Powerlifting for the tall: Part II Squats

I remember a few years ago when I walked into the gym for the first time. Of course under the tutelage of my friends, I set down on the bench press and bro-ed out. I worked out for about 3 months before I ever squatted. I did some leg press and for some reason deadlifts but never squats.

You see squats are the complete leveller in powerlifting. You can’t build a huge arch, you can’t pull sumo (both of which some consider cheating not me just a note) you just have to pull the weight out of the rack walk back and squat it and I think that scared me.

But, eventually, I started squatting. To my surprise… it sucked even more than I could have imagined. It was so hard. 135 felt like the world on my back. It took me almost 6 months of lifting to squat 315 at my first meet. Bearing in mind at that very same meet I pulled 510.

So the squat has always been a monkey on my back. While I am by no means there I almost have a 500 lb squat and standing at 6″6 with a broken back that’s not terrible. But, more importantly than that I have spent hundreds of hours studying the movement and trying to figure out how to complete it more efficiently, not only for me but my clients as well. This has provided me with some crucial insight into the difficulties of this sport for taller people. The squat is arguably the hardest movement for the tall lifter in my opinion but I will try and lay out some of the best ways I have been able to make improvements

Small steps forward are still steps forward.

Squats are usually around 40% ish of your total or at least should be. Meaning that the contribute highly to your success in powerlifting. So improving them is also crucial to your progress in the sport and also your strength as a whole. So I can understand that it is frustrating that in a training cycle you only progress by 5lbs, trust me I have been there and I still expect to make big gains every meet and it rarely materialises.

But, the crucial concept you have to take away is that progress is progress and a step forward is still positivity. The other element which you probably do not consider is skill acquisition. Over the course of your training cycles, you will get better at the movement and this ultimately will allow you to get stronger.

So how can you improve your squat and make sure you are making progress… focus on the movement and making sure your consistency is high.

Focus on the squats

A lot of lifters can get away with doing a lot of accessory movements. Doing sets of 10 on squats and then going to leg press for a few more sets of 10 and still recover effectively and not get injured. For us taller lifters that is hard.

Consider the squat from a physiological perspective.

Height Difference

So look at the image above, yes it is incredibly crude, but it demonstrates a key concept of the squat and height difference issues. Look at the size of the arrow for the tall lifter versus the arrow size for the short lifter… the difference is dramatic. Now, this is not to say that the squat is much harder for the tall lifter. But, it does show how much work the tall lifter has to do. As a result of this, the squat is a very demanding movement. Thus, as a result, a lot of fatigue is created. Therefore, for tall lifters, I would suggest focusing less on just building muscle and more so on creating strength through the technical movement.

More Sets fewer reps

Following the above point, focusing on spreading out the reps over a wider range of sets can assist you in raising your max recoverable volume. As well as, creating a strategy to which you can adapt quicker. Ultimately, I would say that this has been the most effective strategy in allowing me to progress in training. Instead of doing 3 sets of ten doing 6 sets of 5 can allow you to work through the weight and become less fatigued.

Remove the instabilities

So I previously mentioned that accessories are less relevant for tall lifters. However, I was being somewhat hasty. You do need accessories. I currently use some dumbell stiff leg deadlifts and Bulgarian split squats as well as, leg extensions and hamstring curls. But, anything that is improving elements of your squat is going to be beneficial long term.

Create a repeatable movement pattern

This is by far the most important point. If you take away one element of this post let it be this. Creating a routine for your squats your warmups and your set up. Start fro the setup and make it consistent. Find a position within which you can be comfortable, and then start from the ground up. Video every squat you do and work on making your descent being the same as your ascent. The biggest part is accepting that change is natural. I have been squatting for almost 2 years and I still don’t have the most optimum squat form for me probably. Taking time and effort to develop your form is important.

Be sure to look out for the next installment next week.

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