The 6 Best Accessory Exercises to Build a Stronger Squat - FITNESS PAIN FREE

The 6 Best Accessory Exercises to Build a Stronger Squat

There’s a reason why they call them beginner gains…

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!

Click HERE to learn about Champion Stronger Online Training Group

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.

Then, something annoying happens.

The gains slow down. You keep training consistently, but the weights on the bar remain stagnant.

What happened?

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:

“At what cost?”

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.

But for the majority of us, the non-elite lifters, there are problems with this…

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.

Think of your training career like a pyramid.

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.

What makes a great accessory movement for the Squat?

The best accessories for improving your squat should closely mimic the primary movement with slight changes usually in terms of:

  • Volume / intensity – sets, reps, % of max, etc.
  • Range of Motion (ROM) – extended ROM, shortened ROM, etc.
  • Tempo – Slower eccentrics or concentrics, isometric holds, etc.
  • Bar / Hand / Foot Placement – higher or lower bar position, wide or narrow stances and hand placement, etc.
  • Implement – Using a different bar or tool such as a safety squat bar

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.

How Do I Program Accessory Movements?

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.

A Note on Equipment and Accommodating Resistance

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.

YOUR TOP ACCESSORY MOVEMENTS FOR THE SQUAT

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

Placing the bar higher on the traps slightly changes your center of mass, encourages a more upright torso, and places more emphasis on the legs vs hips and glutes.

2: Paused Back Squat

Pausing in the bottom of a squat trains you to maintain tension in the hole and build more strength, which can lead to improved depth over time as well as resistance to technique collapse as you rebound on the ascent.

3: Back Squatting to Pins

Squatting to pins set to slightly above your bottom position eliminates your use of the stretch shortening cycle and rebound to power through a sticking point. It will encourage you to remain under the bar and stay tight while pushing through to the finish vs shooting your hips back. You’ll be forced to develop starting strength and if you’re in a suboptimal position coming off the pins you’ll struggle to get the bar moving.

4: Back Squat to Box

Squatting to a box set to a desired depth is a great way to encourage consistency as well as controlled tempo and tension near the bottom. This variation is not a sit, it is just a kiss to the box while maintaining balance over the midfoot.

5: Concentric Pause Squat

The concentric pause squat is a great variation for building strength in the hardest portion of the lift. Not only this but it’s a great way to enhance technique in this same challenging position, where we’re most apt to have our technique fall apart.

6: Tempo Squat

The Tempo Back Squat is a great way to build lower intensity strength but also to help improve the squat movement pattern. It an excellent variation because of improvements in technique but also because it creates a ton of time under tension and subsequent hypertrophy. This movement fits really well at the start of a training cycle to build the foundation and technique for heavier loads in later cycles.

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

Click HERE to learn about Champion Stronger Online Training Group

Always squatting,

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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