5 Ways to Improve Your Squat Strength

Follow these five strategies from STACK Expert George Kalantzis to improve your squat performance.

So you want to increase your squat strength but aren't sure where to start? No matter what sport you are training for, nothing yields results like sport-specific training. To increase your Squat, you will have to get a lot more comfortable under the bar and squat a lot more. Most new trainees make the mistake of spending countless hours performing accessory exercises that yield no true results.

This article provides you with a warm-up and some key technical points; reveals some common errors with supplementary exercises; explains how jumping can improve your Squat; and describes the mental discipline required to produce big numbers.

RELATED: Squat 101: A How To Guide With Video and Pictures

1. Warm-up

A great warm-up increases your body temperature, prepares it for the workout to come, and activates your central nervous system to prepare you for the session ahead. As a general rule, you should try to incorporate breathing drills to improve performance and keep your core healthy, and perform a dynamic warm-up that will assist your workout.

2. Technique

The Squat requires tremendous amounts of total body strength as well as attention to detail when it comes to technique. It's no surprise that the greatest squatters have tremendous strength and excellent technique. You simply cannot have one without the other. Technique has many approaches for each individual, but here are a few things to focus on when you set up under the bar.

RELATED: Improve Your Squat Depth With 5 Easy Warm-Up Exercises

1. Hand position

Grab the bar as close as possible to maintain a tight setup. Be careful not to cause aggravation in your shoulders, elbows or biceps. Keeping your elbows inside your hands allows you to maintain the appropriate degree of stiffness. Imagine the top position of a Pull-Up with your elbows toward the midline of your body, squeezing as hard as possible.

2. Get your air

Focus on diaphragmatic breathing by getting air into your midsection and breathing into your low back. This helps create 360 degrees of pressure. Get air before you bring the bar out of the rack.

3. Walkout

Try not to take more than 2 or 3 steps on the un-rack. Take a step back with your off foot, then your dominant foot, and re-position as necessary. Avoid unnecessary shuffling around.

4. Descent

Attack every set/rep as if it were a warm-up. Dropping down as fast as possible will help you avoid expending unnecessary energy. Descend only as fast as good technique allows.

RELATED: Perfect Your Squat Technique With the Unloaded Squat

5. Knee position

Most people have heard the Squat cue " knees out," but although keeping your knees in line with your toes or slightly outward creates torque in the hips, it is often not the best cue to give. Instead, try to "screw your feet into the ground" by externally rotating them during the lift.

3. Common Squat Problems

Most of the time, squatting problems are  due to poor technique, so take a look at your technique before you start getting fancy. That said, here are a few common problems and what you can do to cure them and improve your numbers.

Folding out of the Hole (Falling Forward)

Falling forward most often comes from not having enough time under the bar and weak core strength.

Front Squats

When you have the bar on your shoulders, you have to resist flexion, which forces you to recruit your anterior core. The key to Front Squats is maintaining an upright rigid torso. Once you get the bar set, spread the floor with your feet to descend, then press through the floor and finish through with your glutes. Try 3 or 4 sets of 4-10 reps.

Hanging Leg Raises

Grab a pull-up bar and hang from it with your legs straight and in front of you. With a slow, controlled movement, bring your legs up 90 degrees. Do not initiate the movement by swinging your hips. Try 3 sets of 10.

Getting Stuck in the Bottom

First, consider whether you've put too much weight on the bar. If that's not the case, try this version.

Paused Squats

A great way to build confidence in the hole. It forces you to stay tall and drive your knees out while you explode up. Pause anywhere from 1 to 5 seconds and try 3 sets of 3-6 reps.

4. Jumping

Jumping carries over to almost every sport, and it's a great display of explosive power. Two exercises that improve explosiveness are Seated Box Jumps and Depth Jumps. With these jumps, be careful not to land lower than parallel. Focus on landing softly with your hips as close to parallel as possible. 3-5 sets of 5 reps prior to your workout should be sufficient.

5. Mental Toughness

Squatting is one of the toughest lifts. Feeling confident under the bar when you load heavy weight is a huge factor in improving your numbers. If you approach the bar with a timid attitude and think the weight might be too heavy, you will set yourself up for failure. Approach the bar like you own the weight and treat every rep as if it were a warm-up rep.

Squatting is like any skill you have mastered before, and the more you practice and hone in on your technique, the better you will get. Remember, you don't have to squat, and no one is forcing you to, but if you want to get better at it, you will have to force yourself out of your comfort zone and squat more.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: SQUAT | WORKOUTS | JUMPING