Next level size, strength, and speed begin with a strong squat. Here are the drills to help you move big boy, next level, weight.
The sport of powerlifting is comprised of three main movements: The bench, the squat and the deadlift. These exercises are used in competition because, between them, you’re literally working every single muscle in your body.
But no movement has a higher correlation to improved strength, speed and, athletic performance than the king of all exercises: the squat. It’s why I firmly believe some form of squatting should be included in every strength training routine. However, to reap the full benefits you must first perfect your technique. Here we’ll discuss ways to help you do just that.
Sometimes athletes perform squats and don’t have the control to pull themselves down correctly, and end up with anterior weight shift. This causes them to end up on their toes, which is precisely where they shouldn’t be (i.e. you should always be pushing through your heels).
The Wall Squat helps combat this anterior weight shift problem nicely, for it prevents your knees from shifting too far forward:
Use the wall as a guide to squat more efficiently. Set up with your feet nearly touching the wall. The distance will vary depending on the individual, but generally should be an inch or less away. Start to sit back and squat down while keeping your chest out as you face the wall. If you round your back you’ll wind up smashing your face against the wall. If your knees come too far forward you’ll bang them against the wall. Needless to say these deterrents work nicely to correct poor form.
Just make certain, when doing these, that you’re not demonstrating an extreme posterior pelvic tilt (where the lower back rounds at the very bottom position). This means you’re squatting too low for your current hip mobility. Additionally, make sure your feet are flat on the ground.
Squat with RNT
If you’ve had knee pain from squatting previously it probably means you’ve performed the squat with improper form. The diagnosis tends to be you’ve squatted with your knees pointed inward. This causes a lot of stress on the knee and is an unsafe squatting pattern. And generally speaking the culprit is a lack of glute activation.
We can use a superband band to actually force our athletes to push their knees out. This is what strength coach and physical therapist Gray Cook calls Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT). The athlete performs a squat with the band above their knees, and is consequently FORCED to keep their knees out in order to perform the squat.
Squats with bands around the knees will activate muscles in your hips and prevent valgus collapse (knees caving in). This will ensure proper alignment of the joint as well as provide glute activation for the movement.
If you don’t have access to short bands, double up a regular size band to achieve a similar effect. If you don’t have any bands available, get a partner to provide manual resistance with their hands. Have someone push your knees inward while you push that person’s hands apart as you squat. The great thing about this drill is you can continue to load the squat and still use the band to reinforce good technique.
I would also recommend combing this method with a box. Box squatting really teaches the lifter to sit back. This will prevent you from coming up on your toes, while keeping the weight toward the back of the foot on the heels.
The two (and a half) drills above will improve your form, as well as your absolute strength this offseason. Start working these movements in your routine and watch as your leg strength progressively develops.