Build STRONG AND POWERFUL Legs with High-Set Deep Squat Workouts
The latest research from the sports medicine lab is that high-set workouts build muscle size better than fewer sets. Australian scientists found that performing 8 sets of squats (80 percent of one repetition maximum) increased strength more than 1 set of squats. Squat strength increased by 19 percent in the 8-set group and 11 percent in the 1-set group after 12 weeks. High-set workouts build muscle strength and size best.
Squat below parallel: Canadian researchers found that squatting below parallel overloads the quads and glutes better than parallel or partial squats and triggers more significant muscle activation. Form often breaks down during deep squats. When learning this exercise, hinge at the hips and maintain a neutral spine. Avoid rounding the back and increase squat depth gradually. The squat is one of the best exercises for bodybuilders and power athletes. However, it is dangerous if performed incorrectly.
The best way to build tree trunk legs is to squat ‘til you drop! Squat two days per week for eight weeks and you will be amazed at how fast your legs grow and you build total body strength. Do the squat workout on Mondays and Fridays. Rest one minute between sets and five minutes between exercises. Use good form for all reps. Maintain a neutral spine during the exercises and explode out of the hole. Integrate this workout into your normal training program.
• Back squats, below parallel: 8 sets of 10 repetitions (80 percent of one repetition maximum for back squats)
• Front squats, below parallel: 4 sets of 10 repetitions (80 percent of one repetition maximum for front squats)
• Box squats, parallel: 8 sets of 10 repetitions (80 percent of one repetition maximum for box squats)
• Overhead squats, below parallel: 4 sets of 10 repetitions (80 percent of one repetition maximum for overhead squats)
The front squat is a variation of the squat used mainly in the training programs of Olympic-style weightlifters. It is also popular among cross-trainers. This lift is better for isolating the leg muscles than the regular squat, because you cannot use your back as much to assist in the movement; consequently, you cannot lift as much weight in this exercise.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointed slightly outward. Support the weight on your upper chest, elbows up, and bar resting on the ends of your fingers. Squat down until your butt is one inch lower than the knees. Do this exercise with good control because you can easily lose your balance. This exercise takes practice but is a terrific addition to a lower body training program.
The overhead squat is the granddaddy of whole-body functional exercises that demands good technique. Master this exercise and you join a select group of journeyman squatters. Few exercises build lower body and core fitness better than overhead squats. You must hinge at the hips and maintain a neutral spine or you won’t be able to do it— even with a bar or wooden dowel. Stand holding a barbell overhead with straight arms, feet placed slightly more than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out slightly, head neutral, and back straight. Center your weight over your arches or slightly behind. Squat down, keeping your weight centered over your arches and actively flex the hips (butt back) until your legs break parallel. During the movement, keep your back straight, shoulders back, chest out, and let your thighs part to the side so that you are “squatting between your legs.” Try to “spread the floor” with your feet. Push up to the starting position, maximizing the use of the posterior hip and thigh muscles, maintaining a straight back and neutral head position.
The box squat is a staple of athletes training at the Westside Barbell club in Columbus, Ohio. The gym is home to more than five athletes who can squat an incredible 1,100 pounds. This exercise involves squatting to a box, sitting upright, and then driving the hips vigorously to the starting position. On the way down, push your butt backward as much as possible, while keeping your shins straight. Push your thighs outward while pushing hard on the floor with the outside of your feet. Maintain a neutral spine and squat to the box. Next, drive upward from the box by pushing the traps into the bar first and explosively extending the hips and then the legs. Pushing with the legs prematurely will make you bend your back and risk injuring your spine. This is an advanced exercise, but it builds power for heavy lifting.
Power-rack squats allow you to use the power rack to overcome sticking points in the range of motion of the squat. Select three positions along the range of motion and work out at each one. Place the bar on the first pair of pegs that allows it to rest on your shoulders with your thighs parallel to the ground. Push the weight upward until you are standing upright. After your workout at the first position, move the pegs so that the bar lies in the middle of the range of motion. Repeat the exercise sequence. Finally, move the pegs so that the bar travels only a few inches during the exercise. At this peg, stop; you will be capable of handling much more weight than you can from the parallel squat position.
Putting It Together
These are just a few exercises that build lower body strength and power. Other exercises that you can add to your training arsenal include step-ups, lunges, one-leg squats, hack squats and Zercher squats. Make squats an important part of your workout and you will see amazing changes in whole-body strength and power.