Pick up the Bar! 5 Routines to Improve Your Squat

Updated September 12, 2023

Alright folks…we’ve covered the safety, the technique, and the back squat itself. But I know what you really want.

You want to know how to move that heavy weight; to squat deep and to squat big! Well, the road to squat glory does not start with simply moving large amounts of weight. There are other techniques, when properly used, which can aid in helping you push that weight and make some serious PRs!

I know many of you are familiar with pause squats, which are absolutely essential. But let me add to your squat pain and misery with a few more suggestions. Here are 5 not-so common (or better yet, seldom utilized) ways to build your squats to glorious new heights and depths!

1.) Pause Squats

While many of you may already be familiar with pause squats, it’s essential to incorporate them into your routine. Pause squats are incredibly effective for building strength and maintaining core stability under heavy loads. Start with a 5-second pause at the bottom of your squat during warm-up sets, gradually increasing the weight as you become more comfortable. Remember to consider the impact of this exercise on developing depth and quality in your squat.

2.) OH Barbell Carry with Chains (or kettlebells)

Core strength is fundamental to a successful squat. Try incorporating OH barbell carries using chains or kettlebells. Attach the chains to each end of the bar, or hang kettlebells from straps, focusing on core stability as you walk 30 meters. The swinging motion of the chains or kettlebells will engage stabilizing muscles, contributing to a stronger squat and an impressive core.

3.) Box Squats

Box squats are an excellent way to refine your squat depth and form. Select a box height that places you just below parallel when seated. Begin with manageable weight, gradually progressing as you develop the correct technique. As you descend, pause briefly on the box before driving forcefully through your heels to stand back up. Emphasize maintaining core engagement throughout the movement and concentrate on hip drive when rising from the box. Box squats promote proper depth and target the glutes, hamstrings, and overall leg development.

4.) Banded Squats

Integrate banded squats for an effective training method. Set up on a rack with a horizontal bar parallel to the ground and attach mobility bands to the lifting pins. The bands should be positioned at a 90-degree angle when you step back from the rack. Unrack the bar with caution, as the bands will create immediate tension. Focus on maintaining proper form and a two-second pause at the bottom of the squat before driving explosively back up. Keep the weight light to moderate as the bands enhance resistance in the bottom position and train explosive upward drive.

5.) Speed Squats

Incorporate speed squats to practice explosive power and correct form. Load the bar with very light weight, typically 25% to 30% of your one-rep max. Set the bar in a high bar position on your shoulders, descend into the squat, and ascend rapidly without resting at the bottom. Focus on each rep, resetting at the top for safety and optimal performance. This exercise trains the burst of speed needed to drive out of the bottom position and improves overall squat form.

And how about a bonus exercise for the road…

Running Backwards

Running or walking backward effectively strengthens the stabilizer muscles in your quadriceps, which is crucial for maintaining stability in the squat. By running or walking backward, you engage these muscles and improve your ability to control movement under heavy loads. Remember to start slow and gradually increase intensity to minimize the risk of injury. Backward running or walking can be incorporated into your warm-up routine and has the bonus of giving your glutes a workout.


3…2…1…Squat Something!

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