What if you want to get strong all over your entire body, and create a surge of muscle growth hormones in just ONE movement? What if just ONE movement would help propel your athletic career and make you jump higher, run faster, and hit harder? Ok, ok, so its not that simple, but the SQUAT is perhaps THE most fundamental movement for packing on muscle mass and improving athletic prowess. That’s a pretty big claim, but backed up through YEARS of evidence and past monsters who squatted and squatted heavy to build rugged physiques with the strength to match.
While a lot of people will often stick to just one style of squatting, for athletes and strength freaks alike, its important to use a variety of squats in your training program. This will prevent cns fatigue, mental burn out, and will have you making progress for years on end.
Here are some of my favorite squatting variations and some general set/rep guidelines for you to follow.
1) Back Squats. You can go low bar or high bar with these, and I prefer a shoulder width or slightly wider stance. There are many classic ways to use the back squat from 20 reppers to 5×5, everyone should master how to do a basic back squat.
2) Box Squats. Using a wide stance, the box squat teaches an athlete how to SIT BACK and teaches you how to effectively use your hips, glutes and hamstrings. Among other things, the box squat breaks up the concentric and eccentric portions of the lift, which helps build explosive power. Box squats can be done for multiple sets of low reps ala westside barbell, for a maximum effort of 1-5 reps, or for moderate sets and reps if you were looking to pack on some extra size.
3) Front Squats. These are the ultimate quad builder, along with being a tremendous movement for the core and upperback. Multiple sets of low reps are fine as is something more high volume like 5×5 or 6×6. There are 160lb olympic weightlifters that can front squat over 550lb, so get to work!
4) Zercher Squats. These can be done in a power rack, and are great for building the entire body. By holding the bar in the crooks of your arms, your upperback, lats, and arms have to work hard to keep the bar in the place and your core has to brace extremely hard making this movement super effective and definitely getting a big bang for your buck.
5) Sandbag Squats (Various). Training with sandbags is a great way to increase overall body strength, and doing various squats with a moderate to heavy sandbag is awesome for building leg strength and toughness. My favorite variations are bear hug squats, zercher squats and shoulder squats. Each variation has unique benefits and should incorporated into every combat athletes program. While most people think in terms of big barbell squatting numbers, there’s no rule saying that you can’t get superior USABLE leg strength from high rep sandbag squatting.
For a strong lowerbody, and legs that resemble Tom Platz’s, squats are and always will be THE KING.