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If you’re already familiar with the squat rack and you want to start pushing those gains to the next level, you’ll want to start varying your squat type.

If you’ve read our blog on how to improve your squat, you’ll remember we spoke about changing up your squats to progress. This is to build the muscles involved in sections, so you’ll be better equipped to take the weight when you return to the archetypal squat.

So, if you’re comfortable with your squat technique but your muscle gains have started to curb, try building in these squat variations. They will take time to master, but do them correctly, and you’ll start to level up.

Squat variations

 

Box squats

What are they?

Quite literally, doing squats with a box seat behind you. The box can be set at specific heights so you can keep an eye on your squat depth. The seat is also specially designed so that can take up to 400kg.

Why box squat?

Box squats break the Stretch-Shortening Cycle. This means you don’t get the added push from your muscles to help you back out of the squat. By breaking the cycle – by sitting down and pausing for a second – you’re giving your body enough time to re-set. Ascending from the squat box is much more difficult than maintaining the momentum and pushing straight back up. This ultimately means when you return to squats without a box, you’ll be stronger.

Another benefit is that the squat box allows you to push your weight back more, so you can emphasise your weight load down your posterior chain. If you feel unsteady while doing free-squats, you won’t be able to progress until you start to inch the weight back. By doing this, you will give your knees a break – ideal if you squat large weight loads regularly. You'll also start to strengthen your stabilising muscles. Work on your flexibility and you’ll have a deeper, stronger squat.

Tips/common mistakes:

• The box is designed to allow you to sit back and break the Stretch-Shortening Cycle. It’s not there to allow you to relax your muscles. The objective is to keep your spine straight and your muscles tense as you touch the seat with your hamstrings.

• The box shouldn’t be too high. Again, unfortunately, it’s not a seat so we’re not looking for a classic chair height. You want to develop your posterior chain so make sure you’re going as deep as you can, without any joint discomfort. If you start breaking into good mornings then you need to raise the squat box slightly and work on your hip and ankle mobility, as well as your lower back strength.

• The weight trajectory for box squats is slightly different from the classic squat. With a box squat the bar moves down and then back. Whereas with a classic squat, the weight path goes straight down. As you build back up to doing squats without the box but with a heavier weight, pause at your full squat depth. Hold it for five seconds, and then push back up. This will not only allow you to break that Stretch Shortening Cycle, but it will also help you to re-engage your knee and ankle joints.

 

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Pin squats

What are they?

This is a partial squat done in the power cage or squat rack. The weight load is slightly higher than your one-rep max (by about five to ten pounds) and the safety bars are set at your half-squat position. They’re performed after you have warmed up but not at the end of a training session.

Why pin squat?

We know half squats on their own aren’t going to improve your squat strength. However, by lifting this heavier weight, you are preparing your nervous system for the next level. This is known as supramaximal stimulus and is used by trained lifters to squat heavier weight loads.

Tips/common mistakes:

• Pin squats can be difficult. So, it’s important you’re confident with your technique before you try these. Lifting more than five-ten pounds over your one-rep max can be dangerous and leave you at risk of injury. Know your weights and don’t try to lift too much.

• Pin squats are not to be done until failure. You’re looking to do no more than four reps in each set. Don’t lift too much when you’re fatigued and don’t try these if you have any niggling injuries.

• Like the box squat, pin squats are also a way of breaking the Stretch-Shortening Cycle. When you squat down into the partial squat position, make sure the bar weight rests on the safety bars. This will help with hypertrophy and strengthening.

 

With both types of squats, you are looking to increase your weight. This means added pressure onto all the areas of your body involved in squatting.

There are lots of ways Mirafit equipment can help you optimise your squats:

Squat ramp

Safety bar – to relieve pressure on your shoulders

Weight belts

Barbell squat pads

Weight gloves

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Got the technique down? Show us how it’s done on Facebook and Instagram @mirafitofficial.