Small Changes, Big Results: The Squat | Erin Stern

Posted on June 29, 2016 at 12:00 AM

There are many exercises geared towards developing the posterior chain. My favorite exercise is the squat. Many of us tend to be quadriceps dominant, which can make the squat less effective for working the glutes and hamstrings. I want to share three small changes that can have a big impact on your squat. These tweaks should help switch the emphasis from quads to hamstrings and glutes. I suggest trying it for a few weeks, and then going back to squats at a normal depth and tempo. I think you’ll see your strength increase, your form improve, and it can also give the glutes a better shape!

1. Shift your weight through heels.
Constantly focus on this throughout the exercise. By driving the weight through your heels, you’re better able to move the weight with your posterior chain. As you start to fatigue, don’t let the weight shift to your toes/midsole. This will encourage your quads to take over lifting the load. The last few reps are the most important. Stay present, stay mindful, and stay on those heels!

2. Pause mid-rep.
Slowing down the tempo can really help with mind-muscle connection, especially with the muscles you can’t see. Pausing at the bottom of the squat will allow you to reset and engage the glutes to drive the weight up. The pause will also eliminate any momentum, which can also prevent the quads from taking over. Without momentum, you’ll find the exercise becomes more difficult. Try using lighter weight than normal to encourage proper form and tempo. For example, if you normally squat 135 lbs., you might start with 95 lbs. and see how you feel.

3. Go below parallel.
The last small change is to squat below parallel. This will help you engage the glutes and hamstrings, in addition to making your regular squat stronger. If you can’t squat below parallel, you can try box squats to improve your mobility. As an added benefit, deep squats can actually help strengthen the knees and the hips. As mentioned above, start with a lighter weight and add weight as you feel comfortable.

Form is the first priority in this exercise, followed by tempo. The actual weight loaded on the bar shouldn’t matter that much. You might even try a couple of warm-up sets with just the bar! If you’re used to squatting with your weight in your midsole, it might feel strange to shift your weight through your heels. Count a full second as you pause mid-rep. Again, stay present and mindful through the entire set. I think you’ll find that it’ll be tough, both physically and mentally! I love PEAK ATP, as it helps me get those challenging last few reps. I have seen a difference since I started taking it.

Don’t forget to check out the video for the demonstration! Thank you for reading…until next time, train hard, y’all!

- Erin Stern, 2x Ms. Olympia/USATF Competitor

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