Posted on July 21 2015
The back squat is an all-body exercise.
When done well it works your glutes and hamstrings as well as challenge your ankle and hip mobility and your knee movements.
Everybody loves the back squat. Getting better at back squatting doesn’t just involve doing the exercise over and over. There is heaps of video’s out there but nothing beats talking to your coach
Here is a few thoughts:
1) Mobility - ankle and hips
Increasing your mobility in these areas will help you hit depth on your squat, not to mention help prevent injury.
- Hips: get into a wide lunge position and place your hands on the floor in front of you so that your chest is parallel to the ground (or as close as you can manage). Move forward and back a little and side to side slightly, so that you can feel the stretch in the hip and groin area on the same side as your front foot. You can also place that elbow on the inside of the knee and push the knee out slightly to increase the stretch. Do this for one minute before switching sides and doing the same.
- Ankles: In a lunge position with the front knee a few inches from the wall, outstretch your hands so that you can push against the wall. Then, gently push the front knee forward so that it runs over your front ankle and goes closer to the wall. Stay in this position for a few seconds before returning back to your start position. The aim is to get the knee to touch the wall, such that you have loosened up your ankle joints. Do this a few times over before switching legs and repeating on the other side.
2) Stretches - couch, calf and chest
Stretching is important as a part of preparation for your squat because tight muscles won’t help you reach the range required to get the full benefit out of the exercise.
- Couch stretch, to loosen the hip flexors and quads. Place an ab mat or similar next to a wall and one knee on the mat so that your shin is touching, or almost touching the wall. Place the opposite foot on the ground so that leg is in a lunge position. This stretch can hurt a little, hold for 45-60 seconds then repeat on the other side. – checkout u-tube videos
- Calf stretch. There are various ways to stretch your calf muscles but one of the best is also the simplest! Stand on a step or bench and drop one heel off the back until you feel a stretch down the back of your lower leg. Hold for at least 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
- Chest stretch. A tight chest will pull your shoulders and upper back around and compromise your ability to stay upright at the bottom of the squat. So place one arm against a door frame or the edge of a squat rack and the leg on that same side in front of you before leaning forward and twisting outwards (ie. if your left arm is on the door frame, turn slightly to the right) until you feel the stretch under your armpit and across your upper chest. Do this a couple of times on each side for at least 30 seconds.
3) Lower abdominal engagement
In an exercise that involves the legs so obviously, it’s easy to forget about other parts of the body. But adding weight to your back squat means building up a really strong core, and in particular the area at the bottom of your stomach known as the lower abdominals. Often at the very bottom of the movement, we forget to stay switched on in this region. This means that we have less power available to drive up and out of the bottom of the squat. Performing regular exercises for better lower abdominal engagement, such as the ‘hollow hold’, will help you to feel whether those muscles are on or being lazy.
As with most things training-related, it’s easy to plateau in your back squat if you don’t continue to shift the variables. This doesn’t just refer to the weight on the bar, but also the speed with which you lift. Include some ‘tempo’ days where you focus on the time spent lowering the bar and driving up fast, or try a variation with a pause half way up.
5) Adequate rest in-between heavy squat sessions
This one speaks for itself really. Don’t squat heavy again until you feel completely recuperated and like you’re keen to get under the bar. As always, a speedy recovery is helped by mobility work, stretching, plenty of sleep, good nutrition and, of course, a little supplementation. Progenex Recovery or More Muscle post workout and daily Omega 3 will help you bounce back quicker.