I’ll start out by stating that my best raw competition squat (no wraps) was 386 lbs. That was at RAW Unity in 2014, at 158lbs body weight. It’s not the best in the word but, it’s pretty decent.
I used to hate the squat. It was my least favorite lift, mainly because I wasn’t that good at it. In strongman, I can somewhat hide from the squat since it’s rarely an event. However, there’s no hiding when you’re a powerlifter. Not to mention that a big squat does transfer over to strongman in a number of ways.
Recently I have developed a new interest in progressing my squat. So I did some thinking. I asked myself, what are the athletes doing who have really big squats? The conclusion I came to was this: they squat a lot. So, I decided to put more squatting into my squat day. I did this with multiple squat variations. I will cover my favorite three, and show you how you can use them to improve your squat. I will also cover a few other good squat assistance exercises. This whole series of exercises can be used for a single squat session. That’s exactly what I did this Monday. My training session looked like this:
Box squats with chains: 3 sets, 5 reps Resistance band squats: 3 sets, 8 reps Two stage pause squats: 3 sets, 5 reps Single leg incline leg press: 2 sets, 12 reps each leg Single leg weighted lunges: 3 sets, 10 reps each leg Weighted plank: 3x 30 second rounds
This was a pretty high volume session and took me over 2 hours. I’d recommend a session like this during the beginning to middle of a training cycle. The variations in squats will target different weakness of your squat, and keep your body guessing.
Box Squat with Chains
Box squats in general are good because they force you to recreate tension and power from the bottom of the movement. In this way, they are similar to Anderson squats. The chains are used as a way to force you to increase your power as you drive upward out of the hole. As you squat upward, the weight that you are pushing increases as the chains come off the floor. That increase in weight is what forces the lifter to increase her power production. The desired transfer effect is an increase in bar speed as a lifter drives out of the hole.
Resistance Band Squats (reverse band)
Reverse resistance band squats take off the most weight at the bottom of the squat. This is a great exercise for someone who is overly cautious on their decent, or fails coming up out of the hole. This give the squatter confidence to really drive up hard out of the hole even when feeling heavy weight on her shoulders. It’s also a good exercise to help a lifter’s confidence handling heavier weights. At the top of the lift, the bands should be taking off hardly any weight. So, the lifter still gets the opportunity to experience the feel of big weight at the top of the movement.
Two Stage Pause Squats
I don’t know if anyone else does these because I only thought these up pretty recently. In two stage pause squats the lifter pauses for a two count in the hole, drives up 3-4 inches, pauses for another two count, then continues her drive upward to finish the squat. This movement is great for lifters who have a tendency to clam over as they come out of the hole. If your squat starts to look like a good morning, this is the exercise for you. The second pause occurs at the moment where most lifters start to fall forward and clam. The pause forces the lifter to strengthen that portion of the lift and prevent clamming.
I’m a big fan of isolation work, especially when it comes to legs. Single leg incline press and single leg lunges are great isolation movements. The single leg incline is also a good stretch. The lunges target balance. The goal should be to drive through your heel and keep your chest up on the lunges.
At least once a week I like to throw a ab exercise in my routine. I prefer high intensity, short duration ab exercises, so a weighted plank is right up my ally.
Squat variations are a very useful tool when it comes to increasing your abilities, squat or otherwise. I suggest anylazing your squat, then picking a couple squat variations that target your weakness. Plus, it might be fun to try out some new exercises and keep things fresh. Peace!