Thursday 171109

As many rounds as possible in 14 minutes of:
9 Bar facing burpees
12 Power snatch, 95#(65#)
15 Wall balls, 20#(14#)

Post rounds and reps to comments and BTWB

The evening Sprint class putting some miles on those assault bikes.












Over the past several weeks/ months we have been squatting regularly on Mondays. This squat session is currently disguised as a clean and jerk. Included in these days we sprinkled in the odd single leg step up, some funky weighted side lunges, may be even a double KB swing. . . who knows. We got crazy. . . or did we? Perhaps there was a reason for our actions, a method behind the madness if you will. While we know we can improve our squat by squatting, there are other things we can do a bit more regularly that can aid in our squat gains, without the potential issues that can come with getting below parallel a few too many times. Because squatting too much is actually a thing, I swear. Puori offers up 5 simple suggestions that can help us in our squat gains.

How to PR Your Squat: 5 Simple Suggestions By Puori

At certain checkpoints throughout the year I encourage the athletes I coach to list training goals they want to work toward over the next few months. One common theme I’ve recognized, whether they’re a weekend warrior or Regionals hopeful, is that people want to get stronger. Other than muscle-ups, highest on people’s lists for improvement are the Olympic lifts: the snatch and clean and jerk.

While there are a lot of ways for someone to improve their technique to lift more weight, good technique will only bring you so far. While technique work should never be neglected, as someone whose own progress has stagnated in the Olympic lifts, I can attest that sometimes you just need to build raw strength in order to move that heavier barbell.

Specifically what I’ve been focusing on lately is improving my front and back squats which have, not surprisingly, also plateaued for over a year now. I can currently clean and jerk 15 pounds less than my lifetime max front squat. I can catch more weight in the clean but won’t have the legs to stand it up so I know that (lack of) leg strength is limiting my progress.

In addition to the Olympic lifts, squats have a tremendous amount of carry-over to overall performance in CrossFit. If you look at the 12 foundational CrossFit Movements, three are squat variations (air squat, front squat, overhead squat), three more have a squatting component (medball clean, wall ball, thruster) and two rely more on an aggressive leg drive (push press and push jerk), which rely on leg strength.

There’s no denying that strong legs are an important component for success in weightlifting and in Crossfit. So how does one go about gaining this coveted leg strength?

1. Perfect Your Technique

I always find it amusing when someone says they want a double bodyweight back squat yet their air squat resembles that of my dog’s posture while she goes to the bathroom. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but if you cannot execute a basic bodyweight air squat then you have no business squatting with a barbell.

Instead, goblet squats or squats hugging a heavy medicine ball are great variations that allow someone to add weight to the squat while still promoting proper mechanics. Here are 5 squat mistakes you might be making — if there’s anything we’ve learned from seeing Murph at the Games for the last two years it’s that no matter how high you climb in this sport you better have a good air squat.

2. Squat More

Now that your technique is dialed in it’s time to put it to good use. If you’re only squatting once every two weeks then you’re simply not maximizing the rate at which you can improve. It sounds like a straightforward concept: squat more to improve your squat. But some people might hear they need to squat more and immediately jump into a Smolov cycle or find a Bulgarian program that has them maxing out nearly every day, which I very highly discourage.

This concept of “more” does have a limit at which squatting too often and too much volume will inhibit your progress because you simply won’t be able to recover. The weights, reps and sets you choose should vary as you progress through a cycle. I’ve found that training the squat two to three days a week is plenty, especially for CrossFit athletes that are inevitably acquiring additional squatting volume in the form of thrusters, wall balls, cleans and snatches during WODs.

Of course there are lots of tried and true programs out there such as the Texas method, 5-3-1 and Hatch to name a few. But if you find that after completing a volume-based program you still aren’t seeing progress then this is where adding more variety in the program can be very beneficial. Doing tempo variations such as eccentrics and pauses is a great way to add variety and challenge your muscles to break through that plateau.

As with anything, it’s paramount that whatever approach you choose you ease into it. If you’re currently only squatting once every few weeks then increase it to once every week for three to four weeks and see how you feel. Then bump it up to twice a week for a few weeks and again see how your body responds. The fastest way to impede your progress is by getting injured. So as you increase your squat volume it’s important to listen to your body and remember to deload by backing off the volume and intensity every few weeks to allow your body to recover.

3. Train Single Leg Movements

There are so many benefits to training single leg exercises that go beyond building leg strength. For one they allow you to train your legs without taxing your body as much as barbell squats. Doing single leg exercises will help even out imbalances between your legs, keep your joints healthy by requiring you to engage different muscles than with a traditional front or back squat and force you to learn how to properly stabilize your joints since you need to balance on one foot.

Among my favorites are box step-ups, lunges and Bulgarian split squats. All of these movements should be done regularly and be used as strength exercises if done weighted by holding dumbbells but should be done with just bodyweight as a warm-up before squatting to promote mobility.

4. Hip Thrusts

The glutes and quads are the primary muscle groups working during a squat. One of the most common technique faults I see during squatting is excessive forward tracking of the knee which is a default for people who like to rely more heavily on their quads instead of engaging their glutes. Doing so is going to not only put excess strain on your knees but by not fully engaging one of the most powerful muscle groups, your glutes, you are definitely not lifting to your true capacity.

What I love about the hip thrust is that it isolates the glute max and has actually been shown to create greater activation of the glute max compared to during a barbell back squat (1). Doing a few sets of hip thrusts as glute activation, either unweighted with a band around your knees or with a barbell as shown in the video, will allow you to recruit more power from your glutes during your squats.

5. Good Mornings/Reverse Hypers

Good mornings and reverse hypers are essential accessory movements that are superior at building posterior chain strength. Strong legs do nothing if you don’t have the core strength to support a heavy barbell on your shoulders. Reverse hypers provide decompression of the spine, as well as simultaneously strengthening your spinal erectors and low back.

For rehab and therapeutic effects, Louie Simmons (who invented the machine) recommends four sets of 20-25 reps with very light weight (no more than 25% of your max back squat) and for strengthening prescribes four sets of 10 reps at up to 50% of your max back squat.

While reverse hypers are excellent for building posterior chain strength, the expensive price tag makes them rare to come by. A great substitute that will provide all of the posterior strengthening are good mornings. These are great for developing the glutes and hamstrings, developing proper hinging patterns and training your spinal erectors as stabilizers. If you’ve never done a good morning I recommend starting with a banded version. As you feel more confident in your technique move up to an empty barbell and slowly add weight as your back gets stronger.

It’s important to keep in mind that the more experienced you become the harder you have to work to make smaller margins of progress as your body adapts to training. Whatever program led to your 20# PR last winter might not lead to any improvement at all the second time around. Next time you find that your progress has stalled mix up the program with some tempo work and accessory exercises. As with any exercise focus on the quality of movement and achieving full range of motion for maximum benefit.






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