James Grage takes us through another Advanced Training Techniques:
Today we’re gonna be talking about the squat. Now, we’ve all been told that the squat is the king of all muscle builders and when we’re talking about building our quads and hamstrings and glutes, this is true – as long as we focus on proper technique.
I’m going to cover things to avoid, common mistakes or bad form, and some tips on how to improve your squat.
First things first, let’s jump into proper body alignment. This is where I see a lot of mistakes in the gym. So, let’s talk from the ground up, starting with your feet. You see all sorts of feet positions: narrow, shoulder-width or even really wide with toes turned out. Here’s the one thing that you want to keep in mind: there’s a difference between squatting for power and squatting to build muscle. So, if you stand with your feet nice and wide with your toes turned out, it’s a very powerful position, but if you’re focusing on building muscle, keep your feet shoulder-width apart with your toes only slightly turned out.
Now let’s move up to your knees. You may have heard the saying, “Don’t let your knees go over your toes.” But how do you do that? If we keep moving up to your hips, or more specifically, your glutes, you want to get your glutes backwards. The reason your knees come over your toes is that you’re squatting straight down. Maybe you’re afraid that you’re going to fall backwards, which is common when you first start squatting. To improve your squat, focus on sticking your butt out and moving it down. This will naturally keep your knees right over your toes.
Next, we move up to the shoulders. Let’s talk about the bar itself. I see a lot of people with the bar too high, sitting on the back of their neck. Instead, let the bar roll back just a little bit so it sits across your traps and your shoulders.
Now for your head. Remember that wherever you look, your body is going to follow. If you look down, your shoulders are going to round down. Focus on keeping your torso nice and upright, and to do that, you have to keep your chin up. Try finding a spot to look at on the wall and keep your eyes on it throughout the squat movement.
One of the easiest ways to improve your squat is to practice without the bar. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and stick your hands straight up over your head. Initiate the squat movement by dropping your butt backwards, then press straight up through your heels. You’ll find that your torso stays nice and upright. If your hands are coming out in front of you, you’re leaning too far forward. Keeping your hands above your head forces you to arch your back slightly. Keep your chin up and drive through your heels.
Last but not least, let’s discuss range of motion. I see a lot of people that only train in a half range of motion. Others may say, “Hey! They’re missing the full range of motion by not coming down to at least parallel!” This is true, however there are two different ways to look at this. In the upper half range of motion, your quads are stronger. In fact, a lot of bodybuilders will train this way because their quads can handle the weight. This will challenge your quads, but you’re not working your glutes and hamstrings as much as you should be. The glutes and the hamstrings are activated when you come down nice and low.
One tip you can do is break your squats up into two different ranges of motion. Start with a lighter, but challenging weight and do half reps from the bottom of the squat movement. When you get down lower, you’re much weaker, so the lighter weight will help encourage better form. Then, put more weight on and do the upper half of the range of motion where you’re stronger.
Start slow, but simply follow these tips to improve your squat.
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