Article written by Amy Payne
So, you want to squat big numbers: Is your squat number stuck and not going up? Is squatting is just a new lift for you? If so, let’s build those wheels and get you squatting!
There are tons and tons of training methods for building a squat, I am going to go over what I have done in the past and what I do now that has increased my squat from a 275lb squat to 420lb squat in under two years. Yes, that is approximately 72lbs a year, for all you math peeps.
Obviously, the first thing you need to do is SQUAT!! I love squatting for obvious reasons: it is my best lift. But if this is not the case you should be doing it even more. You won’t get better by not squatting and simply wishing you were better at it. Learn form first! Don’t be that guy that brags about a huge squat when you are not hitting depth! Engage your hamstrings and your glutes! Don’t rely solely on your quads. Most women are quad dominant so that is a real challenge for them, myself included. Use wide stance box squats to help build hip strength and sumo deadlifts to work your glutes. After you learn more about proper form and technique, you will understand and see how this is a component that is a constant. What do I mean by constant? An aspect that is worked on daily, regardless of the weight you are putting on the bar, which means it is an endless task. You obviously need to prepare your CNS (Central Nervous System) to accept the load you are going to punish your body with.
So what does that mean? It means Squat Heavy. I squat heavy as often as I can, sometimes as often as once a week. What qualifies as heavy? Well, that is going to be relative to the individual. Percentages are great to work off but I will be the first to admit if things feel right I will push past the top percentage I am supposed to stop at. You need to go by feel as well, if you feel great, then push it. If you are feeling slow, sluggish and not “poppy”, then shut it down. Back off the weight and work tempo and speed. Now, if you have a coach and or programming, listen to them. Again, I am just telling you what I personally do. And yes, I have made a coach mad a time or two. I will try to push a 4×4 with close to 90% of my projected 1rm. Projected meaning that if I want to squat 450lbs at the next meet, I base my percentages off that number, not my current number that I have hit. After I finish with my 4×4 I do all my accessory work. So that brings me to my next point. ACCESSORY WORK IS A MUST!!
What is accessory work, you ask? To put it simply, accessory work is work that supports your main lifts. Leg extensions, leg press, banded side steps, lunges, and of course core work. I found that after I stepped off stage, my numbers of all my main lifts increased and I was much more stable. My theory is while getting ready for stage I worked everything striving for the symmetrical look. I worked all those small muscles that assisted in stabilizing my lifts, not just the main movers. I am not telling you to go get shredded or that your abs need to show, I am telling you small muscles play a part in moving big weights. Don’t believe me?? Stan Efferding totals 2, 226.6lbs, Susan Salazar pulls 420 at 122lb BW….both incorporate body building training days into their regiment. If accessory work is something you slack on, STOP SLACKING!
I usually do 3 supportive lifts and add in 1 “pump” day to hit anything I may have felt I lacked in training throughout the week. I also add in a mobility active recovery day. I go to Bikram Yoga and use the 90 minute class to really focus on stretching and re centering myself for my next training day.
So lifting obviously will make you a better lifter duh, but what about your mental capacity? Have you trained that? If you believe you can, you will! So many shut themselves down before any weight is moved simply from what is between their ears. The “it’s going to be way to heavy”, “I can’t” or the “I am not sure”, will stop you before you even get to that point. You need to address the bar like it’s your bitch! You control the weight, you never allow the weight to control you. You must believe you can with every ounce of you, you cannot fear or doubt. This aspect should be put into play every time you lift, every time you compete. The body will go where the mind leads. You need to understand that mentally you are going to push, so get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Nutrition obviously is a key factor with your lifts and honestly it is probably the area I struggle with the most. Eating has to be looked at as another training tool. We eat to perform. I often push this back to the back burner and then wonder why that day was a shitty training session…well let’s see what did I eat that day? Usually the answer is not enough. Meal prep is key to preventing this, by having things on hand to keep us going throughout the day. We are asking our bodies to perform at optimal levels of stress every time we lift, we need to make sure we are taking in enough food to recover properly and make those gains we all strive for every time we compete. I currently try to consume 2500 calories a day. Some days goes smoothly, other days I have to force myself to eat. I want to break a world record squat of 500lbs at 165 lb. body weight…Do you think that will happen if I train in deficit every day? Hell no!! Eat for your goals bottom line. You cannot expect different results if you follow the same plan for months and months.
I know many of you wanted a special formula or a specific routine. The answer for me is there is not perfect plan. You adapt to the level you are at than push harder to achieve the next level. You don’t settle for where you adapt to. I squat heavy, I squat with chains, I box squat, I front squat…I SQUAT. I nourish my body to be able to push adaptation. I seek out others to train with to push me during training, because let’s face it, a lot of time you could have probably done one more with the right people pushing you to do it. I mentally get my game face on…I don’t doubt, I don’t fear, I DO. I train supportive muscles to aid in building my squat. I ask for feedback from other knowledgeable lifters via competitions or online. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR FEEDBACK!
Don’t be afraid to take a rest day when you feel beat up. Rest gives you those gains we all are striving for. In all reality it’s pretty simple, squat, do accessory work, and eat for your goals. Don’t forget to take your mobility seriously either. Get your head right and be comfortable with being uncomfortable under the weight. EAT! EAT! EAT! Listen to your body, no one knows you better than you, do so don’t ignore nagging pains. This is what I have incorporated, try it, try parts of it, and see what happens.