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Hot To Get A Big Squat PR With Laurence Shahlaei

March 21, 2023

Squats are a fundamental exercise for any Strongman or Powerlifter, but they’re also a great exercise for anyone wanting to improve their overall strength, health and fitness. However, my passion is strength, so below are 6 of my top tips for working towards a BIG squat PR.

1. Have a Plan

You only need to Google ‘Squat Training Plan’ and you’ll be spoiled for choice with the amount of free resources available online. Having a plan is great, but it’s worth nothing if you’re unable to stick to it. I recommend following a training plan for a minimum of 6-8 weeks.

2. Realistic Goals

Most training plans will work on percentages of your current squat PR, so it’s important to be honest with yourself about what your current PR is in order to set yourself up for success. You shouldn’t be failing lifts in the gym while doing your working sets, as training should be building both your strength and confidence week-on-week. It’s better to have small consistent improvements rather than jumping weights too quickly and getting injured. Squatting heavy weights requires confidence and failing lifts will knock your confidence and potentially hinder your future progress.

3. Intensity in Training

Having a plan in place is great, as it takes a lot of the thinking out of the process and allows you to put all of your energy into training. However, the plan won’t lift the weights for you, you still need to put in all the hard work.

4. Warm up

It’s important to warm up before any compound lift without overexerting yourself to the point where you don’t have the energy to complete your working sets. Below is an example of how I would warm up in preparation for squatting if my working sets were with 270kg

- 5 minutes of gentle cardio on a cross trainer or any form of activity that raises the heart rate.
- 60kg x 8 reps (slow and controlled reps)
- 100kg x 8 reps (slow and controlled reps)
- 140kg x 5 reps (still slow and feeling the movement) 
- 180kg x 2-3 reps (starting to increase power and move the bar faster)
- 220kg 1-2 reps (focussing on moving the weight quickly)
- 260kg x 1-2 reps (focusing on form but moving the weight fast)
- Working set - 3 sets x 2 reps with 270kg
- Rep Sets - 3 sets x 10 reps with 195kg

5. Good Form

Your technique should be the same with every single lift you complete, from your warm up weights to your PR attempt. Just like a tennis player will spend countless hours practising their serve, training is the time to practise these movement patterns util they become second nature. Here are some tips for Squatting but understand that everyone is built differently, and you may need to make micro changes to find what works best for you as an individual.

- Ideally you would go for a narrow tight grip, but depending on flexibility, size and build, it’s not always going to be possible. My advice is to get your grip on the bar as narrow as you can
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together to create a nice shelf to rest the bar on. You’ll want the bar resting on your traps rather than your neck.
- Take a shoulder width stance
- Keep your head in a neutral position.
- Take a deep breath in, engaging and bracing your core (imagine someone’s about to punch you in the stomach)
- Knees out, opening up the hips
- Practice squatting down, keeping your toes and knees in line with each other and ensuring your heels stay on the floor.
- Drive back up, feeling pressure through the heels, balls of the feet, and the outside of the little toe.

6. Assistance Work

Box squats are a great way to build confidence when squatting and can be used as a replacement for the squat until you’ve had time getting used to and practising correct form.

Legs Press and glute bridges are two of my favourite exercises to isolate and really work the muscle groups that you’ll be using to squat.

Tempo squats and paused squats are also a good opportunity for developing form and learning to control muscle tension and bracing.

Personally, I like to keep my squat day and deadlift day as far away from each other in the week as I can, as the movements work a lot of the same muscle groups and this allows the muscles sufficient time to recover.

Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Getting stronger is hard work but shouldn’t be too complicated. Get your form as solid as you can, fuel your workouts with the right nutrition, ensuring you’re getting a good amount of rest and sleep and try not to stress about hitting your goals.

Above all else, training should always be fun.


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