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So what's the trick to great Squats?


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If there's a weak area in my training, it's definitely my legs. I've heard a million times how great squats are...and I've tried them lots of ways: front squats, sumo squats, free weight and/or Smith Machine. In general, I always have squatted all the way down, past parallel...and even with low weights, my energy just poops out around 6 reps. I just find that I can't push back up into standing position. Yet, I've never felt a burn from the exercise, and it doesn't seem to be resulting in any gains. What the *&(*(*&(*&*((^% am I doing wrong? Thanks in advance for any info...

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Hmmm.... perhaps you're starting out with weights that are too heavy? You should be able to do three reps of 10-15, starting to really fatigue at the 12th rep. At least that is what I was taught, and has always worked for me. Pick three or four different exercises per session, and do them that way (3 sets of 12ish). (ie: squats, ballet squats, lunges, and something else you don't find torturous! maybe jumps landing in squats??)

 

How heavy are the weights that you are using? If using dumbells, and just starting out, don't go higher than 5 or 6 pounds. Then push that weight up every week. I remember starting with 3 pounds, and eventually moved up to 15. My legs were hella toned. On machines, I obviously went much heavier.

 

Here's a site I find helpful about the value of squats and proper squat form and such:

http://www.stumptuous.com/cms/displayarticle.php?aid=123

 

Hope that helps, VegannNY! I'm routing for you!

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Hey, thanks for the cheers!

 

I'm working pretty low with the weights... 5-10 lbs when using a dumbell, and just the bar when working with the Smith Machine. Maybe I just *shouldn't* go past parallel and should focus on something like box squats?

 

BTW - I'm a great fan of stumptuous as well. (Loved her cottage cheese recipe page, back when I was an omni...) Of course, she swears by full squats, which don't quite seem to be working right now...

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You have to take those exercises you described that you do with a grain of salt. They mostly for people who have gotten to a point where they are doing a decent amount of weight. When you are only doing the motion(smith bar weighs like 25 pounds so its more of a rigid body to do squats against that a lot of added effort) and you are getting fatigued, focus on the easier version of it. I had to work my way to being able to even parallel squats. My hamstrings couldn't handle it for a long time, so I had to work out my hamstrings until they could.

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I had a hard time and took down the weight and I've been doing much better. I squat with perfect form now! My legs are rubber afterwards too. That's a good sign. I'm the only girl at the gym who tries to train like a guy and ends up using too much weight.. Most of them use too little

 

Also, going a little faster helps too. I'm totally wiped after my set and feel like my heart is gonna leap out of my mouth hahaha.

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I think you needn't worry about not feeling a burn. Focus instead on learning proper technique and once the technique is ok focus on gaining strength in the squat.

To learn the technique it is best to squat as much as possible. Personally I find it easier to concentrate on technique when the reps are pretty low, so I dont really think it is a problem that you can only do 6 reps. Of course you could also lower the weight.

Smith machines squats I think are best avoided, they wont teach you proper squat technique because of the fixed path of the bar. If you don't have a powercage front squats are a good alternative to back squats.

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Like Bronco said, don't worry about "feeling a burn" because it's not a requisite for making improvements in leg size/strength (or any other body part, for that matter). If feeling a "burn" meant size and strength gains, all those kooks at the gym that do endless sets of bench and curl workouts would have barrel chests and arms like Greg Valentino (if you don't know who he is, do a quick search and you'll get a good laugh )

 

If you can keep progressing by adding reps or weight while maintaining proper form, then things are getting better. Don't sweat not being able to do lots of reps - I'm really, really bad at high-rep squats, whereas I now have a propensity for being able to do high-rep work for any other body part. Also, as Bronco said, steer clear of the unnecessary stuff - basically, work standard back squats and front squats as your base for legs, and keep away from the Smith machine whenever possible for squatting because it's a completely unnatural range of motion.

 

As far as gains, how long have you been sticking with a solid squat program and pushing it weekly? Legs, like anything else, can either grow fast or take forever, so don't expect to have thighs that rub when you walk after 12 weeks if you had stick-thin legs to begin with. If you're training with good form, going deep enough, and can keep upping the weight or reps over time, then you're making progress, so don't get too discouraged unless you've been stuck at the same point for a long time. Just keep at them, change things up if you need to (add weight and drop the reps to maybe 3-4, or, drop weight and up the reps to 8-10, try half or 3/4 squats for high reps or heavier wieght in the power rack or something new if you've been doing the same program for a long time) and see where it takes you. Without knowing more about your history for leg training it's tough to say if/where there may be a problem, but from my time training, good squats have never let anyone down when done properly and with complete focus and intensity!

