Squat: 5 things I wish I knew 25 years ago

Squat: 5 things I wish I knew 25 years ago

Squat: 5 things I wish I knew 25 years ago. I will throw out these tips I would have significantly needed 25 years ago while training at the local Powerhouse gym. As the saying goes, “it’s the little things.” Those little things make the most significant difference in anything and everything we do.

Start the squat with the hips, not the knees 

It doesn’t matter your style (narrow, wide, moderate). Most solid (not all) squats start with a “hip hinge.” This is not just good for your back; it’s optimal for getting the most power and strength out of that squat and keeping you in your groove. Some people have trouble finding their bar path/groove, and it’s due to breaking at the knees first. Easy correction! And for more specific coaching on the squat, you can check out this YOUTUBE SERIES ON THE SQUAT. 

 Do not watch yourself in a mirror while squatting.

If you are still stuck training in a health club, try your best to turn away from any mirrors. Watching yourself removes your focus from the task at hand, impacting your squat groove. If this is impossible to do (because of the position of the racks), one little tip that may help is hanging yoga mats on the mirror to prevent any mirror gazing while lifting.

Keep your elbows down and your lats locked in.

 I’ve seen this all over YouTube with so-called experts with zero back tightness trying to teach a squat. Locking in your back is one of the most important things you can do for power and safety. Remember, the last runs approximately from the back of the arm to your hip. Don’t underestimate its influence on a big squat. The tighter your back is, the stronger and SAFER you will squat.

Wear skateboard shoes, Chuck Taylors, or an excellent flat sole shoe, NOT your running shoes.

Have something that stable and complex and not going to have you swimming around as you’re trying to squat a significant weight. A running shoe is a terrible choice for stability while lifting. I suggest simple Van’s or Chucks, or any skateboarding shoe. Much better than a running style or cross-training style. 

Do not squat heavy every week.

There is a good chance your body will break down, or progress will reverse. In all likelihood, it will happen sooner than later. Have a plan where you have timed deloads and breaks from the heavy squat sessions. This isn’t a race, and it’s a project. As I suggest in 10/20/Life, every three weeks is a good start, and go from there.

I had to learn the hard way about pushing too hard. Not only in the squat, but in all of the lifts. You can read about my story here in Gift of Injury and the many mistakes I made. Also, for those that are stuck and need programming help, or for those who want to take the thinking out of the process, book a virtual consult with Brian. 

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Brian Carroll

Owner and Founder at PowerRackStrength.com
Brian is a retired world-class powerlifter with over two decades of world-class powerlifting. From 1999 to 2020, Brian Carroll was a competitive powerlifter, one of the most accomplished lifters in the sport's history. Brian started off competing in bench press competitions 'raw,' then, shortly into the journey, he gravitated toward equipped lifting as there were no "raw" categories then. You only had to choose from single-ply (USPF) and Multi-ply (APF/WPC). Brian went on to total 2730 at 275 and 2651 at 242 with more than ten times his body weight in three different classes (220, 242, 275), and both bench pressed and deadlifted over 800 pounds in two other weight classes. He's totaled 2600 over 20 times in 2 different weight classes in his career. With 60 squats of 1000lbs or more officially, this is the most in powerlifting history, regardless of weight class or federation, by anyone not named David Hoff. Brian realized many ups and downs during his 20+ years competing. After ten years of high-level powerlifting competition and an all-time World Record squat at 220 with 1030, in 2009, Brian was competing for a Police academy scholarship. On a hot and humid July morning, Brian, hurdling over a barricade at 275lbs, landed on, fell, and hurt his back. After years of back pain and failed therapy, Brian met with world-renowned back specialist Prof McGill in 2013, which changed his trajectory more than he could have imagined. In 2017, Brian Carroll and Prof McGill authored the best-selling book about Brian's triumphant comeback to powerlifting in Gift of Injury. Most recently (10.3.20) -Brian set the highest squat of all time (regardless of weight class) with 1306 lbs – being the first man to break the 1300lb squat barrier at a bodyweight of 303 lbs.
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