” Drive through the earth.”
“Make the plates jump.”
“Accelerate as fast as possible.”
“Explode all the way up.”
You’ve heard the cues to squat big weight, but what do they actually mean? More importantly, will they teach you how to squat big weight?
For a big squat you need to be strong AND explosive-– one without the other leaves much to be desired in the rack and on the playing field.
Problem is training both is complicated. You need to develop speed, speed-strength, power and maximum strength qualities to reach your potential and keep your chicken legged’ squat off the safety racks. Don’t worry, it’s not as complex as it sounds, at least not after you read this. Miss out on these methods and you’ll be stuck in mediocrity; however, if you work hard you’ll explode through plateaus and finally learn how to squat big weight.
Don’t worry, it’s not your eleventh grade math class. The force velocity curve is a hyperbolic graph that shows the relationship between force and velocity, an inverse relationship between weight (force) and the velocity (speed) that you lift the weight. The heavier the weight the slower movement (absolute strength);conversely, the lighter the weight the faster the speed (speed) of the movement. These qualities make up opposite sides of the spectrum, with speed-strength, strength-speed, and power making up the middle of the curve. Photo Credit: elitefts.com
To squat big weight multiple qualities must be trained to minimize weak points and optimize the nervous system to fire all on cylinders. If either end of the curve is neglected performance will suffer. You can’t train solely maximum strength if you want to be your strongest and you can’t train solely “speed” to be explosive.
Qualities on the Force-Velocity Curve
Maximum Strength: Here’s the heavy lifting, generally 85%+ maximum effort for multiple sets of 1-5 five reps to build maximum strength. Going heavy is vital to developing a big squat, but avoid shitting a kidney and missing reps. Missing reps overtaxes your nervous system, leaves you weaker, and wrecks your confidence. Hit reps the you know you’ll make and yourself for the occasional max-out attempts.
Strength-Speed, Speed-strength and Power: Speed-strength and strength-speed are synonymous with power: They both produce a super-high power output compared with their longer duration, lower velocity counterpart maximum strength. Compare a tractor trailer and a Ferrari— It’s great to have a ton of horsepower, but for high-performance it’s best to generate horsepower rapidly.
In this case explosive barbell exercises are best using loads between 30%-85% for multiple low-rep sets is best. (Baechle & Earle, 2008). Maximum power is achieved through moving moderate loads at high velocity with loads of 40-60% 1-rm. For a big squat speed squats are ideal for power development, technique practice, and increased work capacity. Brace hard, use a rapid, yet controlled descent and explode out of the hole.
With lower resistances speed-strength is addressed with an emphasis on velocity of movement against a small load. This could be a sled sprint with 10% bodyweight, light jump-squats, or single leg plyometric.
Speed: Pure velocity is the key and exercises like un-weighted box jumps, broad jumps and sprint work. If a big squat is your focus then jumps are the best option because they match the mechanical movement of the squat and have minimal risk compared to sprints.
Your best choices are broad jumps, vertical jumps, and box jumps to increase your rate of force development and explode through stick points.
[Side Note: If you’re an athlete that requires speed for on-field dominance there needs to be a premium placed on it. In this case intense movement skills like acceleration and top end speed should be the first priority in your training, not lifting maximal weight.]
Squat Pattern Velocity Movements:
For developing a strong, explosive squat the intensities on the force velocity curve must be trained. Not every quality must be trained in each training session, but all need to be addressed. Squatting twice per week allows you to do just that with one heavy and one speed session. Separate these sessions by at least 48-72 hours for full recovery.
Here are the best exercises for the squat pattern in the Force-Velocity Continuum: It’s simple– contrary to what Tracy Anderson says, if you lift foo-foo weights your body won’t surpass it’s minimal essential strain. The SAID principle states that specific adaptations occur based on the imposed demands. You must train each quality of the strength curve to minimize imbalances and develop balanced strength, power, and speed.
Speed: Box Jump, vertical jump, broad jump
Speed-Strength: Dumbbell or Vertimax jump squat
Strength-Speed: Speed Squats with 40-75%
Maximum Strength: Squat singles at 85-95%+
Targeting the squat pattern with multiple sessions per week while addressing force-velocity spectrum leads to greater gains in power, strength, and explosiveness.
Day 1: Speed-Strength+ Maximum Strength
Dynamic Movement and (optional) movement skills
1a. DB Jump Squat 3×5
1b. Plank 3×45 sec
2a. Heavy Squat 5×2-3 @ 85-95%
2b. lateral band march x8
3a. Bulgarian Split Squat 3×8-10
3b. Palloff Press 3×12
4. Sled March/ Prowler Push
Day 2: Upper Body Push/Pull
Day 3: Strength-Speed + Speed
Dynamic Movement and (optional) movement skills
1a.Broad Jump 3×5
1b. Side Plank 3×30 sec.
2a. Speed Squat 5×3-5 @40-75%
2b. Fire Hydrant x8
3a. Barbell RDL 4×8-10
3b. BW Glute Bridge 4×12
4. DB Walking Lunge 2-3×8-12
Day 4: Upper Body Push/Pull
It’s not typical for most to squat more than once per week, but neither is being strong, shredded, and athletic.
At some point you’ll plateau and gains stop getting results so easily. When it happens it’s frustrating and leaves you searching the “interwebz” for answers. This plan teaches you how to squat big weight– with multiple sessions, fluctuating intensity, and training multiple qualities to achieve rapid gains in explosive strength and power.
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