If you have any desire to build muscle or strength you absolutely MUST squat. So let’s chat about Warming up for SQUAT days
Squatting is one of the best ways to build muscle mass in your body due to the hormonal response in your body when you lift heavy weight and it is one of the lifts where you can go the heaviest.
There are so many variations – back, front, overhead, split, bodyweight, bulgarian, sumo, quarter, box, pause… you name it!
Squatting builds your quads, hamstrings, glutes and core and increases flexibility, mobility, stability, balance and strength too.. it’s one of the most basic movements of the body and if you are training, you are squatting. It’s one of the three lifts tested in powerlifting and it’s one of the foundational movements in Crossfit and olympic weightlifting as well.
Over the last four years I’ve increased my back squat from 165 to 220 and front squat from 135 to 190 pounds. I have also suffered from a hip impingement and have had to do a lot of studying and work to be able to get to full depth, squat heavier and feel healthy doing it.
One of the greatest things that has impacted my ability to squat heavy and healthfully is how I warm up and today I am going to share that with you.
Something I notice in myself and most clients and athletes I watch squat is that so many people have tight hips so warming them up is super important, so the easiest thing here is to just squat. Don’t load any weight and focus on keeping your chest up and getting your butt past parallel.
You can hold onto a rig in front of you to help keep your chest upright or if you can balance without holding do that you can do this in front of a wall. If you have your form down pat by staying on your heels and keeping your chest upright while getting below parallel doing air squats may be a great way to warm up, but I like to take these one step further.
I like to take a medium resistance band and tie one end off around the rig so I can step into the band so that it falls just below the inside of my knee cap and I am facing the rig, and I back up just enough so I feel some resistance.
Once I do, I begin squatting so I can sit back and keep the weight in my heels just a bit more than it normally would and I squat from there. This helps me truly utilize my glutes and hamstrings while I warm up my squats. I typically do a set of 10 – 15 of these before moving onto my next warm up set..
For these I will take a very light resistance band and tie off about 3 inches of it, then double it. You will have to play around with the correct length for you but it should fit just above your knee caps with light resistance so it does not fall to the floor. From there you can begin your air squats, but the point here is to keep pushing your knees out to keep the band from falling to the ground. This helps reiterate that feeling or cue of “knees out” as you stand up out of the bottom of your squat. Once again, I do about 10 – 15 of these.
I then lie on my back with my knees at a 90 degree bend and perform glute bridges. BUT the key here is to make sure you are firing your glutes to raise your butt off the floor. The weight should be in your heels and you can even elevate your toes off the ground when doing these. As I raise my butt off the floor I squeeze my glutes and hamstrings to get them to fire because I am going to need them to do that as I stand up from my squat. I do about 10 – 15 of these before moving on.
While in the same position as my glute bridges, I place a four square ball (it’s just a little smaller than a basketball, but that size ball will work too) between my thighs and squeeze as hard as I can. I pulse these squeezes 10 – 15 times to get my midline firing. We have gotten our glutes and hammies going with the rest of these exercises, so waking up our mid-line is the final piece.
I go through this sequence of movements twice before I even get under a barbell to begin squatting.
One other “honorable mention” warm up exercise I do sometimes that is another great one are single leg deadlifts or SLDL’s. To perform these you will need one dumbbell or kettlebell in your right hand and stand only on your left foot. Your weight should be evenly distributed in that foot, but make sure you stay on your heel, then while maintaining balance, lower the weight toward the floor while keeping your chest up.
SLDL’s will help your hamstrings fire and you will most likely know right right away as they begin to burn as you are doing these. The weight should be kept pretty light, but something you can feel for about 8 – 12 reps on each leg. These also awaken our cores as well as our balance.
Try out these simple exercises before the next time you squat and let us know which you like best and how they help your performance!