Plenty of people say they need to feel the weight on their backs before a meet so they are conditioned to it. Well, I have found that it doesn’t matter how conditioned I am; the squat is always heavy. This means that when the weight is on your back in a meet or training, you must understand that it’s heavy.
Huge squats require fearlessness. The squat is such a mental movement that to be successful, I need to put fear aside. We have all seen videos of the damage that can happen when a squat goes bad. These images are in our minds and can, on occasion, create some fear. But there is no room for fear in the squat, and that’s why when I am under the bar I need a no-fear attitude to go big!
Most people develop some sort of training plan 10 to 12 weeks out from a meet. But if I am going to put into a motion a squat training plan, then I also plan to adjust to that plan if squat training is getting easy. You may need to adjust your training, as well.
It usually takes an act of god to get me to back off my squat training. For my training partner, Mark “Jackass” Bell, and I, backing off training is a sign of mental and physical weakness. It happens, but the reasons need to be huge. I need to be aggressive when training, and this sometimes requires some pain.
Taking a breath at the right time and not letting it out can gain plenty in the squat. I went through a phase of having tremendous shakes when doing any heavy squats. After 10 minutes of talking to Louie Simmons, I realized I had been taking a breath while unracking and not breathing again until reracking the weight. Now, my preferred method is to take huge breath while unracking and take another breath when I get the squat command. This method has stabilized my squat and allows me the stability to go big.
This two-breath method is also the same in single ply. I take one big breath when I walk out the squat and another big one when I get the squat command. Too often people let their air out when they walk out a squat and that puts the lifter in a bad position when they set up.
Squats can hurt, and unless I deal 4 with it I’m not going to go very big in the squat. If I can walk away from nine- or 10-week squat training cycle without a little pain here and there, I’m not training hard enough!
My body is cracking and popping toward the end of training cycle, but aches and pains are nothing. Fight the pain and you’ll squat big.
CORRECT FOOT PLACEMENT.
Get your feet in 5 the right position before squatting. This is difficult when it comes to single ply squats. The reality is, most of the time my feet will not get to the spot they need to be. I have often stopped moving my feet around in a meet and waited for the squat command. I get to the point where I think it doesn’t it really matter where I am on the platform. All this moving around takes too much energy, so I stop and just squat where I am. It is true that a solid walkout can be repeated and your feet can get to the right spot, but when you’re at PR weights it’s not likely to happen. The monolift helps with getting in the perfect foot position, but I make sure my feet are always in the right spot. Make it a habit in the monolift to setup exactly right and you’ll go huge in the squat.
DEVELOP CORE STRENGTH
Developing strong abs will develop a huge stable squat. I was stuck in the mid 800s for a while, and when I started doing weighted ab work my squat went up 100 lbs. This ab development helped me become more stable with the weight on my back.
Also, with strong abs I can better stay in an arched position as I squat. Heavy ab work is just that: heavy. This is not about doing crunches for the beach, but rather heavy weighted ab work. This means sit-ups in the rack with 100 lbs. and dumbbell on the chest.
KEEP HEAD, ELBOWS AND CHEST UP.
Keeping my upper body arched and stable is paramount to a huge squat. This idea of keeping my head, elbows and chest up is most important when I get to weights that require maximum effort.
I go through a mental checklist before I squat to make sure my head, elbows and chest are up. Very often you see people put their head down, which causes a snowball effect to their chest and elbows. This caving in shifts the lifter forward. When lifters goe forward, they rarely finish the squat. The great Steve Goggins was likely the only lifter who could ever lift like that.
USE THE RIGHT GEAR.
Having the right gear for my squat helps keep my technique solid.
Narrower stance squatters may need a heeled shoe instead of flat shoe. If you descend quickly in the squat, maybe canvas isn’t for you.
Do plenty of experimenting to find the right gear setup. This experimentation should be an ongoing process. You will likely never find the absolute best setup with regards to equipment, but keep trying. I would argue that many of us settle for what works and don’t try enough new combinations. Work through multiple combi- nations to find what best fits you.
TRAIN AT DIFFERENT DEPTHS.
The squat can be trained the same way the bench can be trained.
This means hitting an extra-deep squat and a high box squat are all acceptable training methods. Doing extra-low squats will help your squat and also contribute to your pull.
Say your parallel box height is 14 inches.
There is nothing wrong with going to a higher box at, say, 15.5 inches on occasion. The concept can be similar to that of using boards to bench. It’s also a huge confidence builder. I generally do my working sets on dynamic day and then work up to a heavy single on a higher box then parallel. Don’t do all your work on a high box, but work in a higher box for a few sets to help you go big in the squat.
CRAFT A SOLID UNRACK.
I’ve often heard people say, “I missed it at the unrack.” In my opinion, if you can’t unrack the weight and handle it, you shouldn’t squat it. It is, however, very important to unrack the weight properly. A proper unrack will ensure proper bar placement and help with the initial descent and how the weight feels on your back.
Get the bar right and lift it out of the rack right, and you’ll go big in the squat. There are hundreds of other ways and reasons that squats go big. These are just a few that have worked for me. I hope some of these tips are helpful, and stay strong! PM