There is no better feeling than adding another pair of plates to your barbell as your strength increases and allows you to lift more than you have ever before. To improve you maximum Squat, there are a host methods to implement to ensure you are on track to achieve a new PB next time you are due for testing. Programming will be crucial, using a variety of well considered sets and rep ranges over a designated period of time, to build your overall strength and increase the weight you can squat for a single rep. Accessory exercises are also crucial, which allow you to ensure your strength, speed and power are all up to scratch, paramount for improving your overall squat. We’ve designed the Ultimate Accessory Workout that will work to strengthen participating muscle groups, correct potential weakness and imbalances, increase your speed, power and strength at all phases of the squat movement. In addition, they won’t tax your central nervous system the way that the big, compound lifts do. Add this workout to your regime today, either on its own or after your working sets of heavy squats!
We highly recommend using:
1. 1 scoop (…or more if you’re serious) of an INTENSE Pre-workout
3. A TMJ Training Towel
Exercise 1: Pause Squat with 70% (To Depth)
A pause squat involves completing a squat as you normally would, however you will spend a designated amount of time seated at the bottom of the movement ‘paused’, before exploding back upward into the starting position. You will need to use a lighter weight than usual to perform this, as pausing for anywhere between 1 – 7 seconds makes the squat significantly more difficult. Performing a Pause Squat increases the time your muscles are under tension for, which increases the number of muscle fibres which will ultimately be forced to become recruited, particularly slow twitch fibres which are most difficult to recruit!
Continually training your body to recruit these slower fibres will allow you to build greater strength and allow them to activate when your fast twitch fibres fatigue during your set. This also improves your ability to increase your explosiveness, which will allow you to lift heavier loads successfully during Free Squats. Pausing at the bottom of the movement also eliminates the bounce at the bottom of the movement, whereby the momentum is relied on to return to standing as opposed to using your strength. Taking out the bounce will force muscles to have to contract and activate, which conditions your body to recruit more muscles fibres and increase its explosive power.
If you want to pause for 1 second, you can use approximately 85% of your 1RM. The longer you want to pause at the bottom for, the lower your load should be. For example, if pausing for three seconds, you should use 70% of you maximum 1RM, 60% for 5 seconds and 50% for a 7-second pause.
Set 1: Perform standard Squats without a pause for 20, 15 and 10 repetitions at 20, 30 and 40% of your 1RM.
Set 2: 10 Repetitions at 50% of 1RM with a 1-second pause
Set 3: 8 Repetitions at 60% of 1RM with a 1-second pause
Set 4: 8 Repetitions at 50% with a 3-second pause
Set 5: 6 Repetitions at 60% with a 3-second pause
*Rest between sets for 90 seconds
Exercise 2: Box Squat (Below Parallel) at 60% of 1RM
Box squatting encourages athletes to squat below parallel level, and therefore conditions them to reach a lower, more acceptable depth. It also encourages proper technique, by ensuring one sits back completely during the descent phase of their squat instead of straight down, and assists in glute activation to power back up to standing. Box squatting helps athletes develop more power as when you come to sit on the box, your muscles relax. Therefore, you have to reactivate them in order to complete the movement! Teaching your muscles to fire at this phase of the movement will benefit you during Free Squatting, as returning to the starting position from the bottom is the hardest part of the movement. The better you can fire your muscles at this time, the more success you will have free squatting, as the load becomes heavier. Beginners should incorporate box squats before starting Free Squatting, as well as those who suffer an injury preventing them from Free Squatting.
You can lift anywhere between 50-80% of your 1RM, with a rep range between 6 and 12 perfect for this accessory lift. The closer the weight to your 1RM, the less repetitions you should perform. Use a box or bench that allows your to sit below parallel.
Set 1: Warm up with a light weight for 20 reps
Set 2: 12 Repetitions at 50% or 1RM
Set 3: 10 Repetitions at 60% Max or 1RM
Set 4: 8 Repetitions at 70% Max or 1RM
*Rest between sets for 60-90 seconds
Exercise 3: Good Mornings
This exercise is excellent for developing your Posterior Chain Strength, and positively carries over to the Squat as it encourages correct, strong hip placement when you have heavy load on your back. The movement also replicates a failed squat, as the Barbell is over your toes. Therefore, this movement will help strengthen muscles that might be causing this to occur during a Free Squat such as your glutes, hamstrings and lower back.
To perform a Good Morning, set up as you would with a typical squat and maintain a rigid, lumbar spine. Allow your hips to sit backward as your shoulders come forward, whilst keeping a slight bend in the knee and your abdominal muscles nice and tight. You will feel a large stretch in your hamstrings, and will need to activate your glutes in order to return back to the starting position. Due to the large pressure this exercise puts on the lower back, all repetitions should be performed comfortably, never until failure. Therefore, choose a weight that allows you to complete your rep range without compromising your form.
Set 1: 15 Repetitions using an empty Barbell
Set 2 – 4: 10 Repetitions (Choose a weight that allows you to perform every repetition without compromising form)
*Rest between sets for 60 – 90 seconds
Exercise 4: Walking Lunge
Walking lunges are a great way to increase the strength of leg muscles which will carry over into your squats. A benefit of lunging is the legs can be worked individually, and therefore unilateral strength can be achieved. When squatting, deadlifting or leg pressing, you use both legs at the same time, which can lead to an imbalance if one leg is weaker and the other leg must work harder to compensate. Individual leg movements forces the muscles to work without others coming in to support it.
Lunging targets Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings and Calves, while also working your lower back and core to ensure you remain stabilised. A strong core is imperative to a successful squat, therefore lunging not only ensures the strength in both of your legs can be built, but to build a strong, stable core that will allow you to lift heavier during a squat. Walking lunges can be performed in a myriad of ways, using body weight, a loaded Barbell or individual Dumbbells.
Set 1: 12 Repetitions (Each Leg) using Bodyweight
Set 2 – 4: 12 Repetitions (Each Leg) Using Dumbells or a Barbell (Increase the weight each set)
*Rest between sets for 90 seconds
Exercise 5: Glute Ham Raise
This exercise sufficiently targets the Glutes, Hamstrings and Calves, whilst also incorporating some lower back during the first phase of the movement. Developing and strengthening these muscles will be highly benefitial to your squat, especially when it comes to locking out and completing the movement. This is also beneficial for those who are Qquad-dominant, and need to bring up their Posterior chain strength.
To perform, use your lower back to commence the movement, slowly activating your Hamstrings and Glutes more and more until your body is parallel to the ground, with your feet pushed into the support plate. Ensure you do not hyperextend, which will encourage you to keep a neutral lumbar spine during your squats.
Set 1 – 3: 12 – 15 Repetitions with Body Weight
*Rest between sets for 45 – 60 seconds
Now go get your post workout nutrition sorted to feed those GAINS!