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If the strength training bug bites you and you fall in love with lifting heavy, it’s almost a sure thing that you’ll want to know how to squat more. More weight on the bar not only means you’re getting stronger, but bigger legs, and often (given that you’re keeping your weight / body fat in line) more athleticism, too. Below are some pointers on how to squat more that you should make sure are in your routine.
The best way to use the barbell squat is for strength and hypertrophy. When you’re keen on how to squat more because strength is more important to you than adding muscle mass, then squat for 4-5 sets of 5-6 reps. On the other hand, if hypertrophy is your main focus (along with some emphasis on strength), you can do 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps.
You’re best served keeping squat reps a little lower than the normal hypertrophy ranges of 8-10 and 10-12 reps so you can use heavier weight. This obviously leads to more strength, but denser muscle, too. However, feel free to use 8-12 reps if your primary goal is hypertrophy. Some bodybuilders even recommend going as high as 15 reps per set to also hit more of the fast twitch muscle fibers, but this can lead to poor form or injury if you are inexperienced.
One thing that can help you mentally cue yourself into proper squat form is to start each rep with pooching your butt back. Doing this will keep your lower legs vertical and make you bend at the knees and waist by default.
This is crucial because when you bend at the knees and the waist, you’re ensuring that you’ll be actually squatting. A mistake some newer lifters make is either bending only at the waist, or bending more at the waist than they do the knee. Either way, this leads the lifter into doing a good morning exercise rather than a squat, which can very easily lead to a lower back injury.
If you have inflexible ankles, you may want to put something under your heels if you can’t keep your feet flat throughout the entire squatting range of motion. Your best bet is to keep working your squats until your ankle flexibility improves, since driving through the heels is such an important step of coming up out of the “hole”. However, if you feel sticking your heels on 2.5lbs plates will make you more stable, you can do that. Just try to ween yourself off them as soon as you can.
That being said, if you feel like your ankle flexibility may never improve to that point, it might be wise to invest in a pair of Olympic lifting shoes. These shoes have a solid heel that elevates the back of the foot slightly to provide more solid footing. If you’re interested in how to squat more, these could be a big help.
One thing many lifters unknowingly do is slow their squat down as they near the top of the rep. This reduces not only acceleration, but power development. What you really want to be doing is squatting up as hard and fast as possible so as to maximize muscular contraction. When you do, muscle size and strength improve.
You might not always be performing the concentric part of the squat very quickly, and that’s ok as it’s your intent that’s important – not always the end result. By doing this, you can take advantage of compensatory acceleration training, which can help improve your squat, even though you’re not using any additional weight or doing more sets or reps.
The squat is called the “king of exercises” because of all the strength and muscle mass it can build. Keep your form tight while going as heavy as you can, and your legs will soon be exploding with new growth.