How to boost your back squat

This article is all about adding kilos to the bar, putting it on your back and squatting down and back up with it.  This article will deal with a number of ways you can improve your back squat.

The back squat is, arguably, the king of the lifts for building huge amounts of strength, power, hypertrophy, speed and driving body composition changes.  Other lifts can boast similar levels of muscle activation but the lower loads used decrease the peak power output and therefore the potential for causing change within the body.  The deadlift may allow more weight to be used but the squat takes more joints through a greater range of motion and it's way harder to stand up an ugly squat than an ugly deadlift, so we can view the squat as safer.

Try the following tips for boosting your back squat:

1 - Squat more

A class at SCCF was recently amused to hear, during a discussion about double unders, that "no-one ever learned to play the piano without opening a piano and starting pressing the keys."  This was me trying to get people to practice their skipping on a more regular basis.  It should therefore come as no surprise that those with the best back squats are also those who back squat the most frequently.  That is not to say max out every single day because you read about the Bulgarians doing that, but putting a bar on your back and squatting down and up is practice - the load that you're using is not the be all and end all.

2 - Work on your mobility

Babies squat all the time.  They squat down to play with their toys.  They squat when they rest.  They squat when they're using the potty.  As we grow we stop squatting so often and start to lose the ability that we were all born with.  Regaining the abilities we were born with gives us more movement options and helps keep our joints healthy through a larger range of motion.  A great jump off point for anyone seeking to improve their squatting mechanics is Mobility WOD.  Kelly Starrett gives simple, practical tips and drills that can help start to address the problems brought on by everyday modern life such as slouching in chairs, spending 10 hours at a time sat down and using a phone/laptop/computer for EVERYTHING that you do.

When you're no longer fighting yourself to get into position, then you'll be adding kilos to the bar in no time at all.  The human body is the most sophisticated machine on the planet and will adapt to whatever demands you place on it, so if you've been avoiding squatting for a large period of your life then you may well have to spend longer working on ways to regain your forgotten ability.

3 - Set a goa

If you have no goals, or have goals without plans, then you are just wishing.  Unless you've just found yourself a magic lamp full of genie then you're going to need some kind of plan.  Please make sure to reread this post about Goal Setting and Dreaming.  Dream big and reverse engineer yourself towards your goal.  If you're currently squatting bodyweight then why not aim for 1.5x bodyweight?  Break those 30-40kg into 2.5kg pieces and see that consistently squatting and adding small plates to the bar every week means that the goal could be only 12-16 weeks away.

4 - "Everything is everything"

This is an unashamed steal from Rudy Nielsen from Outlaw CrossFit. In CrossFit we practice the squat in a variety of settings, so imagine if al the time spent doing all the squat based movements was purposeful practice for all the other squat based movements.  Shouldn't your wall balls, thrusters, cleans, front squats, overhead squats, snatches and back squats all help each other?  Put another way, why use one stance for back squats but a completely different one for wall balls and another one entirely for thrusters?  That method just builds three separate skills.  Using the same stance, style and focus regardless of the movement can help build capacity in all the movements and increase training efficiency.

Now you've got four separate tips that you can put into practice from today - practice your back squat more often, work on the areas that restrict your mobility, set a lofty goal and make all your practice of squatting movements purposeful.  Go forth and conquer!