The back squat is the most effective leg exercise that exists. It is also one of the best ways to train for better posture and core strength. However, it is also an exercise that many have problems with when it comes to a linear progression in their lifts. So any plateau that comes about needs to be addressed quickly or else it could lead to being stuck at the same weight on the squat for a very long time.
There’s no immediate reason for everyone’s plateau in the back squat and it varies between individuals. However, take a look below to get an idea on some of the potential causes of a back squat plateau.
1. Not Eating for Strength Gains
Many think that just by eating the right foods and bringing intensity to the gym that it will be an easy ride to the top. This is not the case though. We can only increase our lifts so much before the body needs a surplus of nutrients to go any further. If we already have a good base strength, in retrospect to where we were before, then we will need to have a diet that gives us that extra edge.
2. Problems with Form
Any issues with form can easily interfere with us continuously improving our strength on the back squat. Form issues may not be noticeable as they often occur during the hardest reps. We can always record ourselves squatting and get someone to look it over or just ask a personal trainer in the gym to give a quick look.
3. A Muscular Imbalance
This may be a result of form issues. A muscular imbalance occurs when certain muscles are more developed than others. This is especially common with the stabilizer muscles as they are often underdeveloped.
Getting Out of the Plateau
Identifying the reason behind the plateau in the first place is important as we cannot fix the issue if we don’t know why it started in the first place.
There are many different variables that play into the amount of strength involved when executing the back squat movement. As the hardest part is getting out of the bottom of the rep, we will want to focus on continuously improving our explosive strength. If this is lagging, it could stall progression in the exercise as a whole.
How to Improve Explosive Strength
We can only increase our explosive power so much through our standard leg workout. If we aren’t training with explosiveness as a goal, we won’t be allowing it to powerhouse us through the back squat. This is why it is important to perform explosive strength exercises, such as box jumps. These improve hip, knee, and ankle extension and flexion. We can throw vertical, broad, single-leg jumps, and many others.
We can even support explosiveness through our cardio workouts. Switch to shorter intervals with high intensity, like 10 second sprints. This will cause the body to always rely on explosive power during physical exertion. If we are doing low intensity steady state cardio, we will simply be exhausting the muscles.
Without training for explosiveness, we will develop a lack of explosive properties in the body’s ability to recruit muscle fibers. This becomes noticeable when we perform exercises like the back squat and it can hold us back from progression. So combatting this limitation will allow us to perform the squat with a greater level of explosive strength. This ultimately means that we will be able to lift more and do more reps. In the long run, this also means a broken plateau and revitalized leg strength that will push us increase the amount we lift for many workouts to come.