Bodybuilders measure gains in a number of ways, one of which is the “squat max.” Also referred to as the “one-rep max”, it refers to the maximum amount of force you can generate in a single contraction. If you are looking for bigger gains or would like to improve your athletic performance, knowing how to increase squat max is important.
#1. Utilize a Pause
Paused squats make this exercise more challenging, and also allow you to take advantage of what is known as the “stretch-shortening cycle.” This basically refers to the elastic properties of your muscles when they are stretched. To perform a paused squat, descend as usual until you are at your lowest depth. Keeping your muscles tight, pause for between one and five seconds before exploding upwards with lots of energy. This will provide you with greater time under tension, something that will also produce hypertrophy.
#2. Do Fewer Reps
If you want to know how to increase squat max, it may seem counterproductive to perform fewer reps. Even so, doing fewer repetitions with heavier weight is a great way to develop strength. One recommendation is to do five squats during your first set, three on the second, and only one on the third. You may also perform slightly more reps in each set if you have a spotter.
#3. Focus on your Form
Your squat max isn’t likely to improve if you have bad form. Strength training coach Mark Rippetoe recommends focusing on your hips while squatting, ensuring the angle of hip flexion is equal to the angle of your back. He also dispels the myth that the back must remain nearly vertical while squatting. According to Rippetoe, having a rigid back is more important than keeping it straight up and down, meaning you should try not to arch your spine. Looking down instead of up will also help you keep the right back angle – this might be contrary to what you’ve been told.
#4. Add Anderson or 1 ½ Squats to your Workout
Named for powerlifter and Olympic gold medalist Paul Anderson, these squats are performed by starting in the “down” position rather than standing straight up. To complete a full repetition, lift your body until your legs are fully extended, then lower it back down into the starting position. On your last repetition, you will also end in the “down” position. This type of squat is designed to help you develop greater starting strength. A variation of this is “1 ½ squats.” Beginning in the down position, lift yourself halfway up, then return to the starting position and lift yourself all the way up. Going halfway up, down to the bottom, then all the way back up is considered one repetition.
If you have been wondering how to increase squat max, these tips will help. You don’t have to follow all of them-just include one or two of them in your workout and you should see a noticeable difference in your one-rep squat max. Check out our article on squat motivation tips next.