When do squats get hard? Tips and tricks to not miss
January 8th 2019
After a day of completing my squat workout, I wondered about this, when do squats get hard?
Squats become difficult when you are no longer completing your designed sets and reps. In theory, as you lift more weights, squats are becoming more challenging every workout. So, if you are doing a linear progression program where you are increasing weight every workout, expect squat workouts to be more challenging until you are unable to recover adequately to complete all your sets and reps.
Why are squats so hard?
Squats are difficult because you are pushing your body to new challenges you have not faced yet. While some lifters may have bad technique or form that is causing them to have a terrible squat experience, it just sucks to train legs. It has the potential to make you feel crippled for days. It is really draining since you are utilizing large muscle groups in your legs.
When I first started to barbell squat, I thought 145 lbs for a few sets of 5 reps were difficult. I was not strength training at the time but I was just testing what I was able to do. When I officially started working out in the gym using Starting Strength, I thought 225 lbs for 3 sets of 5 reps were challenging at first. After resetting and following the program (this took a few weeks), I was able to push past my limits. So much so, that I was able to do 275 lbs for at least 1 set of 5 reps at 165 lbs bodyweight. But the journey to get there, 225lbs to 270lbs was an intense struggle. It felt terrible to squat but it felt great to accomplish that task.
I felt like quitting many times but I was stubborn. I was determined to follow the program and get more gains. And with time and patience, I was able to push past many mental hurdles that were in my way.
Why are squats so tiring?
Squats are tiring because they are a full body compound movement that trains the biggest muscles in your body (your legs). In order to make sure you are properly recovered to train a hard squat workout, you must make sure you have adequate sleep and nutrition.
You can feel fatigued from squats for many reasons. If you are a beginner, you simply have not trained squats before and are feeling the full effects of the tired sensation of squatting. However, even experienced and elite lifters can attest that squatting really drains them, since their programming mandates them to do at least moderate volume, moderate intensity squats. So, doing many heavy squats for many reps will wear you out and it will feel like you are seeing stars.
How to squat properly?
Is there a proper squat form? It depends on your goals. For example, if you are a powerlifter, you must squat where your hip crease breaks below parallel. If you are a basketball player, you can get away with doing quarter squats, as you see many famous NBA players like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade doing quarter squats, as recommended by their trainers. But you are not LeBron James or Dwyane Wade. You are just you. And you need to make sure you do the most effective exercise that works for you.
To do the most general squat, these tips will help you set up a good base on what to do when squatting. As you develop and gain more insight on what sport you are competing, you may find that you would want to change some of these tips. But for the average gym goer or to the strength training beginner, here are some tips I found that are great to learn and implement in your squat:
- From your warmups to your working sets, make sure you approach your squats the same way every time. That way, you eliminate any extra variables that can harm your squat. Squat form consistency is important
- Make sure to point your toes at an angle to activate more glutes. If you want to develop a powerful squat, you would want to utilize all your lower body muscles. Activating and developing your glutes are key to overall strength development
- Prevent any knee collapsing inward. If that happens, that is okay! Just know that it is an issue that you will need to correct over time. How? By continuously practicing perfect reps with lighter weight. Ingrain in your body how to squat perfectly. By practicing a perfect squat form, you are training your weak muscles and growing your squat potential
- Have a neutral head position. Why? Because on either end of the extremes, your body is compensating with your back or shoulders, which decreases the stability of your squat form
- When you are squatting up a weight, make sure to drive the bar upward with your back. Often times, you will hear the que “Have a big chest.” Usually, many lifters either have a weak upper back or are not aware of using their back when they are squatting. By actively driving the bar upward with your back, your chest will automatically be elevated.
How many squats should a beginner do?
This really depends on what your goals are. If you are strength training as a beginner and you decided to do a linear progression program, like Starting Strength or Greyskull lp, you will be squatting between 30-45 times a week. Usually, these linear progression programs have you doing 15 working set squats a workout, 2-3 times a week. This does not include your warmup squats.
