I love squats — and you should too.
Squats have had a positive impact on my athletic ability. I am now stronger, leaner, and more explosive thanks to squats. In addition, squats have made me more mentally tough and resistant to injury.
One way to squat more is to find a workout partner. If you’re wondering how you can squat more, one way is to find a workout partner.
Although I’m not the strongest guy at the gym, I have become much stronger from consistent training.
I was able to double my squat from 175lbs to 350lbs in just four months by following a specific workout routine, diet, and training schedule that I’m going to share in this article.
Read on and lift heavy, my friend.
My Leg Strength When I Started
In 2010, I went back to the US after living in Scotland for a few months. I’d been to 12 countries in less than 14 weeks, including 6 countries in 12 days.
I had an amazing time taking photographs, but I wasn’t going to the gym very often. I did pushups and other bodyweight exercises, but that was about it. I committed to getting back on a proper weightlifting routine once I got back home.
I called my friend Mark Cannella, the head coach at Columbus Weightlifting, the day I got back to Ohio. We scheduled a time for me to come in the next day.
I walked into the weight room for the first time carrying 196 pounds on my frame and squatted 5 sets of 2 reps with 176 pounds (80 kg) of weight. Four months later, I lifted 353 pounds (160 kg) for 2 reps.
I can admit that I could have done more on the first day, but not much more. I was probably 50 pounds below my true max. I think starting below my true max was important for my long-term growth.
If we take my first day as a benchmark, it is safe to say that I increased my squat by at least 100 pounds in the 16 weeks that followed. Given the right combination of training, diet and recovery, I think anyone could achieve similar growth.
Tip #1 – Hips move back with the squat, not before the squat
I’ve seen this happen a lot with people who are new to lifting weights. They learn about the concept of driving their hips back when they squat from the internet, but it turns into a clunky movement that can hurt their lower back instead of being a fluid part of the squat.
A lifter who breaks up the hip drive and squat eccentric will start by thrusting the hips back, then lowering into a squat from that position.
When you start to lower yourself down, drive your hips back first. This puts you in a precarious position because you’re leaning forward and will tend to stay less upright as you sink. This puts more stress on your lower back, reduces leverage and power.
Tip #2 – Pick up the quarter
If you’re finding it difficult to descend to a deep squat position, try this tip.
Pretend there is a coin on the ground in front of your feet.
If you want to squat with a barbell on your back, start by reaching down with both arms and touching the ground. Your legs will spread apart naturally, and you’ll be able to squat down pretty easily.
It is very difficult to pick up an imaginary quarter without spreading your legs. The reason this is important is because many people who lift weights keep their legs too close together when squatting. This makes it much harder to reach the proper depth.
Tip #3 – Drive your shoulders into the bar
When you raise yourself up from the hole, concentrate on shoving your shoulders into the bar. This will help you keep your head up and your body more upright.
Squatting with better leverage will increase your power from the hole.
Tip #4 – Use a natural width and toe angle
What is the ideal squat stance width and toe angle? A good starting point is…
When you are about to jump vertically into the air, your toes are likely to be pointed out slightly, about 15 to 30 degrees.
The most natural place to start squatting is with your feet at shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing slightly outward. You may need to make minor adjustments from there.
Tip #5 – Squat to parallel, it is better for the knees
Squats above parallel are bad for the knees.
A high squat primarily targets the muscles in the front of your body, with minimal involvement of the hamstrings, glutes, and back.
This type of anterior-dominant squat is potentially damaging to the patellar tendon and consequently more dangerous for knee health than parallel squats.
Tip #6 – It’s generally ok for the knees to come in slightly during the concentric
If your knees move in slightly when coming out of the hole, it is generally ok, as long as the knee buckling is not extreme or creating a huge risk of injury.
If you notice that your knees are beginning to point inward when you run, it could be an indication of a weakness in your muscles. However, this is not an uncommon issue, and it is likely that it will improve with time as your leg muscles become stronger.
Tip #7 – Build core strength without spinal flexion
The standard ab strengthening routine consists of exercises that involve spinal flexion, such as crunches and situps.
