Nothing say’s “Yea bro, I lift” like walking into a new gym, warming up, and loading plate after plate onto the bar while you warm up.
Unfortunately, this isn’t how it always works out, but after today’s article, you’ll be on the fast track to a strong and painless squat.
Now you don’t have to load the bar with every weight in the gym, dive in a quarter squat and give it everything you have so you don’t get crushed like an ant.
In fact, we’re doing the opposite. We’re going to do it safer, smarter, and with way more fun. The last thing I want you to do is the same boring squat workout day in and day out, where the only change is a few reps, sets, or percentages.
In today’s article, I am going to show you some behind the scenes action to other exercises you can use to improve your squat.
Let’s ban boring squat workouts forever. Let me show you how.
Warm Up So You Can Squat Without Pain
If you have pain when you squat we want to make sure that goes away as fast as possible so you can move in a full range of motion pain-free. Sound good?
A pain-free squat is essential for anyone wanting to get stronger, leaner, more muscular, or improve sports performance.
Not only is the squat a great exercise but it’s a foundational movement that you need to be able to perform. The first thing you have to make sure you’re ready to get into the squat position without being too tight and painful.
If your body is restricted, it’s not going to work the way it’s supposed to. This is the equal of driving with your emergency brake on. Sure you’ll move and get places, but it won’t be anywhere close to your potential.
Instead of sitting on the foam roller for 30 minutes as some guru told you to do I want you to MOVE.
Here is an example warm-up of what I mean and will get your ready to squat better than ever.
- Alternating leg drive x 6 per side
- Backward roll to reach through x8
- Half kneeling hip flexor stretch (without bands) x 8 per side
- Half kneeling adductor dip x 6 per side
- Hip flexed hips rocking x 6 per side
- Single leg glute bridge x 6 per side
- Quadruped hip circles (both directions) x10 per side
- Alternating birdog x 6 per side
- Flow — spiderman with hip lift to glue stretch x 6 per side
- RKC plank 2 x 15 seconds
- Bodyweight squat (311) tempo x 15
- Lateral band walk x 10
Give it a try before your warm-up and get ready for some fun.
Remember, before you start loading the bar make sure your joints are warm, stable, and mobile.
Pick One Of These Three New Bilateral Squat Variations
Now that you’re warmed up and ready to go, we’re going to start squatting. But not with your regular old squat, we’re going to squat with a twist.
Perform one of the following:
1. Paused Front Squats
Paused front squats will teach you to keep your core tight which is essential for maintaining a healthy back. Plus, they torch your quads more than back squats because the way the load is placed on your body.
If you pick the paused front squat, do 3 x 8 reps with 55% of your one repetition max.
2. 3-5 Second Eccentric Squats
By slowing the speed in which you perform the exercise, you change the feel and the way your body adapts.
If you’ve never done eccentric focused training before you’re in for a real humbling experience.
Control the lowering for 3-5 seconds but perform the up phase as fast as you can while maintaining perfect form.
If you pick this, do 3 x 6 reps with 65% of your one repetition max.
3. 1.5 Rep Goblet Squats
This is a regular squat with an added ‘pulse’ at the bottom.
Go all the way down, come up halfway, go back down to the bottom of the squat… THEN come all the way back up. Make the exercise as smooth as possible, so it’s not jerky.
If you pick this, do 3 x 10 (add the half rep to each rep).
Vary Your Exercises With Single Leg Training
Now that you’re warmed up, feeling good and have squatted a bit we’re going to fix your weak points and strengthen muscle you didn’t know you have, with single leg exercises.
Think about it, anytime you run, jump, cut, play you’re on one leg a majority of the time. You’re shifting your weight, stabilizing with your core, and supporting powerful forces.
Most people look at single leg exercises as ‘wimpy, ’ but I can assure you, there is nothing wimpy about doing Bulgarian split squats with 225 pounds.
Another benefit of single leg exercises are… they’re easier to recover from because the load you use is less than if you were to load up a bar and back squat your life away.
This means you can recover faster and get strong and powerful without beating yourself into the ground.
Here are three single leg variations that will boost your squat without getting you injured:
▪ Heavy sled pushes and drags
▪ Bulgarian split squats
▪ Single-leg deadlift variations
Pick one of those three exercises and perform them in each lower body workout you do for 3-4 sets of 5-10 reps.
If you’re feeling the joint smashing side effects of squatting too much, you might even drop the regular squat and stick with single leg training for a few weeks.
If you do it right, you’ll have a stronger and more stable squat when you come back.
Usually, it’ll take a week or two to get reaccustomed to your proper squat and to dial it back in, but your squat will be stronger.
Build A Strong Backside
Having a strong posterior chain (as the squatting folk like to call it, will make your squat stronger and keep you healthier.
Between playing sports and the typical leg workout, you find in a magazine the majority of exercises are quadriceps focus, most people develop knee issues. This is because their backside doesn’t do its fair share of work during specific exercises.
When you’re able to develop strong hamstrings, glutes, and lower back, you’ll immediately notice your squat skyrocket as well as pain decrease.
Not only that, but having a big backside makes your shoulders look broader and your waist look slimmer which gives to the X shape that is aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
Here are two exercises that will help build a reliable posterior chain:
1) Barbell Glute Bridge
This exercise targets the glutes while taking the load off your back. It’s a killer for building a strong but which can make knee pain disappear for good.
2) Swiss Ball Bridge And Leg Curl
This exercise ads in an in an isometric squeeze from your glutes while moving your legs and putting those hamstrings to good use.
Not only does this help you learn how to brace your abs when moving but it will keep your lower back safer than ever.
Now you know exactly what you need to do. If you follow these simple steps in your workouts you’ll build a strong squat without pain.
- Do a proper warm-up
- Pick a new squat variation
- Get strong at single leg exercises
- Build a strong posterior chain
Once you can incorporate these 4 additions into your workouts you’re on a fast track to a stronger, safer, and more productive, squat.
If you have any questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now go have some fun.
Joey Percia is a coach at a training studio in New York City and also runs a successful online training business. He is a competitive powerlifter in the 181 division and has totaled 1400lbs. Joey has a Masters degree in Exercise Science, is a CPPS coach, Westside Barbell Coach and CSCS. Follow him on Facebook, you will be glad you did.