WSBB Blog: Fix Your Squat Weakness
Designing a training program for the squat is extremely simple when you first begin training. All you have to focus on learning to squat, getting reps in, and building your base. When you enter the realm of competitive powerlifting and begin training to squat as much as you possibly can, things get difficult and problems arise that require solutions outside of squatting more reps, or more often. Thanks to the access we have to specialty barbells, it has become easier than ever to put together comprehensive training plans that can directly address common weaknesses found in the squat. Below, we will go over a few of the major muscle groups in the squat, and give some advice in regards to how we correct weaknesses in the squat at Westside Barbell.
When a lifter has weak quads in the squat, you will experience issues with excessive knee caving, issues balancing, and issues locking weights out. Fortunately, this can be corrected within a month or two if you are selecting the correct exercises. For max effort lower main exercises, a lifter with quad weakness would want to focus on front squats, SSB box squats to both a competition height box and a low box, and high bar squats. Accessory exercises should include volume front squats, hack squats, leg presses, or lunges. Max effort work will stick to the usual max effort set of one to three reps, accessory work will be done for multiple sets of eight to twelve reps.
If you are dealing with weak hamstrings, you will find yourself missing squats as you try to apply reversal strength, or as you try to drive out of the hole. You will often find lifters with hamstring weaknesses fold up under the bar, opposed to lifters with strong hamstrings and a weak back who will be able to begin extending their legs, but fold over at the waist due to glute/low back weakness. Correcting hamstring weakness is typically easier than most other weaknesses considering the amount of hamstring involvement in most lower body main and accessory exercises.
For main exercise work giant cambered bar squats are the holy grail of posterior chain focused squat exercises. Deadlifts and goodmornings both work excellent as main exercises when hamstring weakness is an issue, you can cycle between the different variations of both exercises to give yourself a wide selection of both main and accessory exercises. Main exercises will follow the usual max effort protocol, while accessory work should be done implementing high intensity and moderate volume, or moderate intensity and high volume.
Like hamstring weakness, back weakness is another one of those weak areas that is extremely easy to target and begin bringing up to speed. When following a Westside Barbell style Conjugate program, you will be training a back movement or two nearly every training day. To bring up back strength specifically for the squat, we recommend working through the various goodmorning variations, as well as focusing on beltless work in both the squat and the deadlift. By removing the belt, you will force your trunk and paraspinal muscles to become stronger.
Having a stronger trunk and paraspinal muscles helps keep your lumbar and thoracic spine in a healthy, neutral position throughout the lift resulting in lower injury rate and higher squat success rate. One of the most common ways for a lifter to fail a squat is to “dump their chest”, meaning the lifter loses the ability to maintain trunk pressure to continue elevating the barbell and the chest collapses. No matter if you are squatting, benching, or deadlifting, your back plays one of the most important roles in your ability to display strength. When in doubt, train your back.