Tag Archives: squats

Train the way you expect to compete

Squatting was always something I was just built to do well.  Add in hard work and study with good genes; you get some great results.   A good coach works with the lifter constantly.  No part is more important than the other.  It is always a partnership! Here are some tips that I have shared with lifters.  These are guidelines while working with a client in person I might make different adjustments as the lifter can have nuances that are very beneficial to the lifter already.


Warm ups:

These are a combination of active and direct warm ups.  Active can be cardio, rolling etc. Direct warm ups are done with the actual lift itself.  Never tire yourself out during warm ups and always use this as assessment time to see how you are feeling.  If things feel heavy maybe go lighter. Seems like common sense but too many times people are married to the idea of the set numbers.  Flexibility in programming is a precursor to long term success and longevity.

Warm Up Options

Set up:

Bar placement, bracing and the walkout are all part of the set up not excluding feet spacing as well.  Bar placement is the foundation to you success in the squat. So long as the bar is stable and works with your mechanics that is what matters whether low, middle or high bar placement.  Keep the humerus pulled in tight to keep the upper back engaged along with the rear delts. This will keep you from rounding as much when in trouble. Bracing is just learning to take in air in the stomach and lungs and holding to support the spine to a higher degree than the belt alone.  The idea is to push into your belt while sort of crunching down. Brace when lifting the bar off the rack and before you start your squat. Walkouts need no explanation beyond what we discussed but please practice them.

Squat Tips

Bracing

Environment:

Be aware of your surroundings particularly in a mainstream facility.  Never be afraid to approach people to give you space. Safety is paramount.

Foot placement:

This is partly comfort based but also based on the bar placement and the shoes you wear.  Be aware how these variables impact you as a lifter. A close stance in heels with a high bar is prone to balance issues for example.  Too wide can make depth challenging as too narrow can throw balance off. Remember regardless of the foot placement the power is from the midfoot to the heel.  Experiment and take the time to see what feels good based on our first rule: STABILITY.

Bar placement:

Already mentioned but learn and understand why you use the bar the way you do.  Understand which placement is best for your mechanics. This is always going to be something that is individual.  Be willing to experiment. Low bar is optimal for a powerlifter many times but can cause shoulder and bicep tendon pain over time for some.  High bar can work great if the person is very quad dominant and squats upright but getting out of that upright position can be devastating to a strong finish.

Depth:

If not competing find a comfortable range of motion period.  If competing learn to lift every time like on the platform which includes depth on every rep.  Know what is good by feel not others telling you. The ping effect of the lifter hearing creates tentativeness and is very robotic.  The first sign of an unprepared lifter is bombing out of a meet for depth.

Opening Knees For Better Depth

Mobility:

Your feet, bar ride and depth are all factors of mobility.  Heels can  come     up because of high bar position pitching the lifter forward as can tight achilles      and hips.  When squatting your descent is based on bending at the hips first. Lifters than bend at the waist often get stuck being pitched forward and can even “lean into parallel” which is a crap shoot for white lights.

Mobility WOD for Ankles

Bar Path:

Sitting back is incorrect.  Drop. Drop it like its hot. Whatever helps you to understand. Raw lifters drop but we do stick our butts out. The bar should really travel in a straight line up and down.  Try some of the apps around to see the difference of a box squat and a regular squat. Perfect practice makes perfect so consider box squats as a secondary or assistance exercise at best.

Using elbow torque

Questions?  Feel free to email me.

Slowing down for fast gains!

 

I’ve been asked many times how I squat so much etc over the years.  I certainly won’t deny that my genetics have me built to squat with short femurs, wide hips and strong shoulder girdle.  One of the earliest examples of assistance training by my first coach, Ernie Fleischer, was to perform slow down squats which were basically pause squats.
He utilized them in different ranges during the negative and positive of the lift.  Ernie’s preferred method was to have me squat just below parallel and hold for a 2 count which I still do to this day.
 Ernie stated that being able to stop on a dime and start would make me more explosive and stronger in the hole of the squat.  I don’t think it is a coincidence that I am strongest in that position and accelerate really well from the bottom position.  Let me add some points that I have learned of why pause squats will help make your squat better than ever.
1. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Pause squats are just hard.  You have to sit down in the bottom rock solid.  You will get use to that feeling of being deep with weight, where much like over overload concepts, making the normal training or competing easier.
2. Slowing down to smell the roses.
Technique is so much easier to assess when you can slow things down.  You will be able to make simple adjustments as you start to recognize areas of needed improvement.  Knee positioning, bracing, depth are all needs for every lifter to work on and slowing down lets you start to feel and establish better habits.
3.  Dive bombing will blow up in your face.
Dive bomb squatting is popular for some.  You basically drop fast hoping to bounce off the knees to help get out of the bottom.  Well too many times that technique just doesn’t pan out for many reasons I won’t share in this post.  Simple and short version is it takes a lot of force to redirect weight that you have exponentially increased by letting it drop.  A tighter and controlled style will allow you to be able to decelerate and accelerate while maintaining better form throughout the lift.  Pauses squats will help set you up for this more efficient and safer tempo.

