Squats have been interesting this cycle, my front squat has gone up huge, my overhead squat is higher than I ever thought it would be, and yet my back squat seems completely stalled out. What’s going on? I have a theory related to this. The first, pertains to accessory strength improvements leading to a great efficiency throughout the movements. Front squats rely heavily on the upper back and the trunk to stabilize weight and deliver leg drive through to the bar – improvements in accessory strength lead to better efficiency and apparent gains without any additional leg strength. Overhead squat similarly rely on overhead stability, upper back strength and trunk stability, likewise with those improvements, more leg strength can be delivered to the bar, resulting in apparent improvements without leg strength gain necessarily. That leads me to the back squat, the ultimate measurement of unadulterated leg strength. How do increases in strength seemingly across the board no translate to better back squats? The answer is simple, mobility, technique and motor control.
Let’s start with mobility, as I’m nearly breaking the “mobility bubble” that I spoke about last week, it free’s up new ranges of motion, and different activation patterns. These new activation patterns lead to better technique which in turn requires changes in motor control and motor patterns to employ the new range of motion and stay out of old motor patterns. The problem is that those motor patterns are often activating muscles in different ways, and it can take time for those muscles to adapt to the different stimuli. So as I clear up my ankles and hips, it allows for better position, joint health, and torque generation but it also allows me a more upright torso, which places more emphasis on my glutes. Likewise, instead of relying on tension in my ligaments to hold positions more is being demanded from my musculature. The combined effect is that my squat, though looking and feeling better, is actually weaker until adaptation can take hold.
2 Clean + 1 Jerk @ 60%, 70%, 75%, 2 sets @ 80% 155; 185; 195; 205
Hang Power Snatch 3 @ 50%, 3 @ 60%, 3 @ 65%, 2 x 2 @ 70% 95; 115; 125; 135
Back Squat 3RM 305
1 Muscle Ups
6 Box Jumps (24″)
Instead of rehashing the whole day of training I’ll just post some videos and a few thoughts. Cleans were feeling good, I’m getting better at staying on the heals through the hip drive and jumping forward less. Still not quite catching the bar as high as I’d like, it’s still crashing a bit. Jerks – as usual – felt fine. Snatching felt equally good, but given the smaller percentages it’s mostly to be expected. I am trying to get to the bottom of my overhead position, it would appear as if my scapulas aren’t rotating properly which leaves my shoulders too far forward, a little soft tissue and some motor control work should actually improve my overhead stability quite a bit. I’ve already spoken about squats, I would’ve expected to hit 325 or so, so failing at 315 wasn’t a great feeling. Like I said though, it was’t so much a leg strength issue as a technique issue, and rather than dumping myself back to old habits I decided to stop and reinforce the good ones.
In case you didn’t pick up on it – I’m a bit sour still. Hitting PR’s in everything but my back squat isn’t something that’s easy to swallow.