The 4 Best Ways to Improve your Squat.
Technique over evrrrythanggg…
1. Master your technique
Above all, you need to dial in your technique first. If you’re technique is poor, it makes no sense to start adding more weight and injuring yourself further. There are 3 very simple cues you need to always be thinking when you squat; chest up, hips back, and knees out. Most people squat straight down, instead of pushing their hips back into a hip hinge pattern while driving their knees out, which forces them into a vertical and more quad-dominant squatting pattern. This type of squat requires great mobility at the upper back, hips and ankles and a strong core and upper back. If you don’t have all of these qualities and your movement is limited, you are more likely to fall forward when the weights gets heavier.
Two drills to help you keep your chest up, push your hips back and drive your knees out are wall squats (which will load your posterior chain to a greater extent) – where you face a wall with your feet about 6 inches away and squat down without hitting the wall, trying to go as deep as possible – or goblet squats – where you hold a dumbbell vertically on one end and squat down keeping your chest out and driving your knees outward – will teach you proper positioning during the conventional squat pattern.
2. Adjust your bar position
Try different bar positions on your back. If you have a higher bar position – right at the base of your neck – you will need to have good mobility in your upper back, hips, and ankles to be able to keep your torso vertical during the squat. If you don’t have this mobility and you are weak, you will more than likely tip forward as you descend into the bottom of the squat. It is simple physics.
The longer the distance from your hips to the bar (high bar position = increased moment arm), the greater the torque at the hips. If you have a lower bar position (around mid-trap) and slightly wider stance (slightly wider than shoulder width) – you will decrease the distance from the bar to your hips (shorter moment arm) and you will have better leverage. This might allow you to stay more vertical when you squat if you have good core stability and enough hip mobility. Play around with the bar position to find the one that works best for you.
3. Build upper back strength
To get better at squats and to be able to squat more weight, you need a strong upper back.
Every strength program should include pull-ups, bent over rows, seated rows, chin ups and face pulls. If your upper back is strong, you will be able to create more core stability and stay more upright while under the bar. Also, being strong enough to drive the elbows downward when squatting, will keep your chest up – especially at the bottom of the squat – and keep you from falling forward.
I offer training programmes designed specifically for the upper back to help you stabilise that bar when it is sitting just below the neck and on the traps. Get your programme HERE!
And finally the fourth and probably best and most immediate tip I can give as a Personal Trainer is…
4. Change your shoes!
You’ve all seen lifters who squat with their heels on 2.5kg plates. This is because it allows them to squat deeper and stay more upright, even though their have tight ankles.
Ankle immobility or tightness is a major reason why most people can’t squat lower and through a full range of motion. You can blame heavy workout shoes and sedentary careers.
Squatting with your heels on 2.5kg plates is a way to overcome ankle immobility and help you to squat with a more upright torso angle.
Warming up barefoot (or in socks), performing various ankle mobility drills, and incorporating goblet squats are all great ways to increase ankle mobility and strengthen in new ranges of motion at the ankle.
Weightlifting shoes – that have a firm sole and elevated heel – can also change your squat immediately. Like the 2.5kg plates, weightlifting shoes allow you to squat better and stay more upright, even when ankle mobility isn’t that great.
I personally use either; converse, vans, toms or barefoot with socks to squat as this replicates the natural foot position and curvature.
So thats it, my 4 best tips to improve your squat. Some can be immediately corrected and have a major benefit to your training however if you require a program, or more information regarding positioning, muscle engagement or just want guidance for squat training then feel free to get in touch!
Have a great weekend folks! SLFitness out!