Today’s post comes from strength coach Kiefer Lammi. He’s the man behind the magic in Champion Stronger, our online training group currently open for enrollment just for a few more days and then closes again on April 14th!
Making progress is easy when you’re first starting out. Nearly every session you improve technique, accumulate a little bit of volume, and boom! The weights start to go up fast.
The gains slow down. You keep training consistently, but the weights on the bar remain stagnant.
You probably ran into one of these hurdles…
Your training volume isn’t high enough to elicit the same response it did when you were a beginner or your technique, which was good enough in the beginning, starts to show signs of flaw as the loads get heavier.
You could try to train even more, either adding more work in the same day, or adding more training sessions throughout the week. And this might lead to better results, at least in the short term. But, at some point you’ll need to ask yourself:
Specificity is one of the biggest factors in strength development and if you watch many of the strongest lifters in the world, you’ll see them training with the highest degree of it on a regular basis with large percentages of their training volume coming from the main lifts themselves.
As a non-elite lifter, your window of adaptation is much wider. Significant strength gains and carryover can be earned from a wide variety of movements.
It is significantly more challenging and fatiguing to achieve higher training volumes from the primary lifts than it is to do so utilizing a variety of accessory movements.
While you can certainly improve technique with continued practice of the primary lifts, strategically programmed accessory movements, emphasizing certain ranges of the lift or specific technique flaws we commonly see, can be used as well.
Earlier on you’re at the base level, almost everything you do will help build your foundation and make you stronger. The longer you train and the stronger you get, the smaller the pool of exercises eliciting optimal results becomes and the more specific you’ll need to become. By spending more time early on building a base with general strength exercises and specific accessories, while working to improve strength and technique in the primary lifts, the bigger your window for long term adaptation will be.
That’s why I’m a huge proponent of utilizing specific variations of your squat, bench press and deadlift to help push the limits of training volume and intensity to drive future gains.
The best accessories for improving your squat should closely mimic the primary movement with slight changes usually in terms of:
You can even implement combinations of the above, but keep in mind every additional variation you add to the movement makes it less specific to the primary movement you’re looking to improve.
There are two primary ways you can program accessory movements into your training for the Squat.
Train them after your squat on the same day – This is a great way to get additional training volume into a single session.
Train them on a separate day from the squat – This is a great way to increase your training frequency for the squat and will increase your weekly training volume.
Yes, gear – sleeves, wraps – and equipment – bands, chains – can have an awesome impact as training variety and are often used by experienced lifters with a great understanding of where it fits into their training cycles. However, they aren’t applicable or available to everyone so the following recommendations simply address exercise variations assuming all equipment and apparel remains the same so it’s more applicable to the typical gym goer.
The back squat is a lower body strength movement emphasizing the quads, hamstring, glutes, and back. Stance, depth, and torso angle will depend on individual body proportions, hip archetype, as well as your personal technique habits and muscular strengths, all of which can affect your specific areas of weakness and optimal accessory variations. Here are my top six accessory movements for building your back squat.
1: High Bar Back Squat
2: Paused Back Squat
3: Back Squatting to Pins
4: Back Squat to Box
5: Concentric Pause Squat
6: Tempo Squat
So there you have it, 4 great accessory exercises to help improve your squat.
Do you like these movements? Want to to have Kiefer and I program for you? Join Champion Stronger online training group and we’ll help you build that squat
Dan Pope DPT, OCS, CSCS
P.S. Champion stronger closes tomorrow at midnight so you’ll have to act soon if you want to catch this muscle train!!!
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