Ready to attempt a new squat PR? Or maybe the plan is to just work up to heavy sets of 3 reps? Well, the worst thing you can do is knock out a few warm-ups sets then go for the big one.
To pull off a great back squat, you need to have a tightly squeezed back, a well braced core, and fully firing glutes. Do these three exercises first to make sure your body is primed and ready.
Exercise 1: Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown
The back squat requires a ton of upper back tightness to distribute force into the bar effectively. And you need a decent amount of shoulder mobility to put you into a position where you can get tight. To squat effectively, you should be squeezing your lats and pulling the bar down into the upper back to keep your torso as tight as possible.
Performing some light reps with a wide-grip lat pulldown will not only activate your lats, it'll also prep your shoulders for the motion needed to pull the bar into your back. You don't need to go super heavy on these. Just do few sets of 8-12 reps.
Exercise 2: Dead Bug
The dead bug helps you practice bracing your core. This movement, much like the squat, requires that your core stabilize your lower back while your limbs move. Doing this before your first set of squats teaches you to activate your deep core stabilizers that keep your body from crumpling while under a heavy load.
When you do this movement, contract intensely. Do NOT be lackadaisical. Imagine that a motorcycle is about to run over your midsection and you have no choice but to brace. That is how hard you should be bearing down on each rep. Fewer reps are better than a lot of reps as long as they're done with intensity.
Exercise 3: Banded Squats
Few people use bands when doing their warm-up sets, but they should try it. Placing a "Slingshot" or hip circle just above the knees is a great way to get extra glute activation before you go for your heavy lift.
Having the band around your knees forces you to drive them outward and helps you figure out how to "spread the floor" to get your butt to work for you. Since your glutes are the most powerful muscle in your body, it's essential you get them firing before going for your big lift.