Squats for Olympic Weightlifting
Use These Squats to Increase Your Strength!
Improve your technique, increase your back squat, and enhance your mobility. Sounds simple right?! Here's the problem ... There is so much information floating around the internet, it can be incredibly difficult to build toward a monster squat that effectively improves the competitive lifts of the snatch and clean and jerk. Your squat may have plateaued for months and in turn this has caused a stagnant point in your career. Is there hope for improvement? Do you have the potential to improve strength while also increasing technical proficiency? All of these factors can be incredibly challenging, so let’s dive into the best squats you can use to improve your performance!
What the heck happens?
It’s important to understand the principles of movement and what actually occurs during the competitive exercises of the snatch and clean and jerk. As lifters pull from the floor, their back and posterior chain must be incredibly strong. The positions off the floor must be executed with nearly perfect technique. As the bar passes through No Man’s Land, the knees must reciprocate forward. For this to happen, the lifter must have a very strong back and very strong legs. This puts the lifter in a strong position to execute the finish effectively.
Research has shown that lifts like the back squat and front squat can also carry over tremendously well to explosiveness and explosive movements like the vertical jump. As the bar gets into the hip, the weightlifter has to have strength to hold proper positioning AND they must be able to coordinate incredibly fast to finish as aggressively as possible. This is where most lifts are lost. Athletes can be incredibly strong but still struggle with technical execution while other athletes can be incredibly explosive but struggle to maintain positioning due to weaknesses in their squats. It’s important to understand that squats play a very important role in weightlifting to increase the overall performance.
Give me the SKWAAATS BRO!!!
3. Maurus Tempo Back Squats
This squat variation is a top three variation for a reason! Watching some of the best Olympic weightlifters train and prepare at various international championships has been an incredible pleasure. Fortunately, I have also been able to be around lifters like Harrison Maurus since he was 14 years old. Harrison has always squatted with an “unbroken” tempo. As a 77k lifter, he back squatted over 600lbs with near perfect technique. I believe his approach to the squat movement forced him to have precise movement!
That’s why we like to use Maurus Tempo back squats. These force the lifter to be very RIGID in their torso while also teaching the lifter how to manage their breath properly while also improving the overall speed of the movement and technique. As the lifter executes their Maurus Tempo squats as rapidly as possible, they learn how to recruit high threshold motor units with a very large load on their back. The speed of the concentric movement also teaches their body how to move fast with heavy weight, a key component behind weightlifting and sports performance.
2. Pause Squats
Be sure to use pause squats in both the front squat and back squats. This movement is incredible for improving mobility and for educating lifters on how to stay tight deep in the hole. Many lifters with shorter leg lengths tend to struggle with the pull off the floor. It is difficult for them to engage their back and hamstrings while also taking advantage of their quad strength. This is where pause squats come into play! They help teach the lifter how to pull tight off the floor while also improving their overall squat.
When the lifter pauses in the hole, it is very important to focus on the isometric portion of the lift from a dynamic perspective. That means HOLDING the bottom position as tightly as possible. The tight holding position will force the body to recruit more high threshold motor units while also helping the torso to stay upright and rigid out of the hole. This can contribute to pulling strength AND to rapid acceleration at the finish.
Pause squats are not for the faint of heart. It may sound cruel but at Garage Strength we like to use pause squats when a lifter may struggle with the stress of time under tension. Perhaps they are a little “soft” and need some training stress to enhance their mental fortitude. When that is recognized, the pause squat is called in from the bullpen and it’s go time!
1. Double Bounce Squats!
What the heck is the double bounce?!?! As a lifter drops into the bottom of the squat, they hit the bottom and bounce upward about 3-4 inches before descending back into the bottom and bouncing back out to a full concentric movement. This stretch shortening cycle leads to very effective motor unit recruitment and ultimately DUMB STRONG LEGS!
Many lifters struggle to hold strong positions off the floor. The bar might be a little forward at the hip, they catch the bar in the receiving position of the clean and they can’t save the lift, dumping the bar forward. This is where double bounces come into play. The double bounce teaches the lifter how to get back into the hole to recruit more muscle fiber before exiting effectively. Many of the world records that have been hit throughout history have utilized the double bounce to initiate the ascent after a very heavy clean.
Be sure to cue the weightlifters on having a very rigid torso in the bottom position while also focusing on proper ankle mobility. Over time, the double bounce will improve the mobility in the lower back and hips as well. These squat exercises are incredible and should be used throughout Olympic weightlifting programming!
Squats can dramatically improve performance in the world of Olympic weightlifting. Oftentimes coaches become stagnant in the exercises they choose and their means of programming. It’s important to pull squat variations out of the toolbox to trigger greater adaptations throughout long term training. This is where the three key variations come into play. Use Maurus tempo squats to improve speed and rigidness in the trunk during heavy squats. Have a lifter that sucks off the floor? Prescribe them heavier pause squats to improve their pulling capability. Another lifter constantly misses weights forward? Hit them with some strong double bounce front squats and your frustrations will be saved!
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.
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