Ask most of our athletes what my favorite lift is, and they'll probably tell you it's the deadlift. Now, while I do truly love the sound of iron hitting the ground only to be hoisted up once again, another exercise will forever hold a special place in my heart. That exercise would be the squat.
Front squat, back squat, low bar, high bar, overhead... it really doesn't matter. They're all fantastic variations of a basic movement pattern that everyone would be wise to adopt into their exercise routine.
Oftentimes I hear people claim they can't perform squats in the gym because they don't have a partner to help spot them. While I appreciate the insistence on safety, there are ways to get around this issue and still train the squat pattern, so quit being lazy and get squattin'!
Today we'll go over two squat variations that you can perform without a spotter, and a system for ensuring steady, consistent progression.
The Goblet Squat
I'd reckon that the goblet squat may be the most underrated, and possibly unknown, exercise of all time. It's really a shame too, because this exercise done properly has almost unlimited potential for progression. You can add load, you can add reps, you can manipulate tempo; the options are truly endless. The goblet squat is appropriate for beginners, it works well for the intermediate, and can even be utilized effectively by even the most advanced trainee.
Check out the video below for a quick overview of how to perform the goblet squat correctly.
Double Arm Racked Squat
The natural progression from the goblet squat, this variation allows us to add more load to the trainee while also preparing them for more advanced variations. Like the goblet squat, the placement of the load on the front of the shoulders forces the athlete's torso into a more upright position, applies a training stimulus to the upper body musculature, and provides a natural progression to a front squat with a barbell.
Check out the video below for a brief tutorial.
A System of Progression
As you know from my recent blog posts, the key to gaining strength is following the principle of progressive overload. Simply put, you need to be doing more work today then you did last week, more work next month than you completed this month. It's all about increasing the volume of your training over time. This following system of linear progression will provide you with a simple, and effective, way of doing just that.
The first thing to do would be to pick a weight that you can squat about 9 or 10 times before your form breaks down. This will be your working weight for the first cycle. For the below example, we'll start with a working weight of 35 pounds.
Wk 1: 35lbs - 3 sets of 7 reps
Wk 2: 35lbs - 3 sets of 8 reps
Wk 3: 35lbs - 3 sets of 9 reps
Wk 4: 35 lbs - 3 sets of 10 reps
You may be thinking, "But Charlie, if I could only squat 35# 10 times the beginning of this program, how do you expect me to complete 3 sets of 10 by week 4??" This is the great thing about following this system. You'll be stronger by the time you hit week 4, and that weight that you could only previously squat for 10 repetitions, you can not squat for 12 to 15! It's simple, effective, and the perfect method for improving the performance of a beginner lifter.
After week 4 you will bump up the weight 5 pounds and start all over again. This provides a nice, clean way of progressively increasing your total volume without over-stressing your system.
Wk 5: 40lbs - 3 sets of 7 reps
Wk 6: 40lbs - 3 sets of 8 reps
Wk 7: 40lbs - 3 sets of 9 reps
Wk 8: 40lbs - 3 sets of 10 reps
And so on and so forth.
If you haven't actually taken the time to jump on a progressive system, now is the time to do it! Take these awesome squat variations, this simple method of increasing volume over time, and apply it to your next month of training!