Q&A: Plateaus and Squat Help

I’ve been answering a lot of Q&A’s on e-mail but I want to start putting more on my blog.  This will cover a couple option for smashing through a fat loss plateau.  Then I’ll go over what you can do to help increase your squat (programming considerations, exercise selection and all that fun stuff)

Q: I’ve lost 66 pounds in the last 6 months.  For the last two week I have been stuck at 223 and I’m getting discouraged.  I run daily for ~30 minutes and do some core work.  What do I do to get out of this plateau?

A:  This can be a complicated question and I get something along these lines pretty often.  I’m talking complicated like solving a rubiks cube, drunk, while running away from a rabid attack dog.  Well, maybe not.

There are a few things to look at here.  If you have been on the same diet as when you first began your weight loss journey, you will reach a point where your dietary intake and energy expenditure begin to comes closer and closer to the same number.  Once you are eating as many calories as you are expending, you will no longer lose any weight and/or fat.

So the question is, how do I either increase my energy expenditure, or decrease my caloric intake to give this fat loss plateau a punch to the mug.  I’m not a fan of increasing energy expenditure, because there is only so much you can do for that.  You could begin by increasing your cardio from 30 minutes to 45 minutes.  You could begin lifting weights (if you aren’t doing that already).  Those are the only two that I’d really worry about implementing.

The more effective way however, would be to decrease your energy intake.  You do this by consuming less calories.  If you aren’t counting calories, then it would mean decreasing meal sizes, decreasing meal portions, adding in some fasting, or replacing calorie dense food with nutrient dense food.  If you are counting calories, then you simply need to decrease the amount of calories you are taking in on a daily basis.

The key to sustained weight loss is keeping consistent.  If you are eating on track 50% of the time, you probably won’t note much of a difference in body composition.  If you can follow the play 80-90% you will attain your goals.

 

Q: My squat has been stuck around 350 for the past few months and I can’t get it to increase.  I’m currently doing 5×5 training.  Deadlift is increasing as well, but I’m at a loss for the back squats.  I do a powerlifting style squat, and usually wear knee wraps and a belt for my heavier sets.

A: Anyone who has read my articles on training knows that I’m a man of simple tastes.  If you want to get better at something, do it more.  Now, I’m not saying you need to squat everyday to break out of your plateau.  Since you are doing some sort of 5×5, you could start by reprogramming your numbers.  Try starting with a lower “max” number.

Changing to a different program could also help.  Some programs will only last so long until you have to try something new to create a better training stimulus.  There are numerous programs out there: Cube Method, 5/3/1, Lift-Run-Bang, Juggernaut Method are just a few tried and proven programs that have gotten good results.

You might also think about ditching the gear, you gear whore.  Just fucking with you.  Try a training cycle with no wraps or a belt though.  You will be surprised at what that can do for you.  Or, don’t use a belt for the beginning of a cycle and add it as needed.  Then add the wraps closer to the end of the cycle when you are lifting weight closer to your RM.

Then comes supplementary exercises.  You didn’t say if you are doing any, so I will assume that you aren’t.  I have noticed that strengthening the quads, seems to help a ton with the low-bar back squat.  I never really did this before, but I am now, and my back squat is going up.  The best exercises for building the quads are high-bar squats and front squats.  You can mix in paused reps in the hole for these as well.

Another thing a lot of super strong guys such as Ed Coan used to do was use primarily high bar squats for a full cycle, or part of a cycle.  If your high bar squat goes up, your low-bar squat also should increase.

Front squats are great for building your quads as well as identifying weakness in your anterior core.  If the bar begins to roll forward as you come back up, your torso is bent too far forward and you need to work on some dedicated core work or lighten the load up.

For both high-bar squats and front squats you want to make sure to load the quads.  Dan Green has some great vids already on this subject.

You will notice one of his cues is to sit straight down, and not sit back (which you do in low-bar squats).  This will load the quads more.  In the high-bar squat you also want to sit down and allow the quads to get wasted (loaded, lol).

 

In this video Dan talks about where to position the knees.  This is very important, and can definitely add pounds immediately to your squat.  I was of the “knees out” school for quite a while.  Yet I noticed that pretty much all Oly lifters with a decent squat and pretty much all powerlifter with good squats allowed their knees to come in somewhat during max attempts.

 

This is a good vid of a squat session from Dan Green.  The guys has incredible form, and has perfected over many years of trial and error.  So take notes.

 

I didn’t mention that you could also increase your squat frequency.  I have already wrote about this at length here.

If anyone has any questions please feel free to e-mail me at kyle@kylegrieve.com.

 

 

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