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Saturday August 18, 2018

Squat Tips

Written by Doug Daniels

Since I've been writing articles for PL USA, I've received many letters from lifters looking for simple answers to their questions. After a while, some of the questions repeat themselves. Not all the answers are in articles as many articles on training the 3 lifts only come with sets and reps with little else in the way of the fine points of getting that something extra out of the lift or info on common problems lifters have. Though this article may decrease the amount of mail I get at my Post Office Box, I thought I'd write it anyway. Let's examine the squat.

One of the questions I get a lot is on the matter of squat stance. First off, there's no way that I can exactly recommend guaranteed- to-work stance choice and execution by correspondence. What I can give, however, are some tips to use when choosing your most effective stance in the squat. Squat stance varies greatly throughout the sport with extremely successful examples of each type of stance. What's it all mean? It means that every lifter will have to choose his/her best stance and not let a favorite athlete's stance influence the choice.

Some lifters have been recommended to try squatting wide because "it looked like they should be wide squatters" by their coaches or advisers. What sometimes happens is the lifter's squat suffers a marked decrease and the lifter can't figure out what's wrong. I agree that lifters should remain open-minded to advice from other sources and should give new ideas a fair shake. If after a good period of trial they fail to work, their use should be reconsidered. What's a "good period" of time? Probably one training cycle. This period of time should be sufficient to determine if you are on the right track. Even a failure can have positive benefits. You have eliminated, with a high degree of certainty, one training method or technique that you thought may benefit you.

If you narrow your stance, you may require more back strength, as well as more ab strength as in the wide stance. Narrow squatters tend to use more back while wide squatters use more in the way of hip strength. Your assistance training should be geared to accomplish these new strength needs. Use moderate weights until you get the new stance down pat. Going full-speed into a new stance could result in injury and loss of confidence.

Another common question is leaning forward during execution of the squat. The result is usually either registering a lower lift or a missed lift due to depth problems. The depth problem occurs because as the squatter descends into the squat, his back leans forward, closer to parallel to the ground, which, in turn, raises the hips. This results in the need for the squatter to descend even lower than he may think he needs to break parallel. The most obvious answer to this problem is to be aware that this happens. The lifter will need to make an adjustment in his perception of necessary depth if the lean is maintained.

There are more execution considerations. Try keeping your head up during the squat. This will aid in keeping your back more upright. Also, keep you chest out and elbows back. This will help keep your torso upright and straight. Don't let the bar slide too far down your back during the lift. This will cause your back to bend forward to keep the weight in place. Set up with these ideas in mind, and you stand to improve your chances. This comes from practice in the gym. Don't wait until the meet or you may get "redlightitis"!
There are some training methods available to help reduce back bend or to help the lifter deal with it. Again, increased flexibility would be helpful, especially in the hamstrings and hips, as some lifters may not be flexible enough to remain upright comfortably. This is critical in both wide and close stance squatting. Increased torso strength, front and back, would help stabilize the torso and help maintain an upright position. Lower back work like hyperextensions or deadlifts off the block are top choices for lower back strength. Ab strength can be improved through crunches. Sit-ups are a poor choice as they have been shown to be mostly a back and hip exercise with slight isometric contraction of the abs.
Along with the lower back, upper back work of the traps and lats would be helpful. You really need full back development to extract a big squat as well as a big deadlift. Exercises here include chins, pulldowns, rowing, and shrugs. Strong shoulders and arms help to support the weight while it's on your back. This will help to keep the bar in place during the entire squat from unracking to placing it back on the rack after your 3 white light attempt.
I hope I've given you a few usable squat tips. There is more to squatting than sets, reps, knee wraps, and squat suits. Keep in mind the importance of your form during the squat and combine it with a good routine and an open mind and you will see the results and more white lights.

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