Tag Archives: sldl

Squat Assistance Work

In this article, I’m going to break down my approach to assistance work for the barbell squat. If  you’re interested in information about the squat movement itself, read my Squat 101 article.

 

More Squats

To get better at the squat, most of my assistance work is simply squatting more. Because I currently use Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 (with principles from his new book Beyond 5/3/1), I do my warmup sets and then my 5/3/1 work sets. This is the main portion of my workout that almost never changes (unless I’m maxing out), but the rest of the workout will vary from cycle to cycle or even week to week.

Personally, one of the things I struggle with is speed, so a lot of my squat workouts recently have had a dynamic work component. This means, for example, that I will do 8 sets of 2 repetitions with 60% of my one repetition maximum. You can get a lot more details about the Dynamic Effort Method from ‘The Westside Barbell Book of Methods‘ (by Louie Simmons from Westside Barbell). You can also read about it in Jordan Syatt’s article ‘Incorporating the Dynamic Effort Method‘. The main point to take away from that is to find a weakness in your squat and improve it.

Similarly, if you’re weak out of the bottom of the squat, pause squats are a great idea. When you reach the bottom position of the squat, stay there for a second, and then use your glutes (as you always should) to squat back up. This almost eliminates the stretch reflex (or the ‘bounce out of the hole’) and allows you to train your glutes, which are extremely important for a strong squat. The pause squat variations shown in the video of the month I posted up a couple days ago are also great and will improve your flexiblity a lot.

Again, all of these are just examples. The point is to find what a weakness is in your squat and attack it with some variations of the squat. Bands and/or chains might also benefit you to alter resistance. I would recommend reading this article about bands and chains written by Dave Tate.

I also do front squats as a warmup on my deadlift day, which increases my frequency for the squat (along with other benefits).

 

Posterior Chain Work

Because I squat high bar, the movement places more stress on my quadriceps than my hamstrings. As a result, I do some work for my posterior chain after I’m done squatting.

Band Good Morning

This is quickly turning into my favorite posterior chain exercise.  I choose this variation of the Good Morning movement for a very simple reason: At this point in the workout, I’m generally tired of having a barbell on my back from all the squatting, so I choose to do these with a band instead. It allows me to get some valuable posterior chain work in without having to put a barbell on my back.

If you have access to a safety squat bar, it might make the regular Good Morning a more feasible option for you. A video of the Band Good Morning is below, but I actually hook the band to something in front of me as shown in this video. Also check out this video about the Barbell Good Morning.

Stiff Legged Deadlift (SLDL)

Another excellent exercise for your hamstrings and entire posterior chain.

Cable Pull Through

This one is great for your hips as well.

Kettlebell Swing

These will also hit your hips and your entire posterior chain. They will also help make you more explosive.

Glute Bridge

I also like to do a band variation of this movement right now because most of my energy is used for squats, but doing them with a loaded barbell is a great idea as well.

Hip Thrust

Another great one for your hips and glutes.

Glute Ham Raise

I can’t do a posterior chain exercise list without these.

 

Abs

Strong abdominal muscles and core stability are important with the squat. I don’t like sit ups, because they tend to involve the lower back (not in a good way) a lot unless your form is absolutely perfect. I’m also not a fan of most crunch variations for the same reason, but I do like the one below.

Standing Cable Crunch

I actually do this one on my deadlift day, because it’s basically the opposing movement pattern. It could easily be used on squat day as well though.

Ab Wheel Rollouts

These are my favorite abdominal exercise. It’s optimal to have an ab wheel to perform this exercise, but you can also load some plates on a barbell and do rollouts with that.

Planks

These are a great exercise to build some baseline core stability. I think you should be able to hold a plank for 60 seconds or longer. The ability to hold your core stable will help in keeping your torso rigid during the squat. This will help prevent rounding in your back. The Hardcore Plank can also be a challenge on its own. Some more plank variations are shown in the video below.

Rotational Core Exercises

These are mainly to strengthen your obliques. Elliott Hulse describes a few variations in the video below.

 

Explosiveness and Conditioning

Dynamic effort or speed squats as described above (in the ‘More Squats’ paragraph) will help develop more explosive power and speed, but there are some other ways to do this as well.

Box Jumps

Other jump exercises can also benefit you. You can make jumping an entire separate workout, so choose something simple if you’re doing it at the end of a squat workout.

You’ll need something like a plyo box to jump onto. You can also build your own.

Sprints

My favorite are hill sprints. Jim Wendler also recommends them in his 5/3/1 book, which is the training program I follow as mentioned above.

Prowler Pushes

These are terrific. Like sprints and jumps, you might want to make these a separate workout. You’ll need a prowler or just get the Butcher from Rogue. It’s basically the same thing and a little cheaper I believe. Or you can go all out and get this badass push/pull sled.

 

Lower Back

A lot of the posterior chain exercises will target this (i.e. the Good Morning and SLDL), but if you need some more lower back work, here are a couple exercises I like.

Back Extension or Hyperextension

You can also use a jumpstretch band and wrap it around your neck. Or simply hold a weight. (My personal preference would be a band though.)

Reverse Hypers

Who better to teach it than Louie Simmons?

 

Unilateral Exercises

While I don’t think it’s wise to replace bilateral leg exercises with exercises done on one leg, I do think unilateral exercises can be a nice addition to your squat workout. Below are a few exercises I like.

