Squats do a booty good. It’s true. Did you really think that you could get those ‘lovely lady humps’ and make all the boys ask, ‘what you gonna do with all that junk in your trunk’ from walking, or doing pilates?
Oh you did? You thought that doing all the tummy toning, leg raising, tuck your head behind your neck and breath deeply would work? Sorry to burst your bubble- but it’ll be about as effective as a monkey performing brain surgery.
And guys, you want a strong posterior as well- trust me. If not for the simple functional aspect of squats training the posterior chain and strengthening the core more than any amount of ab crunches on a swiss ball, you need to squat to stimulate growth throughout the rest of your body… unless you want girls to laugh at your chicken legs when you walk past.
The back squat and front squat are the undisputed kings of the squatting movement and, whilst giving you a booty worth popping at da club on a Saturday night, it will crunch the rest of your body into massive strength and growth gains.
But, there are some common problems people encounter when trying to squat.
1) They don’t go deep enough- when squatting, to properly activate the gluteal muscles, you need to hit below parallel to the floor. This is a far cry from most people’s range- which normally extends to some pissy 1/4 squat that would make Tracey Anderson proud.
2) They lack stability- if you do manage to get below parallel, you may find that your core and leg muscles are working overtime to stop you from falling on your arse and crushing
yourself your windpipe with the bar. Obviously, if this is the case, you are unable to fully activate the gluteals and quadriceps to stabilise and drive home the concentric part of the lift.
3) You don’t know the feeling- Meathead Mike loads up the bar with too much weight, un racks it and drops down four inches before grunting and thrusting the bar back up. He then proceeds to jump around like a kangaroo hopped up on RedBull. You turn to him and ask him why he didn’t squat below parallel. He gives you a strange look, and says, “what do you mean? I did!”
It’s likely that, just like Meathead Mike, you don’t actually know the feeling of a below parallel squat- this stops you from recognising the movement pattern.
) You may hurt yourself on the way up- You unload some of Meathead Mike’s weight and try a below parallel squat yourself. You hit below parallel but realise that your stomach feels like it’s about to explode, your lower back has an elephant sitting on it and your upper back has been concertinaed in two. This is not a good feeling by the way and, in your whiniest Fran Drescher voice, you straighten yourself up, popping every disc in your back whilst you’re at it.
THIS IS WHERE THE BOTTOM-UP SQUAT COMES IN
A great advantage of the bottom-up squat (BUS) is that it takes out the stretch reflex that causes your pain in point 4 above, helps increase core stability- allowing for greater activation of the quads and gluteals- and trains your body to recognise what a below parallel squat feels like.
TO SET IT UP
1) Do a bodyweight squat and identify where your lowest point is. (Now, if you can’t bodyweight squat below parallel, it’s time to do some thoracic mobility work before you try these).
2) Set the pins in the squat rack to this point.
3) Set the bar on the pins and load up the bar with between 50-60% your 1RM. (You can find online calculators to help you determine this).
4) Decide whether you’re going to perform a front or back squat- personally I prefer front, I tried back squat but, because of the nature of the movement I found myself tilting uncomfortably forward.
5) Drop down underneath the bar, set your feet, and push upwards, making sure that you push from the quads and squeeze the gluteals at the top of the movement.
6) Lower the bar under control- rest them on the pins for two seconds- allow your muscles to relax then BAM, go again.
7) Perform 4-5 sets of 8-10 reps.
WHEN TO DO THEM?
NEVER STOP SQUATTING (realise that’s in capitals? That makes it important!). Bottom up squats should never replace back or front squats in a program. Instead, program them into your squat day as an assistance lift.
Wednesday- Squat day
A1) Back squat- 5×6, 90 sec rest
B2) Romanian deadlifts- 5-6, 60 sec rest
C3) BOTTOM UP SQUATS- 4×8, 60 sec rest
D1) Single leg training of choice- 4×8, 60 sec rest
E1) Paloff press- 4×8 each side, 30 sec rest.
I will give you fair warning here though. After my first experience with bottom up squats- I’d never been so sore so just make sure you don’t have anything to do the next day.