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How To Get MORE From Your Squats

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When it comes to something as familiar as squatting it may just seem like we are cycling through a variety of squats as there really isn’t much a difference in the various squats we can perform. However, that is missing a bigger opportunity to both build success and see how we can get more out of our squats. That is why I wanted to take a look at some of the biggest issues we miss when it comes to using such a classic exercise.

Building Great Squats

It is a bit difficult to get to all the cool things we can do with squats if we can’t even squat well in the first place. That is why it is essential we first build how to squat properly and what we are looking to achieve with squatting as just saying “strong legs” isn’t really specific enough.

When it comes to building squats people use all sorts of strategies, they hold onto a rack/wall, they use a suspension trainer, they use a dumbbell in front of the body, they use a landmine. These tools can be misleading as often we don’t see them translate to squatting well without these tools or sometimes we excuse poor squatting when we use these tools because we don’t think the risk is as great. Let’s look at a why and how we can do it better.

Holding Onto Anything: Now I am not 100% against giving someone something supportive at first IF they have  issues (such as orthopedic, being very overweight, elderly populations) that cause them to guard significantly from squatting with any sort of confidence. However, in general, holding onto objects and trying to learn how to squat doesn’t translate very well when you are not holding onto anything because our body is not learning how to control and coordinate our body in space without the support. That means our nervous system isn’t really learning how to squat well and that is a big reason that many find transitioning off of such support as so challenging.

Landmines: If I am being honest, I used to try squatting with landmines. Every time I did I found it to be extremely awkward and often caused my low back to be achy. At the time, I didn’t know why such squats were problematic to me and wrote them off as just something that didn’t work for me. Then when I began competing in Strongman I had an “ah-ha” moment as I was flipping tires.

When you flip tires in Strongman there are many ways to do it, but generally many of the best don’t lift from a deadlift type of position. Why? Well, you quickly learn that the weight doesn’t move just vertically like you would see most weights in the gym, the weight is actually moving at an angle. So, when you try to just deadlift the weight like you would most other weights you can actually feel the weight moving away from you and that can cause issues in the low back and of course decreases power and how quickly you can move the weight.

heavytireflips1 - How To Get MORE From Your Squats

The landmine basically does the same thing, it is moving at a similar path and that weight moving away from you throws off the trajectory of how your squat is suppose to move. It can bother some low backs and it can also be hard to find that strength to translate to any other form of squatting. Plus, many people balance themselves with the landmines and that causes the same issues as holding onto various objects. Let’s not forget too that like flipping tires, once the weight starts moving out of the bottom position it gets MUCH lighter because the weight is moving where gravity doesn’t impact it as much. So, if you use landmines for your squats, make sure you consider all these different variables and there are just better ways of teaching great squats.

Holding Dumbbells Like A Goblet

Of all my arguments against the types of squats people think are great and often don’t work like they think, the dumbbell goblet squat is probably the one that can be most subtle in how it doesn’t teach people to squat as well as we would like. Compared to any type of back squatting I would take the dumbbell goblet in a heart beat! However, what people don’t understand is that such a lift is far from as good as the kettlebell version because we can’t grip and make the lats as big of a part of our squat. How do lats helps squats?

squats

A lot of people don’t understand that lats are HUGE core muscle that really make a profound difference in hinging and squatting. When we hold the weight of the kettlebell correctly, then we actually can engage our lats far more easily and have so much more success in our squats.

Understanding these concepts are HUGE in building better squats and choosing the right type of squat for your goals and what your needs are currently. So, should we just jump into kettlebell goblet squats? Compared to many other options, it wouldn’t be horrible, but many people can’t load the goblet squat enough to get the proper feedback and tension and additionally, most people beginning to learn how to squat need more feedback and core stability. That is why we start with our DVRT Press Out Squats as physical therapist, Jessica Bento shows.

How powerful is such a relatively simple movement? We’ve been able to get people who had terrible issues with their knees and were unable to squat for years to actually squat without their severe pain for the first time! Here are a few examples…

 

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This amazing woman is in her 60’s and was told she would have to get a knee replacement because her pain squatting was so bad. We high five at the end because she squatted the first time without pain!

 

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While it might look subtle, the fact that we can get an even MORE upright squat and get more load on the squat makes the Bear Hug squat a great progression in our series. Even in very experienced kettlebell lifters like Adrienne, you can see she gets deeper and more upright even with the same weight of both tools.

squats

You might be wondering, “Josh, when do we get to the barbell? Is it now?!” I use to think like many coaches that the ultimate goal of any lift was to get to the barbell. Part of that was that at the time these tools I am discussing didn’t exist (man, I’m old!) and so we didn’t have many better options. Second, after working with so many people from athletes to post-rehab clients I realized we could build a lot of strength without ever getting to the barbell. After all, if we are sticking with our front loaded theme (if you want to read more why back squats stink you can read that HERE), the barbell is actually far more awkward for most people to use and we don’t get the chance to build our progressions as well.

DVRT UK Master, Greg Perlaki, not only shows why artificial stability like ball squats don’t help our efforts in teaching good squats, but shows how we would progress through many of our squatting options. 

In our world, a much better progression to our squats is to go Press Out->Goblet->Bear Hug->Front Loaded->Double Rack KB->Fist Loaded->Off Set Kettlebell->Single Arm Kettlebell->Shoulder Squats. That just gets us through the bilateral options of our squatting! In our next installment about better squats I’ll explain that we shouldn’t think that two legged squats are necessarily the most powerful squats (based on the research) and how our options in building success and purposeful variety are MUCH bigger than people realize! Make sure to check out how I break down why Shoulder Squats are SO much more powerful than far more popular squats.

Don’t miss building your DVRT Ultimate Sandbag gym, grabbing great online courses like our DVRT Level 1 Certification or Physical Therapist, Jessica Bento’s great courses like her knee course, and DVRT workout programs for 30% off with code “summer” HERE