Above all exercises, the squat is the king of all big lifts. Training for the squat is not just about the amount of weight you lift but how efficiently you can lift the weight. In the world of strength training, there is a simple mechanism that we all abide by and that is form = function. Without form, you will lose strength and force production which will lower the amount of function you can actually have any specific exercise. To best address how to maximize your squat let’s take a look at the five phases that we have found enable you to increase squat performance. #1 – The Set Up Before you can squat heavy and improve your strength we need to set up properly. Our goal is to be strongly aligned and tight through the entire range of motion, this is why the setup is perhaps the most important aspect to a great squat. Here are the three steps to a great squat setup. Hand Position: Hand position on the bar should be as close as your shoulder mobility can allow. Keep your elbows inside the hand position. Retract and Depress the Scapula: With relaxed shoulders, pinch your shoulder blades together to squeeze the upper body. Push Elbows under the bar: This will engage the lats and allow for more muscle mass to function. #2 – Breathing and Bracing Our goal is to set ourselves up with a strong and neutral spine in the same tight position from the setup. Here are the steps to breathing and bracing prior to your lift. Breath down and out: Unracking the weight, push air down and out through your obliques to increase pressure and enable stability. Create 360 degrees of pressure: Standing in your neutral position create abdominal pressure throughout. Try not to engage in lumbar extension – this can lead to spinal injuries.