There will never be enough content discussing the barbell squat. Strength coaches argue which techniques are the best, this accessory over that, fast tempo, slow tempo, box squat, front squat...
The list can go on forever.
Bottom line: Unless you have severe limitations due to existing imbalances, you need to squat. Regardless if you're trying to become a jacked, explosive athlete or just a ripped weekend warrior, the barbell squat should be a staple in your program.
For the purpose of this post, let's assume you already have a squat regimen in place. Theses tips will improve your squat performance when supplemented correctly. The exercises you do to compliment the squat do matter.
I now have eight years of experience coaching both athletes and meatheads. Throughout this time I've found a handful of exercises that don't require you to squat that will supplement the lift and help improve your gains. These With that being said, I'm also a huge fan of utilizing assistance lifts such as speed squats, box squats and pause squats for certain individuals that will improve their squat/athletic performance.
There is no particular order of importance for these 3 exercises:
1. Any lunge or split squat variation - I usually prescribe these for higher reps (8-12 each leg) to get a hypertrophic response. Isolating one leg at a time will undoubtedly improve the strength of your quads and glutes, but also allow you to keep your hip mobility. Sqautting too heavy, too often with uncontrolled volume will contribute to mobility issues, poor mechanics and/or injury if you're technique is off. Heavy lunge walks or split squats will strengthen the muscles necessary to jack up your squat as well as add some mass to those lower limbs.
2. Sled pushing/pulling - these are essentially another single leg quad/glute dominant exercise, but are great in a number of ways. Strength, hypertrophy, conditioning, sport specific, and can be used to teach sprinting mechanics for athletes. They also don't break your muscle tissue down nearly as much BC of the lack of eccentric loading. Plus, there's something about pushing a loaded prowler that adds to your mochesmo.
3. RDL's or Deadlifts - Chances are you already do at least one of these. Coaches always get into the squat vs. deadlift argument as well. I'll save that for a later post. If your deadlift technique is spot on, you will inevitably get stronger at EVERYTHING. Romanian deadlifts or, RDL's are extremely useful to improve your squat numbers and athletic performance. Many athletes focus too much on the front side of the body such as the quads and pecs, which will leads a number of imbalances. The backside (posterior chain) MUST be strengthened as well if you want to squat a house or get faster on the field. RDL's will strengthen your hamstrings, lower back, upper back (if you keep retraction throughout the movement) and improve your rate of force development, which will make you faster.
In short, add these accessory lifts to your squat program to increase your barbell squat numbers. Accessory lifts can and should be varied, but also track your numbers with these as well. If you get stronger with these you'll get stronger with the barbell squat, avoid plateauing, and likely avoid overuse injuries caused by excessive squat volume.
Happy squatting meatheads!
Dominate another Day.
Coach - Hoke