The squat is by far and away one of the most terrifying lifts you can do in the gym. There’s a ton that can go wrong with the squat at any one-point time, from fucking up your lower back or hips, to getting buried under a heavy squat. Which, by the way, if that hasn’t happened to you then consider yourself lucky.
Yet most of us continue squatting, and for good reason. The squat is one of the best exercises out there when it comes to building strength, athleticism, muscle mass, and can even help you drop fat.
But chances are that like most other lifts, you want to continue pushing your squat forward. I mean, why wouldn’t you? If you’re getting stronger everywhere else it makes sense to get stronger on the squat.
Unfortunately it seems like we run into plateaus with the squat more than any other lift. Which is exactly what I’m talking about today. Here are 3 strategies bust through your squat plateau.
By the way, just so we’re clear, the easiest answer here would’ve been squat more. But that’s lazy, and while I fully embrace my laziness, I’m not that lazy.
- Pause squats.
Pause squats are by far and away my favorite tool for getting through a squatting plateau. You don’t abandon the principle of specificity because you’re still squatting, you just take the exercise to an entirely new level of difficulty.
By pausing at the bottom of the movement you completely take the stretch shortening cycle out of the equation. Which is important, because via the stretch shortening cycle you actively store energy on the descent of the squat, and use that stored energy to come back up.
By removing that stored energy from the equation you’re forced to recruit more muscle fibers and ultimately get stronger.
- Split squats.
Last year I took a 3 month break from traditional squatting. My program consisted mainly of Bulgarian split squats, and when I came back to squatting my numbers were through the roof. I was blown away by how much higher they had gotten.
This wasn’t by accident. Split squats do an outstanding job of training your stabilizing muscles, athleticism, and weak points that may exist throughout the movement.
On top of that they also manage to help you get a bigger stretch in the quad, while also forcing your ass to work more under a much heavier load than it’s used to handling.
If you’re really looking for a challenge, try split squatting half of your max for at least one rep. I wouldn’t advise doing this right away, but if you can split squat half for you max for 3-4 reps, then chances are you’ve entered a whole new stratosphere of squat numbers.
- Front squat.
One of the biggest limiting factors for a lot of guys when it comes to squatting is their overall quad strength. In fact, this is why a lot of guys see their hips shooting up when trying to squat extremely heavy.
The quickest way to fix that is by developing more quad size and strength, though that’s much easier said than done.
This is where the front squat shines. You’re still performing a squat variation, so you won’t lose your proficiency in the movement, but you will develop more upper back strength (important to support heavier weights) and you’ll also develop more quad strength.
Building a big squat takes time. A lot of time, and a lot of that time needs to be spent under the bar actually squatting. However from time to time that alone isn’t enough. And that’s exactly where these 3 strategies shine. Use them, and watch your squat number soar.