Put these exercises to the side and instead focus on planks, side planks, planks on a stability ball and ab wheel rollouts. These movements will construct a praiseworthy amount of core strength and stability without overusing the lower spine.
This can only help your squat.
Tip #8 – Keep that upper back tight to stay upright
Go to Youtube and watch some squat videos where people do sets of 6-20 reps. Many lifters tend to lean forward after a few reps, which puts more stress on their lower back.
What is happening in this situation? A lack of discipline. More specifically, they are not focusing on keeping their upper backs and arms tight. Because of this, as the number of repetitions increase, their elbows begin to fly up.
If your elbows fly up and your head moves forward while you are squatting, you will be putting more weight on your toes.
You will then begin to good morning your reps.
Be sure to have a very strong grip on the bar and that your arms and back are tight and in place after each rep to avoid injury and have more consistent reps. This will also protect your lower back from strain.
Tip #9 – Shoulder or bicep pain? Widen your grip
Some lifters feel pressure to keep their grip as narrow as possible, but this isn’t always the best option if you are old or have a lot of girth and/or muscle mass.
I was having shoulder pain for a year before I realized I wasn’t gripping the bar correctly. Once I changed my grip, the pain went away.
Tip #10 – You do not need to squat wide stance
Stop trusting everything you read on the internet- especially when it comes to fitness. A lot of people believe that the wide-stance squat is the most powerful way to squat, but from what we can tell, there are more raw powerlifters using a conventional stance.
A squat with your feet further apart is more difficult to do correctly. Start by practicing with your feet closer together to build up your strength and power in your quads. After a couple years, if you feel like your hips are flexible enough, you can slowly start to move your feet further apart.
Tip #11 – There is no perfect form
If I had a dollar for every person who told me I have great form when lifting weights, I could retire. This belief is nonsense and dangerous.
You should never assume your form is okay – there is always room for improvement. Work on improving your form and squat consistency with each rep.
If you’re unsure where to turn for help, film yourself squatting and ask a experienced person to identify any mistakes you’re making.
I’m not a fan of supplements because most of them rely on marketing rather than science.
I’ve grown even more opposed to supplements since conducting this experiment. If I had to do it again, I would only take whey protein and fish oil.
I want to be clear and honest about this experiment, so here is a list of everything I took during the 16 weeks: fish oil, whey protein, liver tablets (which are basically a tablet of protein), B–vitamin complex, and a multivitamin.
I typically took them in the following order…
- Breakfast — fish oil, liver tablet, multivitamin
- Lunch — fish oil, liver tablet, multivitamin, B–vitamin complex
- Post–workout — protein shake
- Dinner — fish oil, liver tablet, multivitamin
- Pre–bedtime — protein shake
I’m not sure if the supplements helped my progress because there were too many other things going on.
I have mentioned before that I never missed a workout, got great sleep, ate a lot and had a low stress lifestyle. I can’t say for certain if the supplements made a difference because there were so many other positive factors at play.
As a general rule, supplements should be low on your list of priorities when it comes to optimizing your training, diet, and recovery.
Remember, Strategies Only Work When Executed
The text discusses how the author’s progress looked like an “overnight success” but was actually a slow and consistent grind.
Most goals, including squatting, come down to execution.
The article does not present any new or unique ideas. The author found success not from trying new things, but from executing on ideas that were already known to work.
No matter what your goals are, it’s likely that you already know some things you could do to be better. But when things aren’t going the way we want, we often turn to things like new training programs, supplements, or articles from experts.
How successful you are usually depends on how well you keep doing the things you know you should.
The only thing I did when I failed my squat was to focus on using the solutions that I knew would work. You don’t need a new system, a better idea, or a groundbreaking discovery. You just need to do the work.
There are key lessons to learn if you want to squat more effectively. I believe these lessons can be applied to many other areas of life.
- Decide what your most important goal is and focus on that. Everything else is secondary.
- If something is important to you, measure it and track your progress.
- Build volume first so that you can handle the intensity later.
- Sleep well and find ways to reduce stress in your life.
- It’s better to use the ideas you have than to spend all of your time searching for better ideas.
I hope this discussion was useful in helping you figure out how to squat more effectively based on your fitness goals.
In conclusion, I would advise you to smile often, travel far, and squat heavy.