"Paused" squats with 260 lbs. It looks like I found a good weight to use as a metric for improving: it’s hard with a pause and my knees are moving. Hopefully my hip and glute strengthening regimen can help keep me on track. #illinipowerlifting #activeillini #powerlifting #squat #lift

5 Energy Escapes Sabotaging Your Squat

Take a look at the top powerlifters in the sport and you will note that they have everything in their performance pat down to a science. Every movement has purpose and anything more is a waste of energy.

Ultimately the goal as a powerlifter is to get to this level but we often struggle with what the elite make look “easy”. Here I will highlight 5 of the biggest mistakes I see people do that may be costing them some pounds on the bar.

1. You Haven’t Figured Out Depth

Hitting depth should be a calculated approach. A simple down movement, you should know where your spot is and come up the instant you hit it. One of the problems I find people doing is that they “fish” for their depth. Their not really sure where it is because they haven’t mentally noted it properly so they end up coming too slow and awkward down into the hole trying to figure it out. This can take away from taking advantage of the stretch reflex at the bottom which bounces you up.

Tip: Have someone call your depth for you, once you hit it have them call you up until you have it ingrained in your head. This way you can become more confident with coming down and using the stretch reflex at the bottom.

2. You are Pausing your Squats and not Being Explosive

Whether it’s 45lbs on the bar or 500lbs you should always be putting force into that bar. A problem I’ve noted is some lifters treating their squats like they are bodybuilding. They come down in a controlled motion, kind of sit at the bottom for a bit, then come back up in the same controlled motion. Now this is great if you’re trying to focus on muscle growth but when we’re talking about RAW strength you need to be EXPLOSIVE, not slow! So don’t sit down there! Hit your spot and drive back up with confidence and authority.

Tip: Start with the warm ups. You don’t have to throw the bar through the ceiling but just get that ingrained in your head. By the time you get to your heavier sets you’ll find it moving a lot faster!

3. You Are Hyping Yourself Up Too Much

Yes you should always be excited and amped up to lift but if it’s coming to the point where you finally get under the bar and you feel even the slightest bit tired; then you know you are overdoing it. Yelling isn’t for everyone so don’t feel forced to do it! Remember that the only place where your energy exertion counts is under that bar, not putting on a show leading up to it.

Tip: Figure out what works best for your self. If you like to grunt, do it! If you need loud music, sure! If you’re quiet as a mouse, nothing wrong with that. Whatever you do, DON’T let it take away from your lift by exhausting your energy before you even squat.

4. You are “Dancing” Too Much

Great squatters grab the bar, take it out, squat, lock out, and rack the weight. Problem I see with some squatters is they “dance” too much. They get under the bar and maybe take an extra step out. They finally stand and fidgit their feet around. Their hands open and close around the bar, sometimes even shift their hands closer or out. Then they finally squat. This is a complete waste of energy. It should be done in one concise practice!

Tip: Watch great squatters, learn, and try to apply it for yourself. Video tape yourself and find what you may be doing and try fix it in real time on video. Start with the bar so by the time it gets heavy, you can work on it when it matters.

5. You Are Losing Tightness In the Hole

Last but not least the biggest and most important thing is too stay tight at all times. Most especially in the hole when the weight bears on you the most. Problem I see is people either dive bombing, or letting their breath out at the bottom. Couple this with their upper back getting lose and you get a harder squat out of something that should have been easy.

Tip: Learn to breath and use your belt. Take your breath at the top, KEEP IT, and don’t let it out until your at the top again. Also please don’t fiddle with the bar, grab it tight like your life depending on it and make sure your back stays tight with it too!

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