Squatting isn’t easy for everyone but everyone should do it as it is one of the most functional movements we use everyday. I used to watch videos and wonder ‘how the hell can they squat so much and do it effortlessly’
For some people squatting is going to be effortless, but for others, including myself it is not easy at all.
Therefore I go through an internal checklist of things to maximize my potential to squat heavy. Here are some tips that I have found to be valuable.
When approaching the bar, you want to ensure that where ever you grab the bar, is where you can get maximal contraction of the latissimus dorsi. We want to do this because the lats attach from the humerus (arm) to the low back, therefore is a large contributor to strength in the squat. The hands should not be too narrow, and not too wide. From here, the hands should stay in the same place throughout the movement, once you unrack the bar, your hands should NOT move.
Before unracking the bar, you want to find a single focus point, a few feet ahead of you this will allow you to maintain a neutral spine and minimize distraction
You should have the same amount of contraction throughout the body when unracking the bar, as you would during a squat.
Bracing- please for the love of god do NOT draw your belly button into your spine. This will absolutely abolish any kind of stability you have. We want to create intra-abdominal pressure, we do so by contracting the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle found below the lungs. Since it is a muscle we can develop motor control. When we are able to maintain tension through the abdomen, this allows full contraction of the pelvic floor, the transverse abdominus, the multifidi and the obliques. Which will in turn maximize the lift. To further explain how to do this, you are going to want to expand the abdomen, in the front, the sides and the back. We want to expand the abdomen to create tension, but we still want to be able to breathe. This takes practice, and may counter any previously learned knowledge. Just picture a water bottle, if you were to crunch in one side of the water bottle, it would be so easy to crush, rather than if we had a full water bottle with all sides of it filled.
When you walk the bar out, take as little steps as possible, don’t look up or down at your feet, maintain your focus point and do not move your hands around. When you take too many steps you expend energy walking around, and when you change the position of the upper thoracic spine by looking around you lose tension and your body position.
When you have your feet set, ensure that you are maintaining contact on four corners of your feet, the big toe, pinky toe, inside heel and outside heel. When loading down I’m consciously thinking of maintaining all four points of contact in my feet which will in turn activate my hip abductors.
Ensure you can control the whole movement, the knees should not collapse medially, you shouldn’t be bouncing in and out of the squat
Finally, the depth of your squat is going to be dependant on multiple factors. But the one thing you should focus on is maintaining tension in all the previously mentioned points at the lowest point of your squat. If depth is a problem for you then with practice and controlling load at the bottom it should improve in time!