Why You Need To Be Squatting If You Aren't Already

Why You Need To Be Squatting If You Aren’t Already

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I do not care who you are or what sport you compete in — I will fight you to the death on this statement: The squat is the king of all exercises. There is no single movement (when done properly) that builds you a strong set of legs, a thick back, and a solid core better than the squat. For the ladies (and maybe some guys too) it can also help you build up that posterior that you desire.  Since the squat is a full body movement, it will help you build muscle throughout the entire body really. Now don’t get all technical on me here, I’m not saying it will give you a chiseled chest.

That’s not a good enough reason for you? How about the fact that squatting as a functional movement can make your life easier? How many things do you do in a day where squatting comes into play? Now think about how many of those squats are done poorly and can lead to injury. If you learn the proper mechanics of the squat not only can it improve your quality of life but it can go a long way in terms of injury prevention, not to mention it can improve your overall balance and mobility. Who doesn’t want more of those things?

Still not convinced? Fine, let’s talk about how squatting will help you get in shape. Since squatting is full body exercise, the more muscles you have working and improving, the more calories you burn, and the better you will look in the long run. Also squatting gets the blood and other bodily fluids pumping, which can help in getting your bowels moving properly and allowing for all the nutrients to get to where they need to go, fueling you for your next squat workout.

If that doesn’t do the trick then here is my last point: Don’t you like moving more weight around? Going into the gym and putting a barbell on your back, loading it with some heavy weight, and burying a few sets for reps can be one of the most gratifying things ever. If people ask what you bench press, respond with what you squat because that’s what really matters.

Well now that the convincing is done and I have you hooked, let’s talk about HOW to do the squat. I use to be one of those coaches who had tons of cues for every exercise that my clients did, the squat included. But after working with folks for a while now and talking to other strength coaches, I’ve determined that the squat is a simple movement and only needs a few cues to reinforce proper movement. When working with folks here is how I work the squat given that have basic movement patterns down and decent mobility:

  • Get your feet hip to shoulder width apart with your toes SLIGHTLY pointed outwards

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  • Brace your core. By this I simply want the athlete to get their back and abs tight and in a neutral upright position

  • Break at the hips. The first motion you need to do when squatting is to unhinge the hips and push them back slightly so your pelvis tilts downward (again SLIGHTLY)

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  • Now sit your butt down as low as it can go,keeping the weight in the heels the entire time and keeping your torso vertical.

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  • Once you have reached a depth you can comfortably reach, push through the heels on the way up maintaining your vertical torso.

Congratulations you have just completed a squat! Now obviously, not everyone is able to do this perfectly the first time and I am a big proponent of practice makes perfect. Mobility issues are a whole other post, but to start, here are a few pointers to help you work on and improve positions:

  • Make sure to properly warm up the hips, knees, ankles, and back before training and roll out stretch these areas after training

  • If someone is having issues keeping their torso vertical have them hold a weight or medicine ball to their chest as they squat

  • If depth, without sacrificing form, is an issue,  put a box or stool under their butt and have them touch and come back up. As range of motion improves, gradually lower the object until they can perform a proper full depth squat. This can take anywhere from a few session to a few months depending on the extent of the issue.

So, how many times should you squat in a week? To be honest, I believe there should be some sort of squatting type movement done every day. Whether it’s a snatch, a clean, part of your warm up, step ups, etc. I think you need to do some sort of squatting movement 4-5 times a week. How many of those days should done doing squats specifically? 2-3 should be more than enough. There are programs that have you squat 4 days a week but these programs should not be carried out long term. Using a four day program would be more beneficial maybe at the beginning of a training phase, but I still do not recommend doing more than three days.

Back squats in and of themselves can be pretty boring so don’t be afraid to mix things up. There literally hundreds of squatting variations that you can do and all provide their own stimulus to your training. If you need some suggestions for ways to spice up your squat program check out our previous articles on just that here and here.

Now for what you all are reading this for, the free program itself. I am not the type of person that was going to make you read all of that and not give you something good. Here is a 7 week program that I received from Zygmunt Smalcerz, the head weightlifting coach at the Olympic Training Program. I have not been a fan of squats in the past and it has always been my weakness. But after a stern talking to, Zygmunt sent me a few programs to get my leg strength up and this was the best one of the bunch in my opinion. This program is a back squat only program but can be used for other forms of the squat as well. Without further ado, here it is:

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Week 1 1×4 @ 52.5%, 4×5 @ 75% 1×3 @ 55%, 1×3 @ 65%, 5×5 @ 85% 1×4 @ 50%, 3×5 @ 80%
Week 2 1×4 @ 52.5%, 3×5 @ 80% 1×3 @ 55%, 1×3 @ 65%, 6×5 @ 80% 1×4 @ 50%, 4×3 @ 60%
Week 3 1×4 @ 52.5%, 4×3 @ 75% 1×4 @ 55%, 1×3 @ 65%, 4×3 @ 85% 1×4 @ 50%, 1×3@ 60%
Week 4 1×4 @ 52.5%, 3×5 @ 80% 1×4 @ 55%, 1×3 @ 65%, 2×5 @ 90% 1×4 @ 50%, 4×3 @ 60%
Week 5 1×4 @ 55%, 4×5 @ 75% 1×3 @ 55%, 1×3 @ 65%, 5×3 @ 85% 1×4 @ 50%, 4X3 @ 60%
Week 6 1×4 @ 52.5%, 4X3 @ 75% 1×3 @ 55%, 1X3 @ 65%, 4X3 @ 80% 1×4 @ 55%, 4X3 @ 65%
Week 7 1×4 @ 55%, 3×5 @ 80% 1×3 @ 55%, 1×3 @ 65%, 4×5 @ 90% 1×4 @ 60%, 4×3 @ 70%

A few suggestions before starting this program:

  • Be honest with yourself, a bunch of missed reps will not help you get better and progress
  • USE YOUR TRUE SQUAT MAX, not what you are hoping to hit
  • Do not sacrifice your form for weight, get your movement patterns down and be moving efficiently before starting this program

Well there you have it. The squat is the king of kings when it comes to exercises and nothing can beat it, nothing! So if you want to be better at sports, training, or life in general, get a proper squat movement down and be better off. Enjoy the program and please comment with any questions or results with this program. Have fun!

Want customized programming and feedback from Tom Sroka? Learn more about Tom’s online coaching and join a team of dedicated, strong lifters. Whether you’re into weightlifting, CrossFit, powerlifting, or Highland Games, Tom can take your training to the next level.