Written by Team Juggernaut
By Chad Wesley Smith
1. Know that you are squatting RAW-There is tons of literature regarding Westside style training, most of which promotes box squatting variations almost exclusively. The box squat, particularly when a negative shin angle is achieved, does not have a high carryover to the raw squat. Sitting back onto the box is similar is akin to sitting back into a multiply suit that will stop you in the hole, this position is impossible to achieve in the raw squat. While there are many great things to be learned from geared lifters, squatting with ultra-wide stances onto a box, is not one of them.
2. Train Your Quads-It is inevitable that your knees have some forward movement during the raw squat and for this reason there will be much greater quad involvement than geared squatting. There are tons of ways to improve quad strength, high bar Olympic squats, close stance safety bar squats, and barbell step ups are all great ways to build quad strength and size. I have always been a proponent of high rep squatting and I feel like this has played a big role in my quad development and strength.
3. Commit to the Descent-The most difficult aspect of the raw squat for most people is reversing the bar out of the hole. A more rapid descent will allow you to have more rebound out of the hole. Similar to using bands as accommodating resistance, an overspeed eccentric will create a faster concentric portion of the lift. You are also using less energy by bringing the bar down faster. Watch myself, Robert Wilkerson, or Pat Mendes squat, all of us drop rapidly and reverse the weight quickly.
4. Get Tight-This is true for raw, single ply or geared squatters, if you don’t achieve great upper back tightness in your setup, you are doomed to miss your squat before you even begin it. Work to maintain shoulder and pec flexibility/mobility, as I think it is much more advantageous to have a narrow hand position when trying to maintain upper back tightness. Not only must you be able to achieve great upper back tightness to be a great squatter, you must be able to create tremendous intrabdominal pressure. Lack of pressure in your belly will cause you to break at the waist when you are coming up, think about trying to stretch your belt as you fill up your belly with air before beginning the descent. Train your abs and upper back hard to improve strength and thickness and allow yourself to maximize your tightness and give yourself the best chance of squatting huge.
5. Wrap it Right and Tight-When wrapping your knees for a big raw squat, take special care to place as much wrap as possible behind your knees. Geared squatters need stopping power from the knee wraps, raw squatters need rebound. The more wrap you can place behind your knees, the greater rebound effect you will get out of the hole. Some people I think get intimidated about super tight wraps, but the fact of the matter is that a tighter wrap will add more to your squat, so suck it up and deal with the pain for the minute or so you have them on. Besides, missing a PR squat hurts a lot more than having on tight wraps.