The Barbell Squat is the flagship lower body exercise, utilized by nearly everyone in the fitness industry including bodybuilders, athletes and people who exercise for the sole purpose of health and wellness. The popularity of the Squat is derived from its ability to train the entire lower body at once, as well as build explosive power which can help increase acceleration and jumping ability. In this post, I will provide 5 complimentary exercises that will help increase your squat maximum.
1. Band Or Chain Squat
The Band Squat is the most effective variation of the squat in terms of becoming stronger in the upper half of the lift. Anchor the bar with bands on either side so that when you are at the bottom of the squat, the band is providing the least amount of resistance. In contrast, as you make your way to the top of the lift the resistance becomes greater and greater. This will help you become stronger in the middle to top part of the lift where many people have trouble.
2. Box Squat
The Box Squat is a variation of the squat that focuses on developing the hips and glutes. Place a box of the desired height (usually below the knee) behind you and squat down till you touch the box. Pause for about a second and stand back up, focusing on squeezing your glutes and activating your hip muscles. This exercise will help encourage proper form and activate the muscles in the posterior chain. Just be sure that you don't put too much pressure on your knees during this lift.
3. Dumbbell Lunges
Dumbbell Lunges are a difficult but extremely beneficial lower body movement that targets the Quadriceps and front of the leg. Along with being able to build your quads, lunges allow for increased muscle endurance and increased balance. This exercise is also very versatile with many variations that have different purposes. You can use lighter weights and do jump lunges in place (which also builds explosiveness) or you can find a stretch of floor in your gym and do walking lunges, which builds strength and endurance.
4. Box Jumps
Box Jumps are an incredible exercise to help increase your squat. Box Jumps require no weights, just some room and a box or platform with a height that is moderately difficult (complete 8-12 jumps in a set). Box Jumps allow you to build explosive power and help activate fast twitch muscle fibers, which will greatly benefit your ability to squat in terms of bar speed. Faster bar speed (on the way up) makes lifting heavy much easier. Along with an increased squat max, explosive power will help increase acceleration and jumping ability.
5. Romanian Deadlift
Last on the list is the Romanian Deadlift, or RDL. The RDL is a variation of the Conventional Deadlift that focuses on the lower back (spinal erectors) and hamstrings. Having a weak lower back can be detrimental to your ability to squat, so the RDL is a great complement exercise to make sure your posterior chain is strong and stable while squatting. With the growing popularity of the Low-bar squat, which puts more of an emphasis on the lower back and hamstrings, incorporating the RDL is crucial to prevent injury.
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