Written by Jamie Bantleman
Squatting is looked at by many as the number one exercise for growing your legs, it engages both your hamstrings and quads as well having significant impact on your glute development. It is a vital exercise in both a bodybuilder and powerlifter’s programme, as well as athletes and just your average gym go-er. This is the exercise that when done correctly, will make an incredible impact on your physique. However, when done badly, it may lead to all sorts of problems and can cause great pain and aggravation.
Often when squatting we may find certain niggles or pains that can occur which will prevent us from lifting any significant weight. Particular pains or niggles may be:
1) Hip Flexor Issues
2) Lower Back Pain
3) Ankle Issues
Tight hip flexors are often the issue that causes a lot of pain through squatting at a reasonable depth. As the area tightens it decreases the range of movement at the hip and thus the body will begin to lose the benefits of squatting. When your hips are tight, the positioning in which you take when being at the bottom position in your squat is usually wrong due to the body leaning forward in the movement therefore increasing tension on the lower back.
Other major issues when squatting comes from the ankle, due to it being the joint in which all stress from the exercise is passed through. Often you can see if the ankle is weak due to the instability at the bottom phase of the movement. You can often rotate outwards or inwards and this is something that should be avoided.
Before going into a squatting programme, I like to use a programme that will prepare the body. The session can include foam rolling the tight muscle groups such as targeting the hips, lower back, quads and hamstrings, as well as using a small dumbbell to roll the bottom of the foot to try and release tension from that area. Also going through some key stretches on your hip flexors can create more opportunity for increased range of motion.
Exercises in the programme should also include the likes of Front Elevated Split Squats, Lying Leg Curls, Poliquin Step Ups and High Step Ups. These are exercises that improves the stability of the joint and increase strength and endurance in the muscle tissue to help improve the quality of your squat session.
When progression is seen at this stage and your body is very strong in these movements, only then I would advise to begin squatting. Initially this phase can include some simple heels elevated dumbbell squats, which will help you in the movement and improve the way in which your body moves in that particular exercise. Assessing how this feels, taking the elevation away at the heel is then the next step to progress towards a barbell squat. At this point, your feet will be flat to the floor and once again your body will be battling with the possible instability.
Moving forwards, the aim is always to move to a barbell back squat. I would usually recommend when beginning a squat with a barbell for the first time to revert back to elevation of the heel due to the balance change when a bar is placed on your back rather than in your hands at the side of your torso.
|Squat Prep – Stage 1|
|A1||Lying Leg Curl||4||8||3110||10s|
|A2||Front Foot Elevated Split Squat||4||8||3110||60s|
|B1||Incline Back Extension||4||8||3110||10s|
|B2||Single Leg Press||4||8||3010||60s|
|C1||Seated Leg Curl||4||8||3010||10s|
|C2||Poliquin Step Up||4||8||2010||60|
|Squat Prep – Stage 2|
|A1||Heels Elevated Dumbbell Squat||4||8||3110||10s|
|A2||Lying Leg Curl||4||8||3110||60s|
|B1||Low Foot Leg Press||4||12||3010||10s|
|C1||High Step Up||4||8||3010||10s|
|C2||Leg Extension||4||15||3110||60|Squat Prep – Stage 3
Heels Elevated Barbell Squat
Lying Leg Curl
High Foot Leg Press
Dumbbell Walking Lunges
Seated Leg Curl
There is no set point in which you should be doing each individual programme, invariably I would usually recommend 2-3 weeks on each stage if repeated twice per week to ensure you are very strong in each movement. Once each of the three stages are complete, you are likely to be in a good position to move onto barbell squats and have the ability to slowly increase the weight to get to your desired goal.
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