6 Ways To Maximize Your Squat

          The Squat is one of the main lifts in the strength and conditioning world along with the world of CrossFit. Powerful hip extension is necessary for all Olympic lifts, and necessary for essential functions of everyday life. But how can we make it better? Stronger? Faster? And more efficient? Below I will outline some of the important points of performance to stress when training the squat. 

1)      Technique! So you can back squat 455 pounds, technique is still something EVERYONE needs to work on. Grab the PVC pipe or training bar and make sure you are still hitting every point of performance when it comes to the squat. Developing bad habits is easy, especially when lifting heavy weight and recruiting any muscle necessary to get that weight back on the rack. Make sure you are retraining the proper movement patters with low weight/no weight technique work.  

2)      Toes Out! Keeping your feet parallel to each other can actually decrease the amount of weight you can lift. Pointing your toes out 15-40 degrees can give us a better anatomical advantage and can lead to more weight being lifted.

3)      Knees out! Not only will this force more recruitment of the glutes (Most powerful hip extender in the body) it will also save your knees. If you knees dip in on a squat it is important to fix this habit or movement fault before it becomes an issue. 

4)      Core Tight! Working with maximum weight it’s often necessary to perform a Valsalva’s maneuver. This is where you bare down, not suck your stomach in, but push out (Against a weight belt if wearing one). This creates more intra-abdominal pressure and will help protect your core for injury and also stabilize your core to allow you to lift heavier weights. 

5)      Chest Up/Elbows Back! The second your chest caves forward on a squat the more chance of injury you have and the more your body has to work to stabilize the weight. If your body is trying to recruit muscles to stabilize the weight and does not feel safe, the less chance you have of being able to recruit the muscles of your legs to lift the weight. Keeping your elbows back not only creates a nice shelf for the bar to sit on but it also helps keep the chest up.

6)      Training/Programing! In order to squat more weight or more efficiently you have to actually perform the squat. You need to train it properly for what your goal is. Trying to achieve a new PR? You have to train heavy and make sure you have adequate recovery. If programing is done by your coach make sure you talk with him or her about your goals to make sure it is done appropriately. 

          By focusing on these key points of performance you will help avoid injury and increase performance when performing the squat. 

Dr. Derek Nelson, D.C., M.S., CSCS, CF-L1, FMT, FMS

Derek Nelson