If you have strength trained in any capacity you have probably been told that squatting is the best exercise out there. Actually, men and women of all ages and with all different types of training goals can benefit from squatting.
Squatting is predominantly a lower body exercise. It also requires the involvement of just about every muscle in your body. When you perform a barbell squat, you will get muscle recruitment from your hands all the way down through your toes. This is one of the many reasons that squatting is such a good strength builder. Aside from being a way to add on some serious strength in the weight room, squatting has countless other benefits for life outside the gym. Developing a strong barbell squat will improve your overall athletic ability. After all, strength is going to be the base for everything that you do athletically. Improvements in core strength  and stability  will also be seen from consistently (and properly) performing barbell squats.
Once you decide to take that step and get underneath the barbell, your life will forever be changed. You will finally become excited about leg day and your new goal in life will be to squat better. Just like anything in life, it takes time, the longer you do it, the better you will get. However, there are some really easy ways to improve your squat that can be applied to your training right now. If you have been squatting for 15 years or 15 days, try following these training tips and become a better squatter.
There are the 5 best ways to improve your squat
It’s important to stay relaxed and in control, but before you begin the eccentric phase of the squat, it’s time to tighten up. When I say tighten up, I mean tighten up everything. You don’t want to lower the bar with all your muscles loose, then the second you come out of the hole and begin to stand, you snap all your muscles together and spastically tighten up now. Everything should be tight as soon as you begin you descent. I always run through the following list of ques with my clients on the barbell squat: stay tight; grip, shoulders, core, quads. This will help keep your muscles activated and keep yourself more stable.
One of the first things that you should learn when barbell squatting is how to breath properly. So, if you haven’t done so, it’s time to start implementing the Valsalva maneuver. The Valsalva maneuver is performed by inhaling at the top of the standing position, before you begin the eccentric phase of the lift. While holding your breath, use that air in your lungs to forcefully press against your chest wall. This will create an extremely stable core. Exhale during the concentric phase once you have passed your “sticking point”. Once you have returned to the standing position, then repeat.
Focus on the Positive
Staying in the right mental state during a heavy squat will benefit you tremendously. When you get under the bar, stand up, then walk back, never think to yourself “this is really heavy”. This negativity will set you up for failure. Don’t think about how heavy the bar is, because if you have any type of respectable squat, the weight will always be heavy. Even your warm-up weight is most likely pretty heavy. So don’t let these negative thoughts enter your mind. You should only think about driving that bar up. Even during the eccentric phase you should be thinking about exploding through the floor and driving the bar up.
Your running shoes may look great and be extremely comfortable, but they are for running, not for squatting. For squatting you will want a shoe with a hard, uncomfortable sole. The idea is to have the most solid surface as possible between your feet and the floor. When you get under the bar and begin the eccentric (lowering) phase of the squat, you are preparing yourself to reach full depth and then power up through your feet to return back to the standing position. When you are wearing running shoes and you begin powering up through your feet, the first movement you make is not actually up, it’s down. When you begin to push into your shoes, your feet will actually sink into the soft sole until it can’t sink any farther, then at this point, you will finally begin to drive the bar up. Make sense? With a hard sole shoe your feet have nowhere to sink into. Now the first movement that you make when you press of the floor is straight up. This may seem like a small detail, but wasted movement is wasted energy and this is something that you can’t afford when trying to squat at your best.
Last, but not least, wearing a pair of quality knee sleeves while you’re squatting is a simple way to improve your squat. A good set of knee sleeves will allow your body to move more efficiently. Sleeves will reduce the time it takes to get your knees warm which will let you focus on other things like, breathing and staying tight. They will provide your knee joint with support and stability, but the reason that I always recommend sleeves for when moving heavy weight is recovery. The best way to add weight to your squat is to be consistent.
What good does it do if you have a great squatting session, but your knees are so sore that you can’t squat heavy again for three weeks? A high quality pair of knee sleeves will provide sufficient compression and allow maximum blood flow through the legs. Get blood moving into your muscle and get waste moving out of the muscle. This equates to greater recovery and lets you get back in the gym and hit it hard again!
If you have been training for years and already have an epic barbell squat, I would imagine that you are already doing most, if not all, of the tips in this article. If you aren’t an epic squatter, then adding any of these tips to your squatting routine will surely set you on the right path. Remember that combining all of these tips will not make you a better squatter unless you are consistent. So, get under that barbell and improve your squat!
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