Bulgarian Split Squat

Pistol Squat

 

Lunges

There are a ton of different lunge exercises you can do. They’re great for increasing flexibility and also strengthening your legs.

Body Weight Forward Lunge

You can add a weighted vest, a barbell (front rack or on your back) or hold dumbbells to make it more difficult.

Rear or Reverse Lunge

This one is shown with a front loaded barbell, but you can do them without weight, with dumbbells, etc. as well of course. I actually prefer these over forward lunges.

 

Other Things to Consider

Obviously the list above is not a complete one of all the options available to you. They are simply a selection of my personal favorite exercises within those categories. I don’t do all of these exercises every squat workout, but I try to hit my weaknesses in various ways when I have the energy and time. You will have to prioritize what is most important to you and select exercises accordingly.

Hip flexibility and ankle flexibility are very important with the squat. I’ve written articles on both topics already, so I’m not going to cover them in this article. It’s already getting long with all the exercises. Most of my mobility and active recovery work is done with separate workouts, but a nice way to finish a squat day is to do a few explosive hip mobility drills as seen in the video below.

 

I think that about covers my approach to assistance work for the squat. This actually turned into a longer article than I was expecting. Again… I wouldn’t recommend doing all of the exercises listed all the time. They are just some options I like to target weak areas. Simply squatting a lot will usually translate to a stronger squat, but sometimes you need to tweak things a little bit to improve something.

I’m not a doctor, personal trainer or anything like that. I’m simply a guy who loves to lift weights and acquire knowledge on the topic. If you have something to add to this article, feel free to leave a comment.

Deadlift Basics

Other basics write-ups: Squat | Bench Press | OHP | Barbell Row

 

Today was deadlift day for my training program, which is now a hybrid of 5/3/1 and The Cube Method (simply for reference), so I decided to do a write up on the movement. Whether you’re new or have deadlifted before, you might learn some things. This is knowledge I’ve acquired over the last three years that I have been deadlifting regularly. The combination of this knowledge and my efforts in the gym has helped me pull 215kg/474lbs (as of 6/11/13) at a body weight of 85kg/187lbs. My goal for 2013 is to deadlift 230kg/507lbs by the end of the year. We’ll see if I get there. 🙂

(Tip: Read Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe for an in depth description of the deadlift.)

In this article, I’m just going to give you some videos to watch for the barbell deadlift movement. Typing up everything would be far too tedious for my aching hands.

 

The Deadlift Setup

From Mark Rippetoe himself: The Deadlift Setup

An interesting tweak  to engage your lats more and keep your arms straight, courtesy of Jonnie Candito: How to Engage Your Lats When You Grab the Bar

 

The Pull

Candito goes through the entire deadlift process in the following video:

Deadlift 101 by Brandon Lilly is another awesome one.

From Mark Rippetoe: Deadlift Back Angles (especially valuable information to keep in mind for sets with multiple reps)

Also a great playlist about the deadlift: Deadlift Playlist on YouTube

Elliott Hulse teaching Omar Isuf how to deadlift: How to Rebuild Your Deadlift

How to Deadlift (another good video)

 

How to Grip the Bar

Your best bet is the double overhand grip. Use this until weights get too heavy for you to handle with the overhand grip. Make sure you’re gripping the bar properly during the deadlift. This also applies to other pulling movements. Video on that: Rip on Grip (Bonus: Gripping the bar in this manner will reduce callus formation during pull movements like the deadlift.)

Once your overhand grip gives out, improve your grip by using lifting chalk. If your gym does not allow the use of lifting chalk, try an alternative like Liquid Grip or an eco ball.

When your chalked overhand grip no longer does the trick, you have three valid options: Use a mixed grip, use straps and/or use a hook grip. I’ll give you a quick breakdown of the positives/negatives of each option.

Mixed Grip: This is where one hand is in an overhand/pronated grip and the other hand is in an underhand/supinated grip. The positive is that you can pull more weight like this than with a double overhand grip. The negative is that it increases your chance of tearing a bicep.

Using Straps: This is where you’d use lifting straps to help you hang onto the barbell when weight gets too heavy for a double overhand grip (with chalk or a chalk alternative). The positive is that you can use more weight without grip being a limiting factor. You’re also much less likely to tear a bicep than you are with a mixed grip. The negative is that you’ll have to do extra grip training and that you can’t use straps in a powerlifting competition obviously.

Hook Grip: The hook grip is a very good option. The only negative aspect is that it will be painful to get used to the hook grip and it’s not too feasible for most people to use this grip on high repetition deadlift sets. I would say that it’s a valid option for pulling lower rep sets and possibly can be used in competition as well.

Below is a video from Jonnie Candito on why he thinks you should avoid the mixed grip. I say make your own decision, but make it an educated one!

 

Sumo Deadlift

I don’t pull this way, but many people do. Here are some videos relating to the sumo deadlift.

Sumo vs Conventional Deadlift from strengthcamp

How to Sumo Deadlift with Mark Bell

How to Perform Sumo Deadlifts by Bret Contreras

 

Trap Bar Deadlift

Again, not something I do… but it’s an option. Video: Trap Bar Deadlift from Testosterone Nation

 

Stiff Legged Deadlift (SLDL)

This one’s from Candito!

 

Other variations you might want to look into would be block pulls, rack pulls, deficit deadlift, and Romanian Deadlift.

 

As always, this is just my take on things. Now go rip heavy shit off the ground!