The 1 1/4 Squat: How, When, and Why It Should Be in Your Training

If you are someone who gets stuck at the bottom of squats and/or heavy cleans, this may be the exercise for you.

As lifters advance in their training, simply squatting may not be enough to address an individual’s weaknesses. For some lifters, the ability to be elastic and use the energy of a loaded barbell at the bottom of the squat and clean is not inherent to their athletic abilities, and therefore must be developed fuller by certain squatting variations.

Enter, the 1 1/4/ squat.

What is a 1 ¼ squat?

The 1 ¼ squat was popularized (at least in part) by Charles Poliquin to address the bottom position in the squat, snatch, and clean. This exercise can be performed for positional strength as well as at higher speeds to develop the rebound capacities needed for heavier weightlifting movements.

Above is a video on how to perform the 1 ¼ squat. In this specific video, Mike Burgener addresses his athletes who are using this variation with front squats and speed to have direct transfer over to heavy cleans.

When?

This squat variation should not replace a standard squat program, however can be used on moderate volume and intensity days to specifically address certain weaknesses in the squat. This exercise is typically done following main power and strength lifts, and can be regarded as a positional strength and technique exercise directly transferring over to the squat, clean, and snatch.

Why?

Many weightlifters, functional fitness athletes, and even powerlifters (while speed is not a huge factor in squat recoveries, it can still play a role in performance) can employ 1 ¼ squats into training. Here’s why:


Increased Positional Strength: This squat variation challenges the bottom position of the squat, forcing athletes to remain in control and have complete tension throughout one of the most mechanically challenging phases of the lift. By having a lifter then come up to above parallel, and drop back into the squat, you force positional strength and alignment, warranting further strength and positional stability adaptations.

Increased Muscular Tension and Hypertrophy: By increasing the time spent under tension during the 1 ¼ squat movement, you increase the metabolic demand upon the quadriceps, glutes, and vastus medialis oblique (VMO). This technique can be very helpful for lifters who may have their knees collapse in their squats, snatches, and cleans (valgus), as these muscle groups work to keep the pelvis, knees, and ankles properly aligned to allow for a more upright torso. Additionally, lifters who may lack muscular strength and development in the quadriceps can add these into their training to promote muscle growth specific to the quads.

Increase Rebound Potential: When done with speed (as seen above in the video), 1 ¼ squats can be directly transferred to the front squatting position in the clean, as well as the standard back squat. By increasing strength and elasticity (performed under speed), an athlete should be able to break through sticking points more effectively while staying in proper alignment and posture. This ability will result in stronger, more dynamic recoveries in the squat, clean, and snatch.

How?

Whether your perform this movement at controlled tempos (more for hypertrophy, positional strength, and alignments) or speed (increased rebound and elasticity directly transferring to clean, snatch, and squat) the components of the 1 ¼ squat are nearly identical.

  1. Load the barbell with a moderate load, as this exercise should be done with the intent of positional strength and/or speed. Generally speaking, sets of 2-5 reps with 70-90% of one’s maximum squat and/or front squat will suffice.
  2. Once un-racked, descend into a full depth squat.
  3. As you rebound out of the first squat, come up above ¼ of the full squat, slightly pausing to keep tension and positioning.
  4. Upon an audio signal (not vital to have audio signal though, just helpful), drop into the full depth position, rebound out, and stand all the way up to finish the 1 ¼ rep.

It is important to note that for athletes looking to drive muscle hypertrophy and positional strength, slower speeds throughout the ¼ phase of the squat is suggested. In the event a lifter is looking to increase their ability to rebound and recover from cleans, snatches, and squats, maximal speed and rounding should be done in the ¼  phase of the squat.

Final Notes

Coaches and athletes can include this squat variation to address the specific weaknesses and needs in the squat, clean, and snatch. Additionally, functional fitness athletes and even powerlifters can benefit from 1 ¼ squats, making them a great assistance squat exercise for nearly every athlete.

Featured Image: @fulcrumtraininghall on Instagram

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Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.