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Staggered Step Squats – How to Go Deeper Without Going Deeper…

This exercise is just awesome for legs, I have to say. It’s a barbell squat done with ONE foot up on a Step riser (or weight plate or whatever other solid object you can use to elevate one foot).

The idea with this one is to allow you to go VERY deep on one side at a time. It’s tough to drop down into a fully deep squat with both legs…balance and flexibility can be an issue. But with this one, when you elevate one foot, you get extra range of motion on that elevated foot while being able to maintain good body position for the duration of the squat.

It also tends to focus more resistance on that one leg, even though you’re pushing with both – the elevated leg is bent more, giving it weaker leverage, which demands more of it. So it’s ALMOST like doing a one-legged squat but using two legs and without the balance requirement.

The main benefit, though, is the ability to down VERY deep on that one side without the same issues you would face going deep on a regular barbell squat.

The setup is simple…it’s exactly the same as a regular squat only you set a Step platform in the rack. Just one is fine…you only need a few inches to elevate your foot on. You can also try it with a barbell plate (not stacked – too slippery to stack one plate on top of another then step on it and squat). A wooden block or other solid object is perfect.

Get the bar on your back, step back with your feet in close together then set your one foot on the platform. Your feet should be a bit outside shoulder width for stability with toes pointed out somewhat.

Now squat down.

The key here is that you want to maintain the bar in a horizontal position during the movement, not tilted even though your one leg is higher. It’s that higher leg position that’s going to put the stretch on the muscles of the higher side.

The squat itself should be done exactly like a normal squat…take a moment at the bottom to get a good stretch, if you like. I found that to be really beneficial. Having one knee less bent means it’ll have better leverage and it’ll be easier to get out of the bottom than a “normal” very deep squat.

Do all your reps on one side then rest then move it over to the other side and do the same thing. I wouldn’t recommend going directly over to the other side because really, both legs are getting worked no matter which side it’s on. By going right to the other side, you’ll just compromise the work you get on the second side.

Come down into the squat then back up, keeping the bar level.

Make sure you use a weight you KNOW you can handle for a deep squat even without the Step platform, especially the first time you do it. This type of uneven staggered height is a very different feeling on the legs, hips and core.

It is a GREAT movement, though. I was really impressed with how well it hit just about everything in the lower body…it’s actually the first time I’ve gotten sore hamstrings from squatting! Really involving the hams with a squat is tough to do and this setup seemed to make it happen so it’s definitely one I’ll be including in my regular training more frequently.

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