T Nation

T-Vixen Squatting Problem

Posting for a friend; here’s the background:

–127# (and dropping to 122, she hopes)
–BF% about 14 (on her Tanita scale)
–Competitive tennis player (even though she played only a single tournament in 2003, her rating still has her in the top 5 or 6 in CT)
–Likes cycling in all weather, but hasn’t done much lately

She’s been doing RR&D for much of the past year; really likes it. She’s taken a break a few times to do Fat Fast, which she also likes (a touch of the masochist there).

Here’s the “problem”: she’s stagnating at 115. She goes to parallel or a little below. She’s getting very frustrated about this, and wants to break this plateau. She uses knee wraps (real ones, not neoprene knee braces), because she has occasional knee problems and wants to save them for tennis.

I’ve suggested she adopt the set/rep scheme in “Big Boy Basics” (8x3/3x8) and make a serious shift in her routine.

I guess I should simplify this:

  1. How do you suggest she overcome a plateau in squatting?
  2. Any routines you think are ideal for this situation?

I’ll save time: she is past the “You need to train like a man.” advice. She already knows that. This is a serious woman, who will listen to any good advice from the T-Nation. I’ve done my best for her, based on the wealth of ideas and information here, but I know I’m still a novice (I squatted BW+ below parallel for the first time JUST last week; still a beginner!).

Looking forward to feedback, or even pointers to individual articles that I’ve forgotten about.

Uh…“you need to train like a man” is also a useless suggestion; something this forum is very aware of.

But, then why doesn’t your female friend come onto this board? You know, to take charge of her own training issue? Just a question. :wink:

She needs to read Dave Tate’s “8-keys” articles to help her get past weak spots. Also, any of his articles on the squat would be helpful for both her and you.

A obvious question: she’s been following a 5x5 protocol for much of the past year? And that’s it? Maybe it’s time for a change like Chad Waterbury’s ABBH or even a bit of Westside (Dave Tate again), for the next 6-weeks to get over any humps.

BTW: she could be running into some issues with overcoming plateaus by dieting right now. I’m assuming she is by the “dropping to 122” you posted.

What is her diet currently like, anyhow? Is she eating enough to expect gains?

I’ve found that as I drop BW my squat weights drop and my pull up reps go up. It might be hard to lose fat and still increase strength in large compound movements. It sure seems that way to me.

What exactly are your friend’s goals? In other words, are her goals aesthetic or performance goals? While it is nice to look good and get stronger most of us simply don’t make big gains while dieting (as Patricia pointed out).

Similarly, not all strength gains are followed by changes in muscle mass or distribution. While Dave Tate’s stuff will emphasize glute and hamstring work to bring up her squat this may not be in line with her current goals. Closer stance squats would place more emphasis on her quads, but won’t increase her strength any. Basically, ask her exactly what she’s trying to achieve. If she simply wants to move weight tell her to read Dave’s stuff.

If she has knee problems, using knee wraps often may not be such a good idea. The reason being that they can put extreme pressure on the back of the kneecap if the wraps are used properly. Not a knock against kneewraps here, just use them wisely.

It’s also difficult to answer your questions without seeing the rest of her recent leg routine. Without knowing anything else about it, I would speculate that she needs to bring her hamstring strength up. I say this because commonly women will have a poorer hamstring/quad strength ratio than men. And, if you’ve read any articles in this magazine, you know how important hamstring strength is to squatting.

Closer stance squats would place more emphasis on her quads, but won’t increase her strength any.[/quote]


Shit…did I say that? lol. Increasing quad involvement will make her stronger in this respect, but she’ll be able to lift more if she were to rely more on hamstrings and glutes (as per Dave Tate).

Patricia: She IS a member, but has been too busy to spend time on the Forums; I’m trying to help her out. I suspect she’ll come around when I tell her you have suggestions–she respects your opinions and accomplsihments. The “8 Keys” is probably the best idea to prompt her to re-think her training. And you and SteelyEyes are almost certainly right on about dieting vs. progressing.

Kinetix: her goals are to get stronger on the squat; sorry I didn’t make that clear. I had just suggested she widen her stance in the squat (RR&D says “narrow stance”), so that might help some. Helped me.

dcb: re: “the rest of her recent leg routine”; she’s been doing Ripped, Rugged & Dense 2.0. If you’re not familiar with it: Narrow-stance Squat, Calf Press (in squat machine) and Deadlift are the leg-involved moves. No direct/isolation hamstring work. Hmmm.

Thanks for the feedback, all. If I’m understanding correctly, what we’ve got so far:

  1. Change her routine (and look at Dave Tate’s “8 Keys” article)
  2. Realize that dieting to reduce BF can run counter to making strength gains.
  3. Thunder and dcb are primed for an (interesting?) debate re: squat stance.

TShaw - Sorry, I missed the part in your first post where you mentioned the R,R&D routine. Dave Tate’s articles will give you tons of ideas for hamstring and posterior chain exercises.

I don’t think Thunder and I were in disagreement about squat stance. There’s a time and place for different stance widths depending on what your goals are.

