Here’s the thing, the squat can be as complicated or simple as you choose to make it. You can be that person who just puts a barbell on their back and squats up and down haphazardly or the person who is so concerned about torso angle relative to their femur length, and as a result suffers from paralysis by analysis.
My goal here is to get you to live somewhere in the middle. I want to simplify all the things that can seem so complicated about squatting, without it be mindless for you where you just zone out.
If you can follow these 4 cues, all of which will take practice and repetition themselves, I can guarantee that you’ll be squatting with better technique, have a great foundation to build on, and probably be able to add weight to the bar immediately!
- Your mentality as you approach the barbell before you even lift should be STRONG AND CONFIDENT
The first thing that can make or break anyone’s squat is the mentality in which they approach each set, and each repetition. This is arguably the most important piece of the puzzle. You need to clear your head of any negative thoughts of: this might be too heavy, I don’t know if I can do it, what if everyone sees me get stuck, etc. If any of these thoughts are running through your head, you’re not ready to lift the weight on the bar.
Try saying this repeatedly instead before every attempt or when you need to refocus.
“Strong and Confident”
I want that to become your mantra. I stole this from a coach and powerlifter named Steve Pulcinella, and say this to most of my clients when they’re getting ready to lift something heavy. It may sound silly, and even a little bro-ish, but just keep saying it over and over in your head until all that other negative shit is gone.
Once that’s all you can think about, and your mind is clear of everything else, you’re ready to crush the weight on the bar.
- Create as much TENSION as you can
This starts with your set-up. The second your hands touch the bar, you are gonna squeeze that thing like you're squeezing water from a stone. I sent out a video to my email members earlier this week on the proper set-up for a squat, which you can watch here.
Don't lose that tension and instead, let it travel from your hands into your upper back and lats as you duck under the bar and place it on your shoulders/upper back (this idea of tension applies whether you use a high or low bar position). It should feel like you're trying to pull your elbows down to your tailbone, while pinching your shoulder blades together.
Lastly, take one big breath into your belly (not shallow into your chest) as you're ready to take the bar out of the rack, and once you've got all that air, brace your abs like someone was gonna punch you in the stomach (or like you were taking a big poop).
Do you feel that tension everywhere? Is it uncomfortable? Good, don't lose that feeling of tension until you've finished and the bar is back in the rack. This is what strength coaches, and in particular powerlifters mean when they say, “Get tight.”
If you ever lose that tension between reps, which will happen, just reset at the top by doing the following: squeeze the bar, squeeze your upper back, breathe and brace.
- Create an EARTHQUAKE between your feet
Once you're in your starting position, I want you start every single rep with you attempting to rip the ground between your feet in half by applying as much pressure outwards as if you were creating an earthquake.
It should feel like if the ground did actually rip in half you'd sink right into a straddled split position.
Good news is that the ground won't actually move, at least I hope not. What will happen, is that you’ll feel the muscles around the outer part of your hips start working, and continue working all the way through your descent.
If you're creating that earthquake all the way through, it will force you to actually sit back in your squat as well, and get you into a position to utilize all the big important squatting muscles.
- DRIVE the floor away from you
Lastly, when you hit that bottom position, I want you to drive that floor away from you with your feet as hard as you can.
I want you to push with those legs and feet like you were trying use them to push a car off of a child that was trapped underneath it. Push with everything you've got, displaying maximum force on EVERY repetition finishing tall at the top.
STRONG AND CONFIDENT, TENSION, EARTHQUAKE, DRIVE!
Keep these 4 things in mind, practice doing each one, and you will be on your way to busting through any plateaus and having a very strong squat.