The Intelligent & Relentless Pursuit of Muscle™

An Explosive Squat is a Bigger Squat


6 Coaches Weigh in on Pull-Ups

That's what I kept repeating to myself as I approached the bar loaded with 905 pounds.

If I did it, I'd own the American Record raw squat in the 308 weight class.

I wanted to launch the bar so fast it would blast through the roof, and I needed explosive strength to make that happen.

Some experts question whether explosiveness is that important or even trainable, but I question just how strong these experts actually are themselves.

Because in my experience – and I have my share – there's no way around it. To squat huge weights, you must be explosive.

However, effectively developing this quality is complicated, and also not easy. An explosive squat requires that 4 crucial training aspects be addressed – jumping, heavy squats, speed squats, and pause squats.

Yes, 4 separate training modalities. Skip just one and you won't reach your full potential as each addresses a different component of the squatting movement. The reward, however, is a tightly wired muscular system that's primed like a bomb, ready to explode out of the hole with huge weights.


Jumps

I don't advocate sprint training if your primary goal is improving your squat because it carries too high an injury risk with it. Jumps, however, will serve to develop your rate of force development (RFD), and enhance your ability to accelerate the bar through sticking points.

This program will employ weighted box jumps, box jumps, and depth jumps to enhance your RFD.

It's critical when performing box jumps to focus on displacing your hips as high as possible, not just pulling your knees up to land on the box. You shouldn't use a box that causes you to land in anything lower than a parallel squat, and make sure you land on the box softly on all reps.

Depth jumps are an extremely powerful training tool but are also very taxing to the body and nervous system, so they must be used strategically.

The following video goes into the 3 jumping variations:


Heavy Squats

To squat big weights, you of course have to squat big weights. However, weight selection for your heavy work is critical – you need to ensure that you !

Missing reps doesn't make you stronger, making them does. You'll be much better served to take 10-15 pounds off your training weights and dominating them then going for broke each training session.

Being able to walk away from a training set of 3 reps and telling yourself that you could've done it for 5 will not only build strength without overtaxing your CNS, it will also build confidence – and confidence is extremely important when squatting huge weights.


Speed Squats

Speed squats – also called compensatory acceleration squats – will ingrain your technique, build your work capacity, and give you practice imparting maximal velocity to the bar.

Your speed squats will be performed after your heaviest set of squats and done on controlled rest periods to improve your general fitness.

It's imperative that you always try to move the bar as fast as possible during these sets – I try to do the whole set in one breath. Take a huge breath into your belly before beginning the initial descent and hold it throughout the set.

Think about trying to perform 1 rep per second, so aim to perform a set of 4 reps in 4 seconds or under. These sets are also the best time to perfect your technique, so while speed is critical, speed with optimal technique is even more important.

One of the most common errors made by people when squatting maximal loads is lowering the bar too slowly or slower than you would during lighter sets; use these sets to become more comfortable without a quick descent.


Pause Squats

Right out of the hole is the most common place that raw lifters miss squats. To train the explosive strength qualities needed to improve this area of your squat, pause squats are a simple (but not easy) answer.

We'll do pause squats with 7, 5 and 3-second pauses in the bottom position. These long pauses will teach you to "turn it on" coming out of the hole, while building strength in the hips and back.

Paused work will also teach your body to find its strongest position and improve your ability to replicate this position during regular squatting.

The other way raw squatters typically miss weights is that they fall forward due to upper back weakness. Using a Safety Squat Bar (if you have access to one) for pause squats will help correct this while building strength out of the hole with the pause.

Here's an accompanying video that breaks down these squat variations further:


The Program

6 Coaches Weigh in on Pull-Ups

Ready to put these 4 components together into a training program that will turn you into an explosive squatting machine?

Here's a 13-week squat program designed to radically improve your explosiveness in the squat. Perform this workout once per week in place of your typical "squat day."

Week 1

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Box Jump 6 3*
Holding 25-pound dumbbells
B Squat   3
Ramp up to 80% of 1RM
C Speed Squat 5 4**
1 min rest periods
D Narrow Stance 7-Second Pause Squat 3 5***
E Weighted Sit-Up 5 15

Week 2

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Box Jump 5 2*
Hholding 25-pound dumbbells
B Squat   3
Ramp up to 85% of 1RM
C Speed Squat 6 4**
1 min rest periods
D Narrow Stance 7-Second Pause Squat 3 5***
E Weighted Sit-Up 5 15

Week 3

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Box Jump 4 1*
Holding 25-pound dumbbells
B Squat   3
Ramp up to 90% of 1RM
C Speed Squat 7 4**
1 min rest periods
D Narrow Stance 7-Second Pause Squat 3 5***
E Weighted Sit-Up 5 15

Week 4 (Deload)

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Box Jump 3 3*
B Squat 3 3**
C Weighted Sit-Up 3 10

Week 5

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Box Jump 6 3*
B Squat   2
Ramp up to 92.5% of 1RM
C Speed Squat 6 3**
90 sec rest periods
D Narrow Stance 7-Second Pause Squat 3 5***
E Weighted Sit-Up 5 12

Week 6

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Box Jump 5 2*
B Squat   2
Ramp up to 95% of 1RM
C Speed Squat 5 3**
90 sec rest periods
D Narrow Stance 5-Second Pause Squat 3 4***
E Weighted Sit-Up 5 12

Week 7

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Box Jump 4 1*
B Squat   2
Ramp up to 97.5% of 1RM
C Speed Squat 4 3**
90 sec rest periods
D Narrow Stance 5-Second Pause Squat 3 4***
E Weighted Sit-Up 5 12

Week 8 (Deload)

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Box Jump 3 3*
B Squat 3 3**
C Weighted Sit-Up 3 10

Week 9

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Depth Jump 2 5
From 12-inch box
B Squat   1
Ramp up to 100% of 1RM
C Speed Squat 4 2*
2 min rest periods
D Narrow Stance 3-Second Pause Squat 3 3**
E Weighted Sit-Up 5 12

Week 10

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Depth Jump 2 4
From 18-inch box
B Squat   1
Ramp up to 102.5% of 1RM
C Speed Squat 3 2*
2 1/2 min rest periods
D Narrow Stance 3-Second Pause Squat 3 3**
E Weighted Sit-Up 4 10

Week 11

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Depth Jump 2 3
From 24-inch box
B Squat   1
Ramp up to 105% of 1RM
C Speed Squat 2 2*
2 1/2 min rest periods
D Narrow Stance 3-Second Pause Squat 3 3**
E Weighted Sit-Up 3 10

Week 12 (Deload)

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Box Jump 3 3*
B Squat 3 3**
C Weighted Sit-Up 3 10

Week 13

  Exercise Sets Reps
A Box Jump 3 3, 2, 1
Increasing height each set to activate the central nervous system
B Squat   1
Work up to a new 1RM!


Light it Up!

Make no mistake, this program is decidedly more complicated than your typical "leg program." And it might even be overkill for those still happily adding weight every week while riding the wave of newbie gains.

But at some point, for everyone, the easy gains stop coming, and further progress requires taking your programming to the next level.

Take a step back from the rack and evaluate your program – are you doing enough to (intelligently) develop explosiveness? If not, I can guarantee you're shortchanging your progress.

Give this program a run for the next 3 months and get on the explosive path to a new PR!



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