Improve your squat with this squat complex

By Andy on November 11, 2015

A routine that will dramatically improve your squats in a wide variety of rep ranges for shape, strength, and all-round good looking legs!

This is the 2nd post that forms part of the series where we simplify movements in order to help you perform better. Check out how to train for your first pull up here.

Performing proper squats isn’t just about giving the lower body a good workout. The core, back, and your body’s ability to maintain stability during many movements are all improved by performing a good squat.

The method behind the madness is that you have many different muscles involved with the squat in the front and back and all around the leg and they all work from different angles as you move through the squat from a deep low position to standing up straight position.

We will also be loading and targeting the muscles at different speeds and actions most people neglect to train during other lower body workouts.

During this routine weight will be added to the front and back of the shoulders to cater for all aspects of conditioning as shown in the diagram below – when the weight is towards the front of the body the load is closer to the knee, and when the weight is behind the back the load is further away from the knee and towards the hips. This is why your back squat is usually considerably heavier than your front squat as your ‘powerhouse’ is located closer to your hips.

  • Full back (tempo) squat – choose a weight that you can perform 8-10 reps with. This means if you can do 11 reps the weight is too light. (This is about 70-80% of your maximum lower body squat ability). Perform 3 sets.

Downward phase: start off in a squat with the bar on your upper back / lower traps with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.  You can turn your feet outwards slightly if you feel this will enable you to squat deeper.

Now drop down slowly for 5 seconds towards a deep squat, this has to be as deep as you can go, sitting into your squat is ideal. Hold a perfect seated squat position for 10 seconds while squeezing the core, shoulders back, and chest out. Now slowly move up for 5 seconds.

Down = 5 seconds, Seated perfect squat position = 10 seconds, standing up = 5 seconds x 10 reps x 3 sets.

  • Half close back squat (hold) – stand with your feet closer than hip-width apart, ankles, and knees about a fist-size apart. Choose a weight that you can perform 8-10 reps. Once again if you manage to do 11 reps then you need to increase the weight.

Squat with the bar on your back as deep as you can by keeping your knees and ankles to the prescribed distances. You’ll notice that you won’t be able to squat nearly as close as you would with a normal back squat position, hold the lowest position for 3 seconds, and stand up again. Rest 1 minute and increase the weight with 10 kg in total for each set, repeat about 5/ 6 times.

Your reps will decrease as the weight increases. Be sure to stick to only 1-minute rest.

  • Full deep back squats – This is the one we all know. Just normal back squats as deep as possible. No holding at the bottom. I need to mention that you want to stand up as quickly as possible after dropping down to condition the body in using all its lower body elastic components, spend as little time as possible at the bottom of the squat. 5-6 reps for 3 sets at 3 minutes rest in between sets.
  • Single leg squat – by now you are pretty tired it’s common to start pushing through one leg more than the other without even knowing this. By activating the core and sucking in your belly button is essential as it assists instability. You would much rather let your core compensate than your hips, knee, or ankle during squats – So keep it tight!

Start off by placing a small bench or step behind you that is slightly lower than your knees. Maintain a perfect squat position on the way down and sit on the bench. Don’t just touch the bench and get up again, be sure to sit down for 2 seconds. Now stand up. This will force you to start off in a deep-medium squat position from a resting start. It changes the whole dynamics of the squat. Try not to lean forward while performing this one – place arms out in front of you to make it a bit easier. Rest 1 minute in between sets.

Set 1 – Alternate between legs for 20 reps. No weights.

Set 2 – hold a light plate or kettlebell close to the chest and alternate for 12-14 reps

Set 3 – a heavier plate and kettlebell for 8-10 alternating reps.

When you get good at this you want to drop onto a very small object much lower than your knee like a small medicine ball.

  • Full Front (tempo) squat – This is similar to the full-back (tempo) squat routine. Be sure to get those elbows up! If you feel the bar is choking you then you are doing it right (how’s that for motivation?). Choose a weight that you can perform 8-10 reps with.

Down = 5 seconds, Seated perfect squat position = 10 seconds, standing up = 5 seconds x 10 reps x 3 sets, 2 minutes rest in between.

  • Weighted lateral frogs – start off with a bar on your back. Go down into a half squat position. Keep the shoulders back, chest out, and chin up. Give 20 steps to the left, and 20 steps to the right while staying in a very deep squat position. Rest 1 minute only.

Set 1 – 20 steps to each side with the bar only

Set 2 – add 5-10 kg in total and perform 14 steps per side

Set 3 – add an additional 5-10 kg and perform 10 steps per side.

Be sure to switch the order around next time you do this routine. Start with number 6-1.

If you are having trouble with one or two exercises specifically more than the others, you can incorporate that exercise/exercises into your normal leg day training.

Any knee pain and hip pain during this routine? Let me know…

Coach Hannes

Iconic Fitness, Dubai Marina

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