#9 – Open your knees/pick up the quarter
One of the most common form issues is “knees in” squatting. Many lifters feel like they are squatting with their knees out, but are actually descending in a very tentative manner and not flowering their knees enough. When I see lifters squatting with this issue I recommend a drill called “pick up the quarter.”
Stand with your feet in a conventional stance. Next, place a quarter on the ground 6 inches in front of your toes. Now squat down to pick up the quarter, reaching between your legs with both of your arms at the same time. When you do this your knees will naturally open up, allowing you to pick up the quarter.
This is a natural movement; one you didn’t have to think much about. Your knees just open naturally.
Now head to the gym and try to barbell squat like this.
#10 – It’s ok to squat more frequently
You don’t need to stick to a body part split, only squatting once each week. Plenty of novice strength and muscle building programs feature 2-3 squat sessions per week.
The key to surviving these sessions is to limit squat volume per training day. You don’t want to destroy your legs each day with a ton of assistance work. Get in, squat 3-5 sets per day, and get out. Don’t add in any more leg work beyond barbell squats.
#11 – Keep your arms and back tight/avoid flying elbows
This is a very common form issue. Most trainees are not told to grab the bar with a death grip, and to keep their upper back tight. As the reps mount, and because of this upper body looseness, a lifter’s elbows start to creep up and up. The result? A squatter begins to lean slightly forward.
This tiny amount of forward lean is generally enough to reduce leverage and slightly fold a squatter over in the hole – or fold them when coming up from the hole. Not only will this reduce the amount a trainee is able to squat, but it also places a greater strain on the lower back.
#12 – Progress naturally instead of in a linear fashion
Linear progression works. With that said, I am not a fan of forcing progression along some pre-determined path. I prefer to see lifters pushing sets for as many sensible reps as possible, and adding weight when they can, rather than sticking to some random “add X weight every week” protocol.
I advise lifters to try and push each set for as many reps as possible, stopping that set when either form starts to deteriorate, or when they may fail on the next rep. This allows a trainee to maximize every set, and progress as quickly and safely as possible.
This natural form of progression (auto-regulated progression) will get you to the same spot as linear progression; maybe even allow you to progress slightly faster. That depends on the lifter.
Auto-regulated progression allows you to maximize form on as many reps as possible. You will also learn your body and limits better, and add reps and weight as they come to you. Some weeks and months this rate of progression will be faster than others, and some months slower. In the long run though you will make solid progress.
Linear progression works. I just don’t think it’s the best or safest overall system for the lifter learning their body and limits. If you are working hard and eating right the weigh additions will come to you. It’s ok to allow this to happen naturally.