Squatting off of pins in the power rack, also known as Anderson Squats have found a way into my training and are here to stay!
Similar to the way board presses work wonders for bench pressing and rack pulls or pulls off of mats work for deadlifts, I've found Anderson Squats to help produce exceptional results in the squat.
First and foremost, we must give credit to the man who “invented” this movement. Anderson Squats (executed a bit different in this day in age than its predecessor) was first executed by a man who went by the name of Paul Anderson; a top Weightlifter, Strongman and “Powerlifter” of the 1950’s. He was an Olympic gold medalist, World Champion and two-time National Champion in Olympic weightlifting. Anderson played a big part in the manifestation of powerlifting as a competitive sport. He is considered to be one of the strongest men in recorded history for his still (mostly) unequaled feats of strength. From what I have gathered through research, Paul would stand in a hole that he dug in the ground with the loaded barbell at or above ground level and squat. There are actually photos of this...
Those of you who have a home gym that happens to be located on a farm or graveyard, by all means feel free to pay homage to Paul Anderson and get digging. For the rest of you, the power rack will suffice. I prefer to use Anderson Squats as a secondary movement. The focus is to overload the top portion of the squat. To set this up, you would set the pins to a height that puts you into a position that would be deemed legal squat depth in the Southern Powerlifting Federation (SPF).
Admittedly, that was an inside joke aimed towards my powerlifting readers, those of you unfamiliar with this organization which is known for their low standards of judging would be just as well off setting the pins to a height that puts the top of your thigh just above parallel. For an athlete that is 5’7 this would be around 39 inches from the ground. The second way to setup for Anderson squats would be to loop chains around the top of the power rack that you will then squat down to.
he original Anderson Squat also known as a “concentric only squat” or “bottoms up squat” started from the bottom position beginning with a concentric movement. Through trial and error, I have found greater benefit via unracking the weight off of the j-hooks and walking it out before beginning the actual movement. Starting the movement at the bottom puts you in a very awkward position that is vastly different than the position your body would be in during an actual squat at the same joint angle. Aside from allowing you to achieve proper position, having to walk out the weight gives you an opportunity to work on your technique at the task at hand. By walking out maximal loads you will have better transference to the actual competition lift (if you are a lifter that competes in an organization requiring you to walk out your squats). For the everyday lifter or bodybuilder training to get bigger and stronger, this goes without saying. You are forced to walk out your squats with the absence of a “monolift”.
You may ask, “Why not simply do partial rep squats?” Just as board presses are to bench pressing and rack pulls are to deadlifting, squatting off of pins makes the movement quantifiable since you will be hitting the same exact depth each and every time. This will allow you program the correct loads down the road. Just like board press and rack pulls, Anderson Squats allows your body to handle more weight than it’s used to.
Since you’ll be handling loads in the 95-110% of your 1RM for multiple reps it helps get your body accustomed to what it feels like to walk out and be under excessive loads. It’s also a huge confidence booster since when drop you down to lower weights you know in the back of your mind you’d previously held much more weight on your back. In addition, by using a slight pause on the pins you are also breaking the eccentric/concentric chain in turn taking away some of the stretch reflex. This is an excellent way to train "rate of force development" and "starting strength".
As mentioned- I prefer to use Anderson squats as a secondary movement after regular squats in my programming. Full range squats are my priority and I prefer to use Anderson's for overload training.
As far as loading goes I have found 3-6 sets of 3-5 reps @ 90+% of a 1 rep max in a full range of motion squat to work best.
A sample squat session incorporating Anderson Squats may look like this…
1A. Squat 4s x3r @ 80%
2A. Paused Squat (1” Pause at the bottom) 3s x 3r @ 75%
3A. Anderson Squats 3s x 5r @ 90%
4A. Walking Lunge 3s x 8e
1-Breathe the same way you would during a regular squat. Big breath at the top, holding it the entire rep.
2- Think about dropping the hips back until you meet the pins as opposed to squatting straight down. Doing so is closer to the joint/hip angle you achieve during the same point in a full range of motion squat.
3- Slight Pause on the pins. DO NOT bounce the weight.
4- Stay tight through the entire movement.