Featured assistance movement of the week: Bodybuilding or Piston squat

By: Brian Carroll

I’ll be covering an obscure or special assistance movement each week that I feel is important and should potentially be considered as an addition to your programming at some capacity.

Bodybuilding aka Piston Squat

The Bodybuilding or ‘piston squat’, as I call it is a great way to work the muscles that lead to a bigger squat and deadlift. By stimulating the quads to grow bigger and stronger will benefit both of those lifts greatly. Of course you may think that is obvious, but you would be surprised how many people neglect direct quad training.

The quads, depending on the style that you squat or pull, can be very important to finishing a big lift. Often times, I’ve missed big squats at the very top as my hips, back and hams are very strong but my quads would let me down.

As I’ve talked about before, when I lean up, my quads seem to shrink first. Kind of like the girl who diets and her ass and boobs disappear. I guess you can, in a way, say that my legs are a girl’s boobs.

I prescribe the bodybuilding squat for those who struggle to grind squats at the top, slow down in transition and need quad development in general.
Let’s take a look at a few simple cues with this movement.

First, you want to keep all your tension on your quads, and not lock your knees at any point. This is a lot harder than it sounds. When you hold a squat at the top, you are locked out and not putting very much emphasis on your muscles more the joint.

Second, you don’t want to go all the way down, that will start to include the hips, glutes, back and hamstrings more. Remember this is not a competition squat, the idea is to directly work the quads with the movement. I will wait for the people to say “ass to grass or shut up” and I will just tell them, you don’t get judged on accessory work, you get judged on how the accessory work makes your big lifts stronger.

Third, you will want to bring your stance in a touch, some wide squatters would bring it in a lot. I even throw on Olympic shoes to really hammer my quads.

Last, the pace is crucial to keep the pressure on the quads. Obviously, you have to find your tempo and pace. Mine is a little slower than some, but with my history of back issue, I don’t want to play around too much.

Programming Considerations
I use these on my squat/deadlift day assistance.
I also enjoy using specialty bars for this exercise to relieve my shoulders from extra stress. If you have a Safety Squat Bar or a Buffalo Bar, those are excellent for this movement.

You can do these on your squat day as an assistance, or even on deadlift day to follow your pulls or you can warmup with these on a squat or deadlift day.

Give them a try!


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Brian Carroll

Brian is a world-class powerlifter with over two decades of elite and pro-level powerlifting under his belt. Coming back from a devastating back injury in 2012 that broke multiple bones and that most experts said he would never recover from, he has returned to the pinnacle of world-class lifting (while 100% pain and symptom-free) and is now dedicated to helping others avoid the same mistakes that he made in the past through private and group coaching in Jacksonville, FL. Brian’s impressive recovery has given him the opportunity to teach and deliver talks to physical therapists, chiropractors, medical doctors, professional strength & conditioning coaches and experts from all facets of sport, on how to avoid injury, while building anti-fragile strength and resilience in athletes.
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