The squat is considered to be one of the best compound exercises. It’s a staple in top athletes routines. Guys that are looking to pack on lean mass and build massive strength never skip out on squatting. That’s because they engage your entire body, build your calves, strengthen your hamstrings, core, back and chest. In this article we’ll cover the squat and provide some insight on how to improve squat depth. So let’s break parallel and follow these 3 tips to improve your squat.
How To Do A Squat
Before we can get into how to improve squat depth it’s important to know the proper squat form and how to do one. There are several squat variations but the three most common are the olympic (or high bar,) squat, the low bar squat and front bar squat. Each variation has different variables which affect how they are performed.
The difference is the placement of the bar on the back or shoulders. With the front bar squat the bar is under the chin. The main difference between the Olympic and low bar squat is the bar placement on the upper back. Bar positioning determines the angle and the overall geometry of the movement. The way the hips and knees are positioned will change based on where the bar is placed.
One thing that remains the same in all variations is that the bar travels in a straight up and down vertical path, balanced over the middle of the foot. Learning the proper form takes patience and practice. Check out this article to make sure you're doing them correctly
How To Improve Squat Depth
There are a lot of misconceptions about the squat and a ton of variations we didn’t cover. Learning to squat can be rather confusing. Making sure to practice the proper form is essential and will make for the biggest improvement. Sometimes this means starting back at zero and working your way up. If you’ve been squatting for a while and reached a plateau or are new to the squat here are 3 tips to improve your squat.
1. Strengthen your core
A strong core maintains proper movement through the entire kinetic chain. Decreased activation of the core muscles or muscle groups can lead to pain or injury. Proper core training has been shown to reduce this. There are two techniques that can be applied while learning to train the core muscles; drawing-in and bracing. Drawing-in activates the local core stabiliser muscles by drawing the navel in towards the spine. Bracing happens when the abs, lower back and glutes are contracted simultaneously.
2. Practice box squats
Sounds silly but this can be a very effective way to get more plates on the bar. Grab a box or a bench, place it in the rack and take your normal squat position. Sit back until your ass touches the box and then pause. Now stand up by squeezing your glutes, hams and driving with your hips. This will pick you up out of the bottom of the squat and begin to strengthen neglected muscles. Keep doing this until it becomes easy. Adding weight or even using a smith machine will really help to build up your strength and confidence.
3. Incorporate good mornings
By doing good mornings with proper form your hip, glutes and hams will really get a good work out. Looks a little weird but it is also a very beneficial movement to squatting. Good mornings will help to build your core muscles along with your lower back creating a stable base, which in turn will help you power through your squats. Just make sure you don't round out your back. Get a good stretch by keeping your legs locked and bending as far forward as possible. Make sure you pull back up with your buttocks and not your upper back.
There are of course many other things you can be doing to improve your squat. There are a variety of ancillary exercises to help strengthen different muscle groups as well as progressions of the squat itself that teach your body proper motor patterns. A favourite of mine is the sissy squat. These are only 3 tips that can help make an immediate impact. Equipment can make a difference in your squat as well. Things like weightlifting shoes or belts can help to increase mobility and stabilisation.
If I was only going to perform one exercise for the rest of my life it would be the squat for its sheer ability to build strength in the entire body. However without the proper technique you won’t get the benefits of this fantastic exercise. How to improve squat depth consists of getting it right, making sure your core is strong and practicing ancillary exercises. But, I cannot stress enough about proper form. Forget you ego, pretty soon the other fellas in the gym will be asking you what you're doing. Trust me I speak from experience.