WSBB Blog: Mastering the Squat I
Over the years, Westside Barbell has produced countless 1000lb+ squatters and 800lb+ deadlifters. When it comes to training the lower body, the Conjugate Method offers the most comprehensive approach to building strength and speed in the squat and deadlift. By utilizing specialty barbells and special exercise variations, our athletes train the anterior and posterior muscles of the lower body as efficiently as possible.
A featured exercise commonly associated with Westside Barbell and the Conjugate Method is the box squat. The box squat is an old-school exercise used at Westside Barbell regularly, sometimes as a ME exercise and always as a DE exercise. We choose to utilize the box squat regularly because box squatting will rapidly build the hips, hamstrings, and glutes, leading to increases in the squat and deadlift. Additionally, box squatting using accommodating resistance develops increased force production and bar speed when squatting.
However, this is not to say that we abandon the free squat. A common misconception perpetuated amongst the strength training community is that the Conjugate Method calls for way too many box squats, leaving an athlete unprepared when squatting competition style. Understand that Westside Barbell has always used a variety of squat variations as ME workouts, with free squats being performed regularly with a competition-specific bar and various specialty bars.
The free squat is an incredibly versatile exercise, with many variations able to be created by using specialty bars, accommodating resistance, and movement modifications. Another reason the free squat is highly valuable is that you can program squats more frequently than deadlifts, leading to less overall fatigue and decreased recovery times for ME lower workouts.
Today’s accepted strength training practices place a tremendous value on deadlifting in training. Unfortunately, this may not be the most optimal approach when focusing on overall lower body strength. Are heavy deadlifts a great tool to develop incredible lower body strength? Yes. Do deadlifts place a significant strain on the body, leading to increased fatigue and recovery time requirements? Yes. The question then becomes, what is the best way to program max effort lower to simultaneously increase the squat and deadlift while avoiding critical levels of fatigue.
A proper approach to lower body training will feature free squats and box squats regularly. This is key because, unlike the deadlift, the squat requires a bit more focus when it comes to technique. This means that not only will you increase your lower body strength and deadlift by focusing on the squat; you will also become more skilled at the movement itself.
Each month you will have eight lower body training days total. Out of those eight training days, if you want to master the squat, you should be squatting for at least six of them. To avoid accommodation, you will want to pick up to three squat variations to program for max effort lower, with one of those variations being a competition legal squat. At Westside, we typically use the safety squat bar and the giant cambered bar as our other two squat variations.
The remaining ME lower training days not scheduled as squat days will either be goodmorning or deadlift exercises. Keep in mind, you can deadlift competition style for speed each week after DE squats, so it is recommended to choose a deadlift variation when performing a max effort deadlift. Here are the eight lower body exercise variations a lifter would use each month at Westside Barbell to master the squat:
ME Cambered Bar Pause Squat - work up to a top set single
DE Cambered Bar Squat - 5 x 5 @75%
ME Deficit Deadlift - work up to a top set triple
DE Cambered Bar Squat - 10 x 2 @80%
ME SSB Front Squat - work up to a top set single
DE Cambered Bar Squat - 8 x 2 @85%
ME Cambered Bar Goodmornings - work up to a top set triple
DE SSB Squat - 5 x 5 @75%
The above training schedule is just one example of how we would lay out a month’s worth of squat-focused lower body main exercises at Westside Barbell. As you continue training, you will need to evolve your exercise variations depending on identified weaknesses. This could include accommodating resistance or focusing on the increased use of specialty bars from which you yield the most strength.
Visit the Conjugate Club to obtain more information regarding Max Effort and Dynamic Effort Lower, including monthly programming utilized by athletes at Westside Barbell.
Westside Barbell Squat and Deadlift Manual; by Louie Simmons
Supertraining; by Dr. Mel Siff and Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky
Science and Practice of Strength Training; by Dr. Vladimir Zatsiorsky and Dr. William Kraemer
Westside Barbell Book of Methods; by Louie Simmons
Special Strengths Development for All Sports; by Louie Simmons
Tags: Squat, Deadlift, Programming