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Explaining the Squeeze Technique

We do not use repetition-assist techniques at Total Results. Some of the more popular approaches that bodybuilders use include forced repetitions, applied negatives, breakdowns, and pyramid schemes. These often give the illusion that the trainee is working hard, but much of it is for show. In my opinion, the aforementioned strategies provide questionable benefits and can compromise safety. It is vitally important to regulate one's dose of exercise, as well as frequency and intensity. The body has finite recovery ability, and it is very easy to overtrain or cause injury.

Most readers of this blog know that the Total Results exercise philosophy involves using a very slow speed of movement (10 seconds on the positive and 10 seconds on the negative), deliberate turnaround technique, and pushing to and beyond muscular failure. Our main exercise objective is a thorough inroad of all of the body's muscular structures so that we can create a stimulus that the body needs to make physical improvements. One method that we do apply to certain exercises in order to enhance exercise intensity and depth of inroad is called the squeeze technique. This is something that we typically introduce to new clients in their second or third workout. Keep in mind that the word "squeeze" is just a metaphor. Clients often ask about this and wonder what it is they are supposed to squeeze, and we have to explain to them that they are not actually squeezing anything. However, we use the word squeeze because it effectively represents the feeling that they should experience when they properly apply the technique. This requires good teaching and effective word selection on the part of the instructor, as well as a learning mindset on the part of the exercise subject.

The squeeze technique is used starting with the third repetition of an exercise, and is applied to all the remaining repetitions of that particular exercise. This is done for two reasons. One, the first two repetitions of any exercise carry the highest risk of injury, as your muscles are fresh and can produce the amount of force necessary to cause injury. By weakening the musculature to a degree with the first two repetitions, we can feel confident in your safety going forward. Second, the first two repetitions serve as a thorough and specific warm-up for the involved muscles and joints. Synovial fluid is released, thus lubricating the joints and making things work more smoothly. Applying the squeeze technique should last between three and five seconds when you reach the most contracted position in an exercise. A great example takes place on the Seated Leg Curl exercise, which primarily targets the hamstrings and involves the function of knee flexion. When your knees are in their most flexed position (with your toes pointed up), you will gradually add as much tension to your hamstrings as possible and contract them with maximum effort. You must remember to breathe freely while performing the squeeze technique; do not breath hold or perform a Val Salva. Try to really focus on your targeted muscle during this time. After three to five seconds of that contraction, you will gradually ease out of that position and continue with the negative excursion. This sequence will be repeated until muscular failure is reached and a thorough inroad is performed.

We utilize the squeeze technique on pulling exercises like the Pulldown, or any movement where the musculature is still significantly loaded in the most contracted position. It is generally not used on most pushing exercises, as force vectors are such that staying in a lockout position can unload the musculature briefly. Think of the Leg Press exercise. The end point is usually set to a position just short of full extension of the knees. Even with the end stop back there, if you tried hard enough to push on it, eventually your knees would lock and could result in serious injury. The Lumbar Extension exercise is another great example of how to use the squeeze technique. The cam fall-off on that exercise is significant, but you are still loaded in the most extended position. To apply the squeeze, you will gradually (never abruptly or suddenly) press the movement arm down on the rubber stopper that marks the end point. In your mind, think about trying to advance the movement arm further, even though the mechanics of the machine prevent you from doing so. Focus on your lower back musculature; that is the prime mover of the exercise. After three to five seconds of maximum effort, gently ease out of the squeeze and continue with the negative excursion. Other exercises that can accommodate the squeeze technique include Row, Calf Raise, Cervical Extension, and Linear Spine Flexion.

You do not need to perform all those rep-assist techniques that you see in gyms in order to create a thorough exercise stimulus. I believe those practices are actually impediments to progress. The squeeze technique can enhance the connection between your mind and the targeted musculature. After you become more proficient in using it, you might find that your time under load will slightly decrease. If so, that's okay; we are looking for quality rather than quantity. Remember, the main objective of exercise is thorough inroad. Mastery of this advanced strategy can help you achieve that goal.

Posted May 03, 2024 by Matthew Romans