The squat rack is overrated! Beyond the chalk, knee wraps and double prong belts the iron giant has become the home to curlers, benchers and sit up socialites. The be-all and end-all movement for mass is often disgraced and more frequently neglected all together. However, lower body development or even overall mass is sold short by not squatting properly and varying lower body movements. If you want to develop your squat skill-set and sculpt a physique that would have Michelangelo (not the Ninja Turtle) needing a double take, a few principles need to be implemented. John Davies of Renegade Training provides some insight on the most common squatting mistakes that need to be evaluated NOW.
The squat is commonly performed with poor technique or not structured properly within a training regime. These errors, like many things in life, are not self-contained and spread to create a vast series of imbalances that lend to failed promise as well as increased risk of injury.
The most common issues regarding the Squat are surprisingly not as difficult to solve, within reason, as compared to other movements that can at times take years to repair. For athletes and iron game enthusiasts, the most common concerns and remedies are as follows. Please note these concerns may differ and not be appropriate for competitive Olympic weightlifters or powerlifters.
“Use a Weight You Can Move, Not One That Moves You.”
Without the slightest doubt, the most common issue stems from the simple fact that the ego can often be greater than the ability. How this occurs is a matter of debate, but certainly many seem more inclined to try to impress those watching, or the camera, than use a weight they can move properly. Simply, if you’re not confident of being able to walk out of the racks, the weight is likely too great. This is equally a lesson of this grand iron game; it never lies and it requires patience. Each day training is another day closer to your goals. The solution is found in simplicity. Lower the load to the point where you can execute with proper technique and velocity.
“No Belt, No Wraps, No Spotter.”
The legendary underground phrase any within the iron game know, but it rings true. Excluding those with medical reason for wraps and a belt, far too many are fixated on the equipment rather than the movement. This, like other sports, is where the equipment gives a false sense of security and development, and does not provide the desired results of general athletic development. As with the first point, the solution is found in simplicity; no belt, no wraps, no spotter.
Set up under the bar properly, create the mental image of successfully completing the movement, inhale deeply creating a 'tight core', engage the bar lifting slowly as you back away from the racks. Stop. Focus on this 'one thing'. Focus with intent. Now repeat the successful completion of your set as you imagined. Engage. Return the load to the rack as confidently and with the same care as you did when removing.
“A Squat Is Not a Knee Tremor.”
Full Squats, performed with proper technique, are extremely healthy and any suggestion otherwise is akin to the ‘four out of five doctors’ who, following accepting an endorsement fee, recommend sugar laden drinks to children. Squats are not detrimental to your health and I can assure you that since the dawn of man (I’m that old), the human has squatted down to pick things up. Full Squats are tremendous for leg development, in particular the often overlooked VMO which is crucial for strength of the knee and resistant to injury. Oh, the irony! The very movement that many suggest is bad for your knees actually assists in reducing the risk of said injury. Solutions are easier than you think. Respecting the above points, lower the weight used until you can lower the bar to full range of motion.
“Activate the Core.”
From my earliest days of coaching I understood that core activation was partially responsible for the domino effect of proper movement generation, yet this was rarely and not sufficiently respected. The broad assortment of ‘warming up’ when I started coaching (refer to the ‘dawn of man’ point above) was not simply inconsequential to athletic development but often increased the risk of injury. If the core is not activated, optimal movement patterning will simply not occur. That isn’t a point of debate but a foundation of science and simply shows how individuals take a few minutes to ‘warm up’ and then try to perform at one’s best. For athletes performing a sport-specific skill, this is highly dangerous as it can lead to teaching negative patterns of movement, which in this case includes Squat technique. Activate the core with the following mobility plan found in 'Squat Daily and Mobility'.
“To Squat More, Squat More.”
The greatest problem in the iron game and athletic development since I began coaching is equally the easiest to solve: Squat daily, for rust doesn’t settle on moving parts. Complex problem with the simplest of solutions.
Vary Squat styles daily to avoid adaptation and concern of repetitive stress syndrome, carefully monitoring technique and assist the process of recovery. Equally ensure there is an overall balance to single to double leg work as well as balancing tempo.
Furthermore; in addition to walking lunges and Cossack squats, which I perform daily, I suggest rotating through the following list of squat variations on a regular basis:
- Bulgarian Squats
- High Box Step-Up
- Front Squats
- Jefferson Squats
- Overhead Squats
- Hack Squats
- Jump Squats
- Belt Squat
- Box Squats
Prepared by John Davies
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