squats & variations
Power Rack Eccentric Potentiation (PREP) is a great negative-accentuated training protocol for maximizing strength, hypertrophy, and power as well minimizing safety concerns associated with eccentric training. This technique can be effectively applied to squats and upper body barbell pressing variations. A similar effect can also be produced using weight releasers.
Dr. Seedman's client and NPC figure competitor Leslie Lee performs one and a half style squats using the safety bar with approximately 135lbs. Notice how she gets proper depth without collapsing or loosing tightness. This is a great technique for loading the quads particularly the vastus lateralis which gets emphasized in the bottom half of the squat.
This eccentric isometric BOSU squat is one of the most challenging stabilization exercises for the lower body. The stimulus to the feet, ankles, and toes is very intense. Progress first by starting with the eyes open variation then move to the eyes closed version shown here. These are not for overloading the lower body's prime movers; instead, they target foot and ankle activation--a common area of weakness even in advanced athletes.
Dr. Seedman's client demonstrates proper foot and ankle positioning on eccentric isometric pause squats. Notice the arches in his feet. Placing more weight on the outer portion of his feet and ankles helps stabilize the movement. You can also see that his toes are just slightly flared (mostly straight ahead) rather than excessively flared or externally rotated (a common flaw with many lifters).
One of Dr. Seedman's bodybuilding clients shows great strength and excellent muscle function and technique in this video. The bands and chains add accommodating resistance, with the bottom weighing approximately 325 and the top weighing well over 400.
The hand clean and front squat combo is a great way to work both hip speed and power (via the clean) as well as strength, force production, and lower body hypertrophy (via the front squat). Most people collapse on the front squat. To avoid this keep the hips set back and the core tight throughout.
Most individuals perform the front squat improperly as they allow their knees to shift too far forward. The hips need to sit back just like any other proper squat variation. Performing this slowly with an eccentric isometric will more easily allow the lifter to correct and adjust their technique.
Hanging Band squats are an excellent variation of barbell back squats that focus on stability and motor control. Focus on keeping the core tight and locking the spine into position throughout. Partial repetitions will allow for greater control and constant tension throughout.
Weighted Jump Squats are treating for increasing explosiveness in the entire lower body and improving vertical jump. Try landing back in the bottom of a squat, pausing, then exploding up again for each rep.
The bodyweight jump squat is a great power movement that can be performed anywhere. Squat down slowly, pause, and explode upwards while keeping perfect body alignment. In reality you are performing both an eccentric isometric (pause at the bottom of a squat) followed by an explosive jump.
The single arm squat with a kettlebell hanging between the legs is a simple yet highly effective drill for teaching proper squatting mechanics. Having the weight between the legs makes the movement feel very natural. However, the single arm variation forces greater core innervation which can do wonders for cleaning up technique issues and eliminating dysfunction. Don't go past parallel and keep a neutral spine throughout.
Once you've mastered the normal goblet squat the single arm variation performed with a kettlebell really helps to engage the core even further while reinforcing proper hip positioning. The key is to avoid collapsing by keeping the hips pushed back throughout rather than letting them shoot forward.
The Hanging Band Technique (HBT) Barbell Squat is one of the best squat variations you can perform. Not only does it crush the entire lower body but Its great for correcting technique and addressing movement imbalances.
Most athletes and advanced level trainees should be capable of performing eyes closed movements with at least 80-90% of the same load they use under eyes open conditions. If this is not feasible its often a strong indication that they lack proprioception, stability, motor control, and proper muscle spindle activation.
Bottoms-up exercises are some of the most difficult strength training movements there are. Besides requiring full body tightness, all bottoms-up movements force the lifter to stabilize every muscle throughout the body especially in the core and upper torso. When used in conjunction with a squat not only will they improve the squat pattern but they'll also teach you to stay in control of the movement.
The Bottoms Up Squat is a great squat variation for enhancing technique and full body tension on the squat pattern. Bottoms-up exercises are some of the most difficult strength training movements there are. Besides requiring full body tightness, all bottoms-up movements force the lifter to stabilize every muscle throughout the body especially in the core and upper torso. When performing bottoms up movement be sure to get good thoracic extension.
Dr. Seedman tweaked legendary powerlifter Ed Coan’s sumo deadlift to make it more joint friendly and conducive for maximizing strength, hypertrophy, and performance for athletes and general populations alike.
Performing negative or eccentric accentuated deadlifts (slow lowering phase), combined with the squat-stance or semi-sumo stance is a great movement for increasing strength and power. Ed Coan used a similar technique and stance for breaking numerous deadlift records in the sport of powerlifting many of which still stand to this day.
Combining eccentric isometrics with squat-stance deadlifts (a stance similar to what Ed Coan used), is a great method for improving technique, proprioception, sensory feedback, movement mechanics, mobility, stability, strength, and hypterpohy. Perform the eccentric phase very slowly and pause at the bottom position for several seconds before powerfuly driving the weight up.
Performing squats with accommodating resistance such as bands and chains increases tension throughout the body forcing the lifter to stay incredibly tight and locked in. Furthermore, it requires the lifter to lift with maximal force and power production on the concentric phase in order to accelerate through the additional tension provided by the bands and chains.
