Authored by Andy Chasse’ in Exercise
Published on 07-16-2009
Wait, was “squat” a typo? It sure wasn’t. Not this time! For once, the squat will reign supreme over the legendary bench press. Well, for a few hundred words at least. While the bench press is considered the top benchmark in upper body performance, the squat is known as the same for the lower body. However, the squat is a great deal more technical than the bench press. Because of this, special attention must be paid to this particular exercise.
For those that are unaware, the squat is performed by bending the knees and pulling your butt towards the ground while a bar rests on your shoulders. That might just be the simplest definition of the squat. It is a movement that few perform at all, and even fewer perform correctly. Before attempting this exercise, it is important to understand that injury is common amongst lifters who perform the squat incorrectly. One or two small technical flaws may put you out of commission for a month or two. With the doctor’s warning out of the way, let’s get right down to increasing your squat!
1) Squat to depth. This is the number one problem with lifters who actually perform the squat. High school athletic coaches only help to further this growing issue. It is common knowledge that many football coaches like to see their kids throw around some heavy weight. While this is perfectly acceptable, the technique in which this heavy weight is moved is not. Half and quarter squats may occasionally work great as assistance exercises for the strength athlete, but they are next to useless to the typical lifter. To clarify, proper squat depth is defined as the hip joint descending past the knee. This particular definition is considered “below parallel.” Although this is generally the safer depth to squat to, many will find that simply squatting to “parallel” is perfectly fine for their goals. Hitting depth may temporarily decrease the poundage you are able to work with, but will certainly increase your squat in the future.
2) Pay extra attention to the lower back. In perfect squat technique, a rigid arch is maintained in the lumbar spine. Amongst the average gym rat, however, this is rarely the case. One of the most common technical flaws in the squat is an overwhelming “rounding” of the lumbar spine. There are two keys to avoiding this problem.
- Before beginning the exercise, pull your shoulders back tightly. Make sure that your chest is puffed out as far as possible. Do not look down while squatting – only straight ahead or up towards the ceiling. Push your butt out to exaggerate the natural lordotic curve.
- Perform heavy assistance exercises for the lower back. These include, but are certainly not limited to, hyperextensions, glute-ham raises, stiff-leg deadlifts, and romanian deadlifts.
3) Get under some heavy weight. Working with little baby weights can only do so much. You work heavy on the bench press, right? So treat the squat in the same manner! Ditch that four sets of eight mentality and start working down from sets of five to sets of singles. Fives, triples, and singles rule the squat. Experiment with each to figure out which works best for you. Before packing pounds onto the bar, however, make sure that your form is spot on. Injury is the last thing anybody needs in the gym.