Are you one of those people with thin legs? has your ass been growing steadily under your squat programme, but not your thighs? If yes I might have an answer for you. If, on the other hand you have naturally good quads then don’t bother- you can do two sets of leg extensions then read the paper while your thighs swell.
I think that in the first decade of training, with many people, there’s a form problem; there’s also a mind to muscle connection problem. you might think you’ve got it right because, after all, all you’re doing is moving your limbs to and fro. Not so. Lets take the archetypal gym newb- they have six years of experience; enough so that they can swagger around. They know what they are doing, and the size of weight they pick up reflects that. I saw two of them the other day. They approached the squat rack and put nearly three hundred pounds on the bar (130 kilos) without even warming their knees and hips. they have the stance right, but then they start squatting, and hardly move past a forty degree angle. well done guys! another ten years and your legs will be equally as normal as the day you walked in the gym.
Alright. I’m going to get to the point now. Lets go through the squat movement. Lower back arched so that the curve of your lower back could collect rain water if you bent over. The feet are positioned slightly wider than shoulder width and the toes pointing outwards at about twenty degrees. Without any weight, keep your head up, and bend at the knee, keeping your feet flat on the floor, and the weight displaced on the heels when you sink down. Your abdomen, and dangly bits! should be free of pressure because your legs fold towards the shoulder rather than directly towards the chin. Now, you’ll reach a pont where you can’t sink lower without relaxing the lower back muscles, thereby allowing your spine to bend the ‘other way’. This is your natural squatting position. This is the important bit: When you press back upwards you’re pressing on the heels and you’re only going to move upwards so that your legs reach an angle of thirty degrees from the standing position. This will keep the pressure on the legs.
With this (very subtle) change in technique you will effectively take out the top part of the movement. Why do this? >>
Your legs aren’t doing much work in the first thirty degrees. you use this range of motion all the time when you walk or run. Whenever you do a squat through the whole range of motion you’re effectively having a break everytime you stand up, and letting your legs rest.
The first thirty degrees of the squat motion is a butt movement; It is a lower back movement. As you do the first part of the squat movement, your posture goes through radical change- essentially you are moving the lower back forward to compensate for the weight on your shoulders to help your balance. The quadriceps are barely in the equation at this point. Everytime you straighten up you are having to perform this unneccesary complicated part of the squat.
the bottom line (no pun intended) is DON’T STRAIGHTEN UP. the principle described here is similar to the one employed when doing dips. you shouldn’t straighten either your arms or your legs. While with dips straightening the arms means taking a rest, with squats this also means complicating the movement, and thwarting your attempts to build the thigh muscles. If you choose to do squats the way I DON’T recommend, then why not do deadlifts instead?