TShaw, I’m flattered. :wink:

I would say that once she begins working the posterior chain, she will overcome this plateau. Box squats, GM, etc. will really perform wonders on improving the squat. And I would venture to add her explosiveness on the tennis court.

And if I were her, I would wait a bit before I cut any calories. The change in routine will probably require her to be eating optimal amounts of food. Besides, I would bet that she’s seen her metabolism stagnate a bit from doing the same thing in the gym for a year. The change in routine could be a nice kickstart to her body.


If she really wants to increase her squat, perhaps Chad Waterbury’s VOS routine would be a wise choice. Only problem is that it kind of neglects the rest of the body (not totally, just kind of). That’s what I’m doing right now, using box squats for the speed day. Last time I did this program I added 20 lbs to my squat in less than a month.

Sorry for suggesting that you and Thunder were going to be at odds. I sent that when your second post hadn’t shown up yet, so I was anticipating a debate on that topic.

I’ve directed her to this thread, and passed along the comments so far. Thanks again to all who responded.

training with speed and a box has helped me put on over 100 pounds on my low box squat in the past 2 years, not to mention all the posterior chain work per a modified west side template…and i’m no beginner. it seems as if i break a record nearly every couple weeks. and that’s the way it should be. many many articles on here lately have been geared for training as an athlete which is what folks everywhere need in my opinion. just about any training method on here will help, it’s just picking one that’s most specific to your personal goals. i happen to blend westside training with CT, CW, Ian King, Coach Davies, and some Alessi principles as of late in the way i train.

I’m new to the forums but I do read a hell of a lot…

I would also recommend almost anything by dave tate… HOWEVER, it may be another underlying problem. No offense to your friend, or to your training advice, but it seems to me like she probably has some kind of a muscular imbalance. What type of squatter is she? Upright olympic type, or the ultra-wide powerlifting type? or in between? Does she incorporate hip flexor exercises? I would think that the key to a bigger squat is simply increasing her leg strength. I don’t mean to belittle, but with a squat of 115, I don’t really think that she is ready for Dave Tate. It is EXCELLENT that she is so motivated… keep her doing box squats, and incorporate some serious hamstring training (look at the 7 best hamstring exercises by Christian Thibadeau). I am just guessing but I would say that the problem lies there. Try front squats to improve quad strength. Hope this helps.

RIT Jared,
No offense taken, believe me. She knows she’s still a beginner (another reason why she feels selff-conscious about posting here, I learned last night). She’s “upright Olympic type” and has been doing RR&D which says “Narrow-stance Squats.”

We IMed a lot about this yesterday (we’re 300 miles apart, or else I’d be right there coaching an spotting her), and she has printed out the “8 Keys” articles (as well as this thread). She doesn’t feel knowledgeable enough to create a program, so likes to have one handed to her, especially one from TMag. I’m telling her the RR&D, although she has seen progress and loves the convenience of it for her very busy schedule, is too limiting in the moves, and she needs to work on hamstrings more. I’ve tried to get her into Front Squats, teling her it’s okay to use less weight for awhile, but she has real trouble with the bar on her clavicle.

I want to add here that this thread has been ideal, in many ways. Veterans and first-time posters contributing, helpful comments, a variety of new things to try–it’s the best of what TForums have to offer.

It’s only missing the person we’ve been discussing! :wink:

I don’t know that much about your friend, but I am doubting that she wants to be a competitive powerlifter. Dave (Tate) does have some good tips. I would say that getting proper squatting shoes is one of the more important things, especially for beginners that have a hard enough time getting back on the heels as it is. So if she’s wearing her cute little adidas running shoes with the super cushy 2-inch heel, i’d tell her to ditch those. I personally don’t squat in chuck taylors, but I do squat in flatter bottomed, dense soled shoes.

Furthermore, westside is based on a wide-stance, powerlifting squat. If RRD requires narrow to moderate stance, westside won’t exactly fit the bill. One of Tate’s tips is to “spread the floor” apart with your feet, and with a narrow stance, that just doesn’t work.

I think that the best tool for beginning squatters is to use a box. Not do box squats right off the bat, but just use the box. Come down and touch it with your ass on every rep. That way there’s no cheating, and no excuses. Plus it gets you used to the idea of squatting around a box, when you do get advanced enough to incorporate box squats.

Without being able to see your friend squat, its very difficult to pinpoint her problem… but shoes is something that most people don’t think about… Also I suspect that she is in the mentality that squats are a quadricep dominant movement. That same mindset plagued me for the first 2 years of my training.

TShaw how competive is she still at tennis or cycling? First, thing she needs to learn is to shy away from using those knee wraps. Especially, when squatting. It does nothing to strengthen the muscle around the knees and she will lose ROM if she wares them when squatting. I am a personal trainer in NYC I can help you guys out if you want pm if you want.

In Health,


Start box squatting yesterday.

By, the way I would only recommend her wearing the kind of knee wrap your talking about is only when she runs on hard cement pavement.