Cautious In The Squat


We have talked in depth multiple times about the benefit of the squat and the benefit of good technique when squatting. However one of the parts of the squat we have not zeroed in on is speed. Often I find that many athletes and clients are comfortable squatting slow and under tension rather than fast and aggressive. This is most often caused by a slow squat to the bottom and thus a slow return to the top.  Many of my clients have 20 to 30 more kilos in the squat if they would just allow themselves to be less timid and be less scared of the weight. The best squatters and lifters in the world rarely if ever struggle out of the bottom of squats. If they do struggle it’s because they are at a maximal weight for one rep or are maxing out a 5 rep or 10 rep. Their speed is always noticeable. This is because they are aggressive to the bottom of squat and therefore aggressive out of the bottom of squat.

Yesterday morning in our Olympic lifting class I noticed that some of our beginner lifters were fitting into this trend. Because the weight is beginning to get heavy in our program I could see them resist speed to the bottom and therefore limit their ability to gain speed out of the bottom. It goes without saying that there is a necessity for the stretch reflex out of the bottom of the squat. You need it for speed and you need it to translate over to your cleans and snatches.  You cannot gain speed out of the bottom if you do not make yourself be aggressive to the bottom. The stretch reflex doesn’t come without some sort of aggressive speed at the very end of the squat down. Speed in the squat is a necessity especially if you’re trying to develop speed in the Olympic lifts.  Just because the weight is heavy don’t let yourself to be timid, keep your torso vertical, and be aggressive to the bottom of the squat.

I often find myself falling victim to this fault. Yesterday in trying to get a new weight for four reps in the front squat I found myself being timid and cautious to the bottom of the squat on the third and eventually the fourth rep. I failed the fourth rep. Remembering what I know to be true about speed to the bottom, I rest five minutes and kept reminding myself to be aggressive even when it’s heavy. The next set I made all 4 reps. The speed to the bottom made the squats easier and faster thus allowing me to do more weight under less tension. It’s a win-win. Be aggressive, don’t be cautious, and you’ll see your weights increase as well as your speed increase. This is the only way to squat if you want to increase your leg power and see it translate over to the Olympic lifts.

Here are some examples of the speed I am talking about EVEN at heavy weights:

Klokov Pause FS

Zhang Guozheng 220kg x 2

One of my personal favorites: Caleb Williams @ 210kg

The best squat video out there


14 responses to “Cautious In The Squat

  1. First off, I just want to say ‘thanks’. This blog has been a tremendous help. I’ve learned more from reading your posts than any other single resource out there. Thanks again.

    Quick question: should we stay quick and aggressive with the squat even if there’s ‘butt wink’ at the bottom?

    I wrestle with working on depth/no wink vs aggressive and some wink. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

    • My thought would be to work pause squats pausing deep in the squat with no butt wink and firing up fast. Be aggressive to the bottom on normal squatting just remember to activate your gluts to help the butt wink.

  2. Thanks again. This is gonna hurt: TOW Program+Smolov Jr w/a deep pause. Ouch. Oh well, should just make me harder to kill in a zombie apocalypse.

  3. I am trying to figure out where Klokov breathes in relationship to his movements. I cannot tell from the he holding his breath the entire time and exhales upon lifting? He could be breathing through his nose but his cheeks are inflated the entire time. Just wondering?

  4. I’m following outlaw and I read this right before I lifted. Today we had 7×5 squats at 75%. Then we had to max for the day in snatch and after being really aggressive in my squat, even though I was dead, I almost pr’d. I hit 190 when my lifetime PR is 196. I believe that work on explosiveness was vital and it carried over so much into my snatch. Thank you!!

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  6. Milko is one of the most intense lifters I’ve ever watched. So awesome to see how aggressive and in the zone he is when lifting.

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