Why is the Squat a Pillar of Strength?
The squat rack is perhaps the piece of gym equipment which deserves the most respect. Not necessarily because of the paradox of its sheer simplicity against the complexity and depth of the things you can achieve with it, although that is of course a factor.
Respected in the sense that you can squat right, or you can squat wrong, and it’s really easy to get it wrong.
On any given day, you’ll see a huge number of bad technique, awkward bent backs and just flat-out dangerous approaches to the art of squatting.
We say art, because once you have developed the main technique, the tiny balancing muscles, the neurological adaptation to the movement as a whole, it’s a beautiful thing to watch.
Especially good to see is when a guy with great flexibility can squat butt-to-heels with a ramrod back, feet inside knees on the plan view and heels firmly on the deck. The deep squat.
Core, legs (mainly quads), glutes and the lower back are all worked during a proper squat. But all those tiny muscles, and ligaments that help keep you from falling over are strengthened too, giving you better balance and overall stability.
Perhaps the most interesting benefit of proper squatting is a cracking ass, and the knowledge that you’ve mastered at least one of the most critically analyzed of the purist lifting techniques.
For many guys, squat day and deadlift day are the same. We don’t like this, if we’re 100% honest.
In fact, we think there should be as much time as is possible between the two exercises within a week.
Two main reasons, really:
- You will benefit from the muscle growth between the two exercises. Ergo, the results from one will improve the execution of the other.
- There is no need to either reserve power for the second exercise of the two, or indeed have little left in the tank to approach it with.
If you feel once a week for these lifts is too little, then you can do one of the following:
- Rotate them on a day on/day off basis. i.e. Day 1: Deadlift, Day 2: Rest (or other exercise), Day 3: Squat, Day 4: Rest (or…), Day 5: Rest, Day 6: Deadlift, Day 7: Rest (or…), Day 8: Squat…repeat..etc..
- Do Deadlift AND Squat same day but reverse the order next time. i.e. Day 1: Deadlift followed by Squat. Day 2: Rest, Day 3: Squat followed by Deadlift…etc.
In the early days of your physical conditioning, gains come on thick and fast, and you can probably get away with 2 DL and 2 Squat sessions a week.
As time goes by, we feel it is more advantageous to do at least 1 of each per week, or at most 2 of each every 8 days.
Warm up with some body squats and then squat slowly with the empty bar just to get your technique down. Add some light plates for 3 sets of 10, gradually increasing to something of 50 – 60% of your maximum weight.
Then, start the real sets. If you haven’t done this ever then it will take a bit of tinkering to find your weight.
You should do sets of 3 reps, making sure you still have good form and technique during the 3rd lift, but so that a 4th lift would be too much. It’s usually around 85-95% of the maximum weight you can do only one lift with.
Do about 5 of those sets with a couple, maybe 3 minutes rest in between. It’s good to alternate with a partner who can also spot you.
(Video Credit: Bodybuilding.com and Layne Norton)
Maximum squat days should only be done a couple times a month, because they are a distraction from the main bulk of your training, and only really provide you with a benchmark / target for the next one.
The trick is to not use up too much energy before your single maximum lift. Again, this might take a bit of practice to achieve, but you should always err on the side of caution and be warm and limber for it, to avoid injury but also be at your peak power potential.
IMPORTANT: NEVER try a maximum lift if you are stiff, tired, sore, or you have even the slightest of twinges anywhere on your body. You need to be at your best so that you don’t delay your progress with injury.
Good Luck and Safe Squatting