By: Anna Marie Oakes-Joudy, SSC
Sometimes, we coaches work with clients where form isn’t the issue for getting to proper squat depth; it’s the lack of strength. What can we do when faced with this puzzle? Here are some ways you can work toward full depth while still maintaining the integrity of the movement.
Stand with your back to a chair or flat bench approximately 8 inches behind you (we’re assuming the chair/bench is standard height, therefore above depth for everyone but VERY tall individuals). Set your heels under your shoulders with toes out at, about, 30 degrees. Look down on the floor about 5 feet in front of you. Reach your hips back and lower them down to the chair stopping when the back of your thighs touches the seat BUT, not relaxing to sit back. Stand back up leading with your hips and keep your chest from collapsing forward. Repeat this for a set of 10 reps, take a break and repeat for 2 more sets of 10 reps. Do this every other day or so until it becomes easy.
*If you are very detrained you can use a chair with arms to start, but gradually move to an armless chair once progress has moved beyond the need to leverage yourself with your arms.
2.) Squat to a band
If sitting down and standing up from a chair is easy you can move on to this next progression. Stretch a chin-up assistance band across the squat rack’s J-hooks at a height that is below the height of a chair or the lowest you can get down to and get back up without swinging your arms for momentum.
Just like in the Sit-to-Stand, stand about 8 inches in front of the band with heels under shoulders and toes pointed out at 30 degrees. Look down at the floor 5 feet in front of you, use an object to focus on if you find yourself looking all over the place. Take a deep breath into your belly and hold it. Reach your hips back while pushing your knees out to match your toe angle and lower yourself until your thighs touch the band (You can put your hands out in front of you to balance yourself if you need to). Stand back up leading with your hips until you are standing tall with your eyes on your focus spot and exhale the breath you took at the beginning of the movement. Repeat this for a set of 10 reps, take a break and repeat for 2 more sets of 10 reps. Lower the height of the band once this height becomes easy and repeat the process again until the band is at squat depth.
*You can also do these with a stack of bumper plates and remove plates as you get stronger.
3.) Plate Squats
If you are: a.) Able to get to proper depth on your squats but are not yet strong enough to squat with the standard 20kg bar on your back. b.) Your training space does not have a 5-25lb bar and c.) You don’t have access to a leg press machine, you can do this variation.
Take a 5lb./2.5kg plate and put in flat on your upper back holding on with both hands. Set your heels under your shoulders and your toes out at 30 degrees. Look at the floor 5 feet in front of you, take a deep breath into your belly, and brace like someone is going to punch you in the stomach. With your breath held, reach your hips back, push your knees out to match your toes, and lower your hips to depth. Once you’ve gotten to depth, stand back up nice and tall and exhale. Take a deep breath, squeeze your shoulder blades together and towards your butt, repeat the lowering and raising of your body for a set of 8 reps. Repeat for 2 more sets of 8 reps. Raise the weight of the plate when you squat every other day or so. As you raise the weight, lower the reps from 8 to 7 to 6 to 5 until you are doing 3 sets of 5 reps and have reached the weight of the lightest bar in your training space.
Congratulations, you’ve made it! You’re now strong enough to add your 2.5-5lbs to the bar and continue to progress in your strength journey. Welcome to a stronger life. Remember, it ALWAYS helps to have a coach’s eyes on you. Find an SSC near you. If you don’t live near one? SSOC has got you covered.