 

If there's a weak area in my training, it's definitely my legs. I've heard a million times how great squats are...and I've tried them lots of ways: front squats, sumo squats, free weight and/or Smith Machine. In general, I always have squatted all the way down, past parallel...and even with low weights, my energy just poops out around 6 reps. I just find that I can't push back up into standing position. Yet, I've never felt a burn from the exercise, and it doesn't seem to be resulting in any gains. What the *&(*(*&(*&*((^% am I doing wrong? Thanks in advance for any info...
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VE -

 

Thanks. Actually, I've been doing squats for quite some time. (3 months or so?) I've done pure bodyweight squats, dumbell squats with about 5 pounds, and (today, at least) was able to handle a 9 lb bodybar for 9 reps. (I'm so ashamed at the low weight...!) Problem is that I don't seem to be progressing...I seem stuck at the same level, with not much growth. (Same is true for leg curls and extensions..my legs just *don't* seem to like to grow!)

 

Actually, there have been a few exercises very recently that appear to be doing a little something. 1) Actual running. 2) Stiff Legged Deadlifts 2) The Abductor machine (serious hip burn, there.)

 

Guess I'll have to keep trying to change it up. 3/4 squats, huh? Haven't tried that one...

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Every few months you keep reading contradictory advice about what moves are orthopedically healthy and which aren't.

 

What do people think about doing complete squats, going all of the way down, ass to the grass?

 

Has anyone had IT Band syndrome when squatting......getting the stabbing sensation of a knitting needle stabbing you on the side (out side ) of your knee joint?

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Every few months you keep reading contradictory advice about what moves are orthopedically healthy and which aren't.

 

What do people think about doing complete squats, going all of the way down, ass to the grass?

 

Has anyone had IT Band syndrome when squatting......getting the stabbing sensation of a knitting needle stabbing you on the side (out side ) of your knee joint?

From what I have read myself, most people support the full range of motion with the squat, and say it is actually beneficial to your knees. However, when you do ass to calve(or ass to grass) squats, you need to be careful that you are not doing too much weight. I have had that stabbing pain because I was doing too much weight. I think going parallel is a good starting point though. People advocate doing full range of motion squats, but doing so( with weight anyways) is probably not the best way to start out.

 

Also they said that Smith machines are to be avoided. I agree with this completely, as the Smith Machines isolated my quads too much and weakened the hell out of my hamstrings. However, in her case, I don't think she can physically use a 45 pound bar yet doing squats. Until you reach that point, Smith Squats are better than no squats. I would say that make sure you keep your legs underneath you and no in front of you. Because you don't need to stabilize the bar, your body will find easier to put your legs in front of you because it is an easier motion, but don't.

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I am now a firm believer in full, ass-to-grass squats. I didn't used to be, believing they would make my knees hurt more than they do anyway. I would only go parallel, or do partials. My knees ached after every session.

 

Then I read stumptuous.com. Something Krista wrote on this site made me really re-think it. Olympic lifters are going ass-to-grass on every lift - snatch and clean/jerk - with incredibly heavy weight. Yet they have no knee problems. I started doing full squats with just my body weight. Bingo. No knee pain. No back pain. After a few weeks of full squats, I now hold a 25 pound plate to my lower abs while I do full squats. Knees feel great. My legs definitely are feeling much stronger.

 

I agree that not much weight is needed with a full squat. Trust me, a full squat with just body weight is tough. Doing them with an unweighted bar is tough.

 

One of my older brothers does triathlons. He always has some knee pain near the end of the run portion. He started doing body-weight only full squats and his knee pain has gone away.

 

It may be because doing a full squat forces my posture and form to be better. Whatever the reason, I'm sold.

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ass to the grass, high rep (15-25) is what made my legs grow the most. i took time for me to learn the proper form too. i started out with weight plates under my heels because i couldn't keep myself steady otherwise.

a lot of people who doesn't nail the squat in their first try just stops trying so good riddance to you for hanging in there.

6 months ago i did smith machine squats because i had lower back problems and i was afraid to go back to regular squatting. but what bronco and VE says about smith squats is true. they suck

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  • 1 month later...

This is a little off topic, but can anyone recommend a leg exercise that works out the same muscles as squats but w/o so much (or any) pressure on the hips? After years of dancing, I have hip-disc (?) issues and anything resembling squats kills me...

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This is a little off topic, but can anyone recommend a leg exercise that works out the same muscles as squats but w/o so much (or any) pressure on the hips? After years of dancing, I have hip-disc (?) issues and anything resembling squats kills me...

If you train at a place with a hack squat machine try that.For some reason (maybe age) doing full squats kills my hip flexors now.Plenty of people have achived good wheels doing hack squats.

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