So, to determine how many squats a beginner should do a day, I would highly recommend that the beginner follow a strength training program. If you are training for a different sport, like track, basketball, football, etc., and never hit the gym before, I would encourage you to give lifting weights a go. And to follow a linear progression program, which has you doing 30-45 squats a week.
If you do not want to go to the gym, there are still some options left. You can do bodyweight squats until you are ready to go to the gym. Doing squats with a stimulus enables you to make more progress. So, this is one reason why beginners should go to the gym and start doing weighted squats.
Why are squats good for you?
Squats have a ton of health benefits. So, let's find out why squats are so damn good for you.
Builds a thick core
When you squat, you need to maintain upright otherwise the weight will crush you and you will snap into two pieces. Your core is constantly engaged when you squat to maintain an upright posture, to stabilize the weight and to make sure you maintain proper form when squatting.
Reduce your risk of injury
Squatting helps with the overall development of your legs. As a result, you will develop muscle to help protect your ligaments, tendons, and joints from any daily activities or sports. Developing more muscle is one way of stabilizing your body when performing other active tasks. In addition to muscular development, your tendons, bones, and ligaments also get stronger and thicker from training.
Increases your vertical jump
There is a reason why squats are used in almost all vertical jumping programs. In order to develop absolute jumping power, the squat positions actually mimic a lot of what a jump is. Before you explode upward in a jump, you squat upward from out of the hole. By training this movement, you are creating a more powerful jump. Also, since your body is creating a more powerful jump, it also can absorb more impact from a jump, since your muscles, tendons, and ligaments are stronger.
For many people, doing squats actually helps you stay flexible. Most people have desk jobs or jobs that require them to sit in front of a computer for long hours. And after work, they need to sit at home and relax in order to recover from all the work stress. This increasingly sedentary lifestyle further restricts our mobility. By having a consistent workout filled with squats, we are improving our range of motion and keeping our hips, knees, and back moving.
When you squat, you are signaling to your body to release more hormones to build stronger, thicker and bigger muscles. But since the squat is a full body compound movement, you will also enjoy the benefits of upper body growth as well.
Daily tasks are easier
There is a reason why squats are called a functional movement. After all, many everyday movements involve the squat - picking up the laundry, walking down the stairs, sitting up from a chair, playing with your kids, using the bathroom, etc.
Performing squats will make your everyday tasks easier. You are building up the flexibility, strength, mobility, and balance to handle more workload.
Improve your workout conditioning
Instead of spending hours trying to do conditioning to help improve your workout efficiency, why not try doing moderate squat intensities, with a low rest time and high volume. By the end of the squat workout, you will be gasping for air like you never have before. Your heart rate will be elevated and you will definitely feel the burn. And best of all? You save a lot of time by trying to do a squat conditioning workout.
How many squats should I do for a bigger butt?
There are so many articles that try to quantify how many squats can get you a bigger butt. But the truth will always be the same. It depends. It depends on your training history, workout consistency, workout intensity, and so many other factors.
If you want more glute gains, start by doing a linear progression program and hit the gym. Doing weighted squats will exponentially increase your rate of progress. Most linear progression programs will have you doing 30 - 45 squats a week. Keep being consistent with your workout and you should see progress in a few months. If you are a fast responder to squats, you could see results in a few weeks. It all depends on your rate of recovery and how your body adapts to squatting at the gym.
How many squats should I do as a woman?
How many squats a woman should do should be no different than how many squats a man should do. If you want to change your physique and get stronger, you will need to put in the work to do so, man or woman.
So, if you are just starting to lift weights, I would highly recommend a linear progression program that has you do 30 - 45 squats a week, for your working set. From there, after you put in the work and made big progress, you can assess your goals.
But until then, you are just speculating. Find a linear progression program. I have linked two reviews of linear progression programs that I tried and would recommend to any person willing to put in the time and effort to change their life. So, what is stopping you?