There’s a simple tactic that could put kilos on your squat right now.
Sounds like clickbait, right?
But it’s true and I have clients to prove it (as you will see below).
Many people come to me to improve their squat technique. There are so many of you out there who want to squat more weight (yay!) but you have plateaued at a particular weight, or the weight seems to be increasing at a glacial pace.
When I meet someone who has plateaued for a long time or who is clearly squatting weights below their strength levels, I ask: ‘how often do you fail a squat in training?’
Almost every time, the answer is ‘never’.
Why? Fear of what might happen, that primal instinct of self preservation that kicks in at the bottom of the squat (even if we ‘know’ it is safe to fail). Perhaps even reluctance to have the embarrassment of failing in front of a busy gym – will they all think I’m an idiot?
But in order to reach your potential, you must push yourself. You will never know what your true max is until you have failed a rep.
I know that most people know this, because new clients often say to me, ‘I don’t push myself hard enough in training’.
But most of you, particularly if you train on your own, have never actually practised a squat fail.
How to practise a squat fail
Making a deliberate fail takes a lot of the mystery and uncertainty out of the experience. You get to test your set-up, and realise that – in fact – there’s nothing to it.
It’s important that you have a safe environment in which to practise. The safest method is to squat in a rack which has safety bars on either side to catch the bar, should you fail to get up out of your squat.
Set up the safety bars so that they are high enough to catch a heavy bar without squashing you (!) but low enough so that they don’t interfere with squat depth when you are doing her reps.
Test your set up with an empty bar and adjust if necessary.
Example of a deliberate squat fail
In the video below, my PT client, Ness, practises a squat fail for the first time. She uses 60kg, a weight she can squat comfortably for 8 reps.
You can hear how pleasantly she surprised she is at how easy it was! No bother.
After this practise, Ness worked up in 5kg increments. Prior to this session, the most she had ever squatted was 65kg for reps. She successfully squatted 5 reps at 70kg, 5 reps at 75kg, and then had a go at 80kg.
This is what happened:
So Ness got a massive 15kg PB on her back squat with 2 successful reps at 80kg!
Without the knowledge and the experience of failing safely, she would never have pushed herself that far. She would not have even got her new 5 rep max of 75kg.
Anticipation of a failure is always much worse than the failure itself.
So set up your safety bars and have a practise at failing! You might just get yourself a personal best…