Is Your Squat Stuck? 3 Techniques To Improve Squat Strength

Use drop sets, cluster sets and pause sets to get you off a plateau and back on track with your Squat.

Every good training program incorporates the Back Squat, sometimes to the point where it can get repetitive and produce minimal gains. What do you do if you find yourself on a plateau and see no way to progress? Below are three techniques that can help you through it and increase your squat strength.

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Drop Sets

Barbell Back Squat

Nothing reminds you of what it means to work hard more than a drop set. The purpose is to squeeze a few more reps out of a weight you can rep relatively easily. Embrace the feeling of discomfort and don't let it control you. For example:

  • 5 reps at 135
  • 5 reps at 185
  • 5 reps at 225
  • 5 reps at 275
  • 5 reps at 315
  • Drop Set: As many reps as possible at 225

Without a drop set, you never do more than 5 reps at 225. However, when you go heavier for 5 reps (275 and 315), you will very likely successfully complete 10 reps at 225.

Your next squat day may look something like this:

  • 5 reps at 185
  • 5 reps at 225
  • 5 reps at 275
  • 5 reps at 295
  • 5 reps at 315
  • Drop Set: As many reps as possible at 275

Incorporating drop sets is a great way to instill confidence for lifting a given weight. If you are able to perform a 20-rep drop set at 225, it's safe to say that doing 5 reps at 225 will be relatively easy. This can give you the confidence to go a little heavier and bust through the plateau.

RELATED: Drop Sets: What They Are and How to Use Them in Your Workout

Cluster Sets

Barbell Back Squat

A cluster set is way to do more reps at a heavier weight. For most people, the first rep goes well, but form falters on each subsequent rep. Cluster sets help you get more reps in at heavier weights if your form continues to break down.

A cluster set looks like this:

  • 5 reps at 315
  • 5 reps at 335
  • 5 reps at 365
  • Cluster set: 5 reps at 405 with 20 seconds rest between reps

A cluster set works like a set of 5 reps, but it allows rest between reps for brief recovery before you get back after it. The break is not long enough to warrant considering it as 5 sets of 1 rep, and it allows for more volume at heavier loads without breaking form. In no time, performing a cluster set at 405 will turn into 5 reps at 405 and a cluster set at 425.

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Pause Sets

Barbell Back Squat

Pause sets can help you drive up and out of the bottom of a Squat. Because they eliminate the stretch-shortening cycle (elastic component of movement that allows for great generation of force), you must either generate more force or fail on the lift. Pause sets are great in that they require complete control over the bar and a surge of strength to drive out of the hole. Incorporating pause sets is quite simple. For example:

  • 5 reps at 315 (2 count at the bottom)
  • 5 reps at 335 (2 count at the bottom)
  • 5 reps at 365 (2 count at the bottom)

You will not be able to pause Squat as heavy as you would max Squat—but hey, why not dream big? Pushing to get your pause Squat to the same weight as your max Squat will only drive your max Squat higher.

These three methods can work wonders for increasing your max Squat and getting you off that plateau and back on track.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: SQUAT | TRACK