaining a solid form throughout the lift. If you allow the weight to shift forward and onto the toes during a squat, chances are it will be a bad looking rep and a high chance of injuring something.
Play it safe and distribute the weight on the heels and the outer portion of your feet. If you follow the hips breaking first and knees out cue, the weight distribution should come naturally.
- Squat on the heels and outer portion of your feet
10. CONTROL THE WEIGHT, DON’T LET IT CONTROL YOU
This tip is exactly how it sounds, be in control of the weight the entire time. There is nothing good about sinking your squat into the “hole” (bottom of a squat). This proves nothing and increases the chances of injury and failure of a set.
Control the eccentric, ensure your glutes are activated and explode out the bottom of your squat.