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Deadlifts and squats—the two most functional exercises that mimic everyday movements. Yet sometimes, it just feels like you’re hitting a wall in your progress. Maybe you can’t get past 250, or maybe adding a couple extra reps just puts your body down for the count and you need more than a day to recover.
Here, we will look at some ways you can improve your squats and deadlifts, moving past that weightlifting wall and into building the body you want.
Faster Recovery Means Faster Progress
Let’s start by looking at what you are doing for your body in between workouts. Are you taking proper care of yourself, or are you walking away from your session only to grab a few beers and some french fries?
Proper rest and nutrition can mean the difference between high performance and failure before the first rep. You don’t want to put all that effort and sweat into your routine, just to have to move down a few pounds to prevent injury without spotting on your next go. Even if you are intentionally in a loading period, you can help yourself along by feeding your body what it needs to build muscle faster.
Sleep Time = Recovery Time
This is a pretty obvious suggestion, but it often gets overlooked in favor of protein shakes and handfuls of vitamins. Not only is the amount of sleep you get crucial to your recovery, but the quality of the sleep you get is equally important. If you are tossing and turning from stress, or your workout just has you sore and unable to get comfortable, your muscles are not going to repair themselves fully.
You may have already tried sleep aids, glasses of warm milk, chamomile tea, or melatonin before bed; but pro athletes are starting to swear by CBD gummies for pain to help them get a better night’s sleep, and power through their days. Not only do these jewels relax your mind and body before your head even hits the pillow, but they support healing by reducing inflammation and promoting healthy cell regeneration.
Another commonly overlooked but highly necessary element of recovery—drink enough water! Water speeds up your healing time by clearing your muscles of carbon dioxide, getting glucose and oxygen throughout your body, and cooling you down when you are starting to run out of energy.
This handy hydration calculator will help you figure out how much water you should be drinking in order to maintain your optimal performance and help your body recover in between workouts. If you are a heavy sweater, or if you are working out in an extra hot, humid environment, you may want to consider electrolyte supplements to help you retain the water you take in for more efficient hydration.
Cold Baths Aren’t Just for Single People
It may sound counterintuitive for tense muscles to dip your body into a bathtub that feels like ice, but it can help reduce inflammation overall and invigorate your mind and body for faster recovery time.
If a cold bath sounds like too much torture to endure after you have already strained yourself in the gym, you could just do a quick, active recovery workout instead. Studies indicate that this is just as effective. It will slowly bring down your heart rate and increase your mobility and flexibility in the process. Ripped AND flexible? Yes, please.
Better Form Means Better Results
If you are not lifting or squatting properly, the wear and tear will only get worse over time. You may not have noticed it at first if your posture is off; but as you keep moving through your sessions, little compensations will start to add up. Keeping your form correct from the start means that you won’t have to correct after your body has been trained to move the wrong way.
Watch Your Back!
Your back is the most important part of your workout. If you don’t take care of it, you can end up with injuries and slowed progress. Make sure your posture is right for each kind of exercise you do, and don’t let fatigue keep you from keeping it correct. If you are too tired to keep your spine aligned, you should consider moving down in weight and working your way back up.
For deadlifts, the most common back misalignment is the Hunchback move. If your spine is rounded on top, you will not only develop the classic Notre Dame bulk at the base of your neck, but you risk throwing your entire back out as well. For squats, the best way to keep your back properly aligned is to build core and back strength before adding too much weight to the squats themselves.
One of the most important things you can do to improve your deadlifts and squats is to make sure you are recovering properly. If your muscles are too fatigued to handle your progress, you can end up with stunted advancement and injuries. Make sure you are getting enough rest, drinking enough water, and managing your inflammation.
Good form means everything in weight training. It keeps you from building bad habits and prevents compensations that ultimately lead to roadblocks and injuries. Spinal alignment is the number one thing to focus on in developing your form, and having proper posture and movement will keep you moving forward, strong, and healthy.