The squat has become a fundamental movement in the strength and conditioning community. Here are four ways to change up the basic squat pattern that challenge your athletes and can help break through strength plateaus.

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Pause Belt Squats
Many athletes struggle to control the bottom portion of their squat. Athletes often can’t get low enough, try to bounce out of the bottom and lose control, or just lack muscular drive when deep in the squat. With a pause squat, have your athlete descend as deep as they can while maintaining proper form, stay at the bottom for 3 – 5 seconds keeping their core tight and engaged, and then drive out of the hole. The forces the athlete to use proper form, engage his core, and build strength from the bottom.

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1 and ½ squats
This squat variation allows the athlete to increase the workload in their weakest range of motion. If an athlete struggles in the bottom part of the squat, or ‘getting out of the hole’ then you would have them go all the way down, half way up, all the way down to the bottom of the squat, then all the way up and repeat.

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Pause Front Squats
These are the same as the normal pause squats, except we are using a front squat movement pattern. The force the athlete to really engage their back, stay upright, and keep their elbows up so the bar doesn’t fall down and away from them. If you have an athlete who struggles with form, loses their form coming ‘out of the bucket,’ or struggles to really engage their low back in the front squat movement pattern, this is a great tool you can use.
Banded Belt Squats
By adding a resistance band to the squat motion, we can make the easiest part of the squat for most athletes, the top half, much more demanding, without reducing their range of motion. There are two ways we use banded squats. We either choose a challenging weight and then add a light band for an overload for the top half of the motion, or we choose a light weight and place one or two heavy bands on the bar and have the athlete really accelerate through the motion.
About the Author:
Mike Whitman is the Director of Training for SMARTER Team Training effective November 2014. Whitman has previously been the performance director of a training facility, a site manager for the health and wellness program of a multi-national corporation, and a consultant for the Under Armour E39 project. Whitman has worked with current or former NCAA, NFL, NBA, MLB, MLL, NLL athletes, as well as clients ranging from ages 13 to 58. CLICK HERE for more information about Coach Whitman.