Some call it the king of all exercises, some fear it and some love it but there’s no denying that the squat is a great exercise for building not just your legs, but pretty much your entire body. The squat is a great tool for increasing overall strength, explosiveness and stability and the benefits don’t just end there. Improving your squats also help you to get better in all your other lifts. With that said, here are a few ways to improve your squat performance:
First things first, always ensure that you go through a proper warm up routine. If you just enter the gym pick up your max weight and start squatting, you’re going to get hurt. Your back will give out and your knees will suffer.
Instead, get on the treadmill and do just 5 minutes of a light jog. This will make sure that your blood starts flowing to your legs and you have better flexibility. When you do eventually start squatting, make sure that you start with at least half the weight, even if that means using an empty bar, and doing a couple of slow and controlled squats. Perform 2-3 sets of a warm up squat and then move on to your heavier weights.
Strengthen your back
One of the biggest complaints that people have when squatting is of lower back pain. This is because the lower back takes a lot of the stress of the weights and having a weak and tight back will only cause more stress on it. Make sure that you are not ignoring your lower back, you can have lats as wide as a football field but if your lower back is weak, your body is weak. You’re only as strong as your weakest link. If you find that squatting gives you a lot of lower back pain, firstly ensure that your form is correct and second, improve your lower back strength by performing exercises such as: hyperextensions and stiff legged (Romanian) deadlifts.
Do a variety of squats
If you find that you’ve reached a plateau on the regular back squats, try doing some different forms of squats. A good alternative is a front squat.
Front squats are quite challenging because instead of the weight resting on your back, you are now forced to balance it in front of you while squatting down. If you can increase your strength in the front squat, I guarantee you that your back squat will also increase.
Another variation is the overhead squat. In this variation, you hold the barbell up over your head, as if you are doing a shoulder press, and squat down and back up. This is an incredibly challenging exercise because it is really difficult to stabilize the weight over your head while performing a squat. This variety greatly improves your core strength and stability and the increase in strength also translates in to an increase in strength in your regular back squats.