Returning to the Squat

Anyone that has ever trained with me will tell you that I am pretty good deadlifter, but as a squatter I leave a lot to be desired.  Being well aware of this fact, there have been large periods in time that avoided squatting altogether.  But, last summer into fall I decided that I needed to become a better squatter.  So, as any good coach would do, I looked at what my deficits were first.  I have a relatively rigid upper-back because of congenital scoliosis, my hip flexors were a little too tight and I didn’t have a great amount of dorsiflexion at my ankle.  Many of you know that these are the common deficits that can ruin squat form, so I won’t go into great detail about how I found the and the corrections I made.  What you may find a little more interesting is the cycle of training I designed leading up to that first day I put some man weight on my back and squatted with it.

First up was a cycle of Bulgarian Split Squats.  I started doing them with a hold at the end of the eccentric movement and worked up to just a normal tempo for sest of heavy 3′s.  My second exercise during this cycle was always reverse lunges, working from dumbbell version on flat ground up to a front squat rack position from a deficit.  I didn’t start with these exercises to be cute or trendy; I used them because I knew I needed to improve my hip mobility drastically while under some kind of load.  I also knew that these exercises would limit the amount of CNS fatigue I would experience, so I put them at the beginning of the entire training cycle.  I used this set up for 4 weeks.

For the next month conventional deads became the center piece of my pre-squat programming.  I knew that I needed to build some strength in my upper-back and lats while also moving some pretty serious weight.  What better exercise than conventional deads to nail all three of those objectives in one fell swoop?  I kept bulgarians on as my second exercise but I started loading them with dumbbells.  I really liked this cycle, mostly because I got to deadlift heavy and that just makes me feel good about Todd!  I also really liked it because I kept the hip mobility I worked for in the first phase while getting a lot stronger.

My last month pre-squat was spent in the middle of the trap bar pulling some heavy weight off of the ground.  Trap bar deadlifts were a good choice for the last phase pre-squat because they are very similar biomechanically to squatting.  So, this helped me prepare for loading a squat pattern without actually putting a bar on my back.  My second exercise was still my old friend the bulgarian, only I went back to loading the movement with a barbell.  Barbell bulgarians struck a great balance and transition between trap bar deadlifts and squatting. 

I’d love to tell you that I crushed 500 at the end of my first squat cycle back under the bar.  But, that would be a lie.  I hit 365 for 3 and it felt great; that made me happy.  What’s the take away from all this?  Have a plan to get where you want to go and be practical (and logical) in your application.  I know it’s a pretty big cliche, but sometimes the journey to where you want to be is just as fun as getting there.

Get Stronger,

Todd

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Chris Merritt

Strength Coach/ B.S. Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University/ FMS/ Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist/ Certified Kettlebell Instructor/ Owner of Beyond Strength Performance and Beyond Strength Performance NOVA

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