Getting RAW About Squatting

1.       PRACTICE!
Despite what Allen Iverson said, it is imperative to practice your technique! I use the same steps from the lightest warm-up to the heaviest work set when I train. Perfect practice doesmake perfect lifting. It’s critical that you don’t just go through the paces of training each day. Mentally prepare yourself for every single session, set and rep. I appreciate how Louie Simmons encourages lifters to treat their dynamic sets as if they were true max sets in a meet. Do this religiously and half the battle is won as a champion squatter.

2.       CONTROL THE MOVEMENT.
It is clear there is some misunderstanding  about the speed of movement that is witnessed by equipped lifters because of how slow they go. Some people think this it means a raw lifter should be the opposite, with a faster descent. I disagree, but I don’t think you need to make it a five-count negative. I think a nice 3-4 count once the judge gives you the “squat” command works very well. This allows you to stay totally in control of the lift, to better find your depth and have the explosive power to come out of the hole. The faster you go, the harder you have to reverse the momentum. A high-speed “suicide squat” will eventually K.O. your powerlifting career! Somewhere you need to find the speed that works for you to be the most efficient, so be sure to practice.

3.       FIND THE BEST STANCE.
The stance is potentially the most debated part of squatting, period. I have been told that if I spread my feet out really wide I would be unstoppable. Well, that sounds great, but the application just doesn’t work for me. I am very comfortable being a shoulder width stance squatter. I have large quads so it stands to reason that I use effective leverages to be optimal in my lift. Some of the misunderstanding on stance has also been predicated due to equipped lifters that stand extremely wide. Equipment is going to protect the hips to a greater degree than without any, just as it does so for the knees. It makes little sense to copy someone if you are not using the same methods and equipment.  Based on my personal experience and coaching numerous lifters, I recommend that raw squatters use a shoulder width stance to start with along with the toes pointed out around 45 degrees. The recommended starting stance is your base to tweak and adjust during practice to see what is optimal and comfortable.

One great tip for finding the correct stance for your structure is to sit on the end of a flat bench with your feet flat and spread at hip width. Attempt to stand up without leaning forward at all. By doing this, you will quickly find that if your stance is too close you lean forward excessively. Picture that same movement with 400 lbs. on your back and imagine how badly you’ll pitch forward. As you gradually spread your feet and do this over and over, you’ll find the stance where you can easily stand without leaning forward at all – that’s the ideal stance spread for you. Likewise, if you spread your feet extremely wide, you’ll find that you start to lean forward again.

Legs built from lots of squats!

Here are my favorite squatting exercises:
1.       Safety Bar Squats
2.       Pause Squats
3.       Anderson Front Squats
4.       Reverse Band Squats

Despite what others state I think volume is needed for raw lifters to build strength.  I personally like variations like:
Week 1: 3 sets of 10 reps (7-8 RPE)
Weeks 2: 3 sets of 7 reps (7-8 RPE)
Week 3: 3 sets of 5 reps (8 RPE)
Week 4: 3 sets of 3 reps (8-9 RPE)
Week 5: Deload

Now I did leave you hanging a bit about the guess work for the intensity level of the weights to move.  I like using the RPE concept to self-assess where you are THAT DAY in your training.  RPE stands for the rate of perceived exertion.  So basically it means how hard the lift was to complete.

A simple RPE chart would state:
10: Maximal, no reps left in the tank
9: Last rep is tough but still one rep left in the tank
8: Weight is too heavy to maintain fast bar speed but isn’t a struggle; 2–4 reps left
7: Weight moves quickly when maximal force is applied to the weight; “speed weight”
6: Light speed work; moves quickly with moderate force
5: Most warm-up weights
4: Recovery; usually 20 plus rep sets; not hard but intended to flush the muscle

Don’t get so caught up on the numbers of what you lifter while ignoring how you feel.  Let’s face it, some days lifting just stinks!  Just shoot for your RPE range even if it means you dropped some weight to do it.  IF you have consistent workouts of 3 or more of failing with feeling like yourself DELOAD immediately and consider a break.

Once a week focus on one squatting movement while doing simple 3-5 sets of 5 reps as assistance work for another squatting movement.  I might focus my squatting on the safety bar for my main lift while adding in some pause squats for my easier sets of 5.  Obviously power squats and Olympic squats should be utilized regularly as well.

My Throwback Thursday at the USPA Olympia Invitational


 To be invited to a meet like the Olympia was really surreal to me.  I was not only sorta new to competing but I was not lifting with any lifting equipment.  I was given some great stuff to try but I was just so uncomfortable wearing the stuff.

I was struggling through all of my attempts because I wasn’t use to the Texas Squat bar.  It was awkward but I managed.  Also the platform was raised while people were all around us.  Talk about nerve racking.  Luckily starting with the squat made it smooth enough sailing.

My opener I turned some heads as I opened over 700+ without even knee wraps to help me.

The photos here are of my 3rd attempt where I took 755 for a ride.  The head judge seated with his back to the camera yelled, “AND SHAWN IS LIFTING RAW!”  The crowd seemed to get into that and cheer more.  So..big air…set up…squat…drive…rack…3 whites!

That was a good day!