This is an awkward and difficult, yet highly effective, deadlift/squat variation for improving strength and mechanics, especially for the squat-stance deadlift. Once you go back to normal squats and deadlifts, form and technique will feel more locked in than ever. Due to the movement's difficulty, start with half your body weight then move up gradually to a goal of bodyweight.
Front squats are a great squat variation for targeting the entire lower body. When performed with lighter loads using compensatory acceleration (intention to lift the weight as explosively as possible), they also become a highly effective power movement. Be sure to keep the hips pushed back, chest out, knees out, and feet fairly straight (don't let them flare out excessively).
High rep deadlifts are a brutal but effective way to finish your deadlift session. Use 60-70% 1RM and aim for 8-10 perfect reps. Focus on keeping your spine and overall body mechanics locked in throughout, especially as you fatigue.
Here's one of my clients using excellent form for squat stance deadlifts. Adding chains with a moderately light loads is a great way to provide accommodating resistance and work on power output. Focus on driving with the hips and squeezing the glutes powerfully at the top.
If you're looking to change up your deadlift or squat workout, try performing this unique kettlebell variation. For an added boost in intensity, try adding chains. As far execution, simply lift the weight up 1 inch off the floor, pause, drive to the top, lower slowly, pause 1 inch from the floor, set the weight back to the floor gently, then repeat. Simple but brutal and highly effective for increasing, strength, size, functional muscle mass, motor control, and technique.
Here's one of Dr. Seedman's female figure athletes demonstrating the belt squat, a unique-yet effective-squat variation for isolating the lower body while taking stress off the low back. The first rep will usually be a "feel rep" where you'll need to adjust your body and become familiar with the position (as you can see my client doing here). After that, you should feel a natural path to follow.
This is a simple yet highly effective squat variation for eliminating the common values and ankle knee collapse as the plates placed between the legs force the lifter to spread the knees and achieve proper hip mechanics.
Overcoming isometrics are a great training tool for creating post activation potentiation, and can be employed on squats and other movements, including deadlifts, RDL's, bench press, bent over rows, incline presses, pull-ups, bicep curls, and overhead presses. These are great for strength, power, and hypertrophy.
The reverse band squat is an excellent squat variation that involves accommodating resistance. The allows the lifter to handle heavier weight as the bands help to de-load the hardest portion of the movement which is the bottom. Here's one of my football players performing it with very heavy weight.
The goblet squat is a great exercise; however, holding a heavy dumbbell can become quite exhausting for the shoulders and arms. This keeps the lifter from being able to full tax the legs. Performing them with additional weight by loading chains around the neck and traps is a fantastic method for resolving this issue as the added load places greater stress on the legs without fatiguing the upper body further. In addition performing them as eccentric isometrics as shown in the video by going slow on the negative and pausing in the stretched position places greater stress on the surrounding musculature.
Varying your squat angle just slightly by elevating a portion of your foot can alter the emphasis and dictate which portion of the lower body you're targeting most. When the toes are elevated it forces the hips back further placing more stress on the posterior chain, glutes, and hamstrings. When the heels are slightly elevated, this places greater stress on the quads. The normal stance (no foot elevation) hit's the lower body equally. This tri-set squat combination is a great way to increase hypertrophy and size gains throughout the entire lower body.
Besides being an excellent speed and power movement for the lower body, the narrow stance dumbbell squat jump crushes the traps and upper back due to the rapid eccentric contraction produced from having to control the dumbbells during the landing. Start with very light loads to work on mechanics and technique before increasing the weight
The kettlebell racked front squat is an excellent movement not only for taxing the entire lower body but also for working the shoulders, upper back, core, and spinal stabilizers. It's also joint friendly as it tends to be less stressful on the low back, knees, and hips.
The 1.5 squat technique is a highly effective squatting protocol to crush your legs including the quads, hamstrings, and glutes, as well as the core and upper body stabilizers. It teaches proper form, tightness, motor control, and provides incredible levels of constant and high tension as it essentially eliminates momentum. Try pausing at both positions by using eccentric isometrics. This further enhances the effectiveness of the movement.
Most individuals perform Zercher squats incorrectly by allowing the hips to sink too far down and forward while producing little if any hip hinge mechanics. Similar to any squat creating a hip hinge (hips pressed back, while keeping the chest represents the ideal squatting mechanics for the human body. This places no stress on the joints and works the targeted muscles most efficiently.
Here's a unique 3 stance protocol I have my clients and athletes use periodically. Simply perform 2-3 reps of a close stance squat, 2-3 medium stance squat width, then 2-3 more squats using a wide stance. I also like to change up the order by periodically starting with the wide stance. The closer stance targets more of the outer thighs and outer hips while the wide stance targets more of the inner thighs and glutes. Besides being an excellent drill for bodybuilders using various stances is important for athletes as they need to be strong in a variety of positions. Notice how the depth and mechanics are nearly identical from squat to squat even though the stance width changes. Regardless of squat variation and stance positions, parallel squat mechanics (roughly) with solid hip hinge mechanics should always occur.
The dead stop barbell squat from pins is an awesome protocol to help improve power and force production as it forces the lifter to overcome inertia and move a heavy weight from a dead stop position. Although you can use a variety of heights the one I use most frequently is the position that most closely resembles where the individual's squat depth naturally occurs at which is just at parallel or slightly above. This can also be done with high bar or low bar squat positions. Here's one of my bodybuilding and powerlifting athletes Ben Lai showing how it's done.