Trainers and coaches often talk about the importance of the eccentric portion of a lift, but the concentric portion isn’t emphasized as much even though it’s where many lifters fail. For squats, one way to get past common sticking points and train the top-end portion of the lift is to do Anderson squats.
What is the Anderson squat? The Anderson squat is performed from the bottom position with the bar at a dead stop. It can help you get past a plateau, improve your lockout, and address weaknesses in your technique. Depending on the height you start from, you can also overload the movement to build more confidence when squatting heavier weights.
The Anderson squat can be difficult to perform since it starts at a point where many lifters are the weakest. But if you’re struggling with your squat, the Anderson squat can be a good variation to add to your routine to help you overcome mental blocks and faults in your technique.
In this article, I will:
- Talk about what the Anderson squat is
- Discuss the muscles worked in the Anderson squat
- Show you how to perform the Anderson squat
- Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of the Anderson squat
- Discuss whether or not you should do the Anderson squat
What Is The Anderson Squat?
The Anderson squat is sometimes also called the bottom-up squat because you start from the bottom of a squat. It was created by Joe Anderson, a legendary powerlifter, Olympic weightlifter, and Strongman competitor.
It’s done by performing a squat from a dead stop, typically at a point just above parallel, with the bar resting on the safety pins in a power cage or squat rack. However, you can also start from below parallel.
Starting a squat from the bottom position allows you to work on the concentric, or upward, portion of the lift, which isn’t usually prioritized since many other squat variations focus on the eccentric, or downward, portion of the movement.
For this reason, the Anderson squat is an excellent squat variation for lifters whose sticking point in the squat is right at or just above parallel. You can also often lift supramaximal weights with the Anderson squat, so it’s an effective tool to help lifters become more confident under heavier loads.
In order to perform the Anderson squat safely and correctly, you need:
- A strong upper back and core to help you maintain tension when squatting the weight from a dead stop
- A good deal of body positioning and awareness
- Good hip and shoulder mobility to get into the proper starting position
Anderson Squat: Muscles Worked
The starting position you choose for the Anderson squat will dictate which muscles it works.
Starting from below parallel will work the following muscles:
- Hip flexors
- Spinal erectors
- Upper back
The quads work to extend the knees as you move into a standing position. You can emphasize them more by starting from a lower height.
The glutes, hip flexors, and adductors also play a large role in the Anderson squat. The gluteus maximus and gluteus medius work to extend the hips and allow the knees to track over the toes properly. The hamstrings and adductors aid in hip extension, and the hamstrings also help stabilize the knee joint.
Much like a regular squat, the core and spinal erectors work in the Anderson squat to keep the spine stable, which helps prevent the torso from rotating and the back from rounding. The upper back works to keep the bar in position and also aid in the stabilization of the spine.
If you do the Anderson squat from an above-parallel position, you’ll still work the quads to some extent, but the hips, glutes, and hamstrings will do more of the work because they come into play more at the top-end portion of the lift.
It will also require more core and back strength to stay tight and not round before you start the lift and as you bring the bar back down to the pins.
Read our complete guide on the Muscles Used In The Squat.
How To Do The Anderson Squat
Step 1: Set the safety pins in a squat rack
Set the safety pins in a squat rack to the height at which you’d like to start the movement. You can start below parallel if you want to improve your strength out of the hole or above parallel if you want to work on your lockout.
Step 2: Load your weight
Set the barbell on the pins and load the weight. If you’re starting from above parallel, you may wish to use 85-95% or even 101-103% of your 1RM. If you’re starting from below parallel, you may find that 70-75% of your 1RM is enough.
Step 3: Use the same setup that you would use for a regular squat
Step 4: Stand the weight up
Squeeze your shoulder blades and brace your core. Without rocking too far forward or backward, using momentum to lift the bar, or coming up on your toes, lift the weight from the pins until your knees are almost fully extended.
Step 5: Pause at the top, then lower the weight slowly
Once you’ve finished the lockout, pause and then begin to descend slowly. You should maintain tension throughout your core and upper body and avoid slamming the bar onto the pins.
Step 6: Make sure the bar comes to a stop on the pins before you start your next rep
You shouldn’t allow the bar to bounce on the pins before you begin a new rep. Let it come to a complete stop, reset if you need to, and then go into your next rep.
6 Benefits of the Anderson Squat
The 6 benefits of the Anderson squat are:
- You can train at supramaximal weights
- It eliminates the stretch reflex.
- It helps you address common sticking points in the squat.
- It helps you develop explosive lower body strength.
- It can help improve your deadlift.
- It allows you to work on other squat weaknesses such as the hips shifting or not hitting depth.
1. You Can Train at Supramaximal Weights
When you do Anderson squats from an above-parallel starting point, you can use weights that are above your 1RM. This can help your body get used to the feeling of having a heavier weight on your back and build your confidence for the next time you test a new 1RM.
2. It Eliminates the Stretch Reflex
The stretch reflex, or bouncing out of the hole, refers to a muscle’s desire to contract when it’s lengthened. In a squat, this occurs in the hamstrings, which lengthen as you move past parallel.
Because the Anderson squat requires you to squat from a dead stop, you can’t rely on that stretch reflex to stand the weight back up. Instead, you have to generate force from your own body to get out of the hole. This will help you build more power and strength in the squat more so than relying on momentum to stand back up.
3. It Helps You Address Common Sticking Points in the Squat
It’s common for lifters to fail at about the halfway point of a squat. At this point, your muscles lose their ability to produce a high amount of force, and if you have weaknesses in your glutes, you may struggle with your squat lockout.
Doing Anderson squats from an above-parallel position works the portion of the lift where the glutes and hip extensors take over, allowing you to strengthen those muscle groups that may be lagging behind. This will also allow you to practice the cue of driving your hips up and through to bring them closer to the barbell, which can help with your lockout.
4. It Helps You Develop Explosive Lower Body Strength
Another common reason you may fail around the midpoint of the squat is that you aren’t generating enough speed out of the hole, especially when you stop trying to rely so much on the stretch reflex. The Anderson squat can help you develop more power from the bottom of the squat so you can generate enough force to get through a difficult part of the movement.
5. It Can Help Improve Your Deadlift
If you often have trouble breaking the bar from the ground during the deadlift, the Anderson squat can help. A lower starting position for the Anderson squat is similar to the starting position of the deadlift, and because it trains your body to be more powerful when lifting weights from a dead stop, it can help with the concentric portion of the deadlift.
6. It Allows You To Work on Other Squat Weaknesses Such As the Hips Shifting or Not Hitting Depth
By challenging your hip extensors, the Anderson squat can help improve your hip mobility, which is necessary for you to achieve proper depth. And because you’ll be bringing the bar back down to the pins each time, you’ll be able to make sure you’re squatting to the right depth with every rep.
The Anderson squat can also help you determine if you tend to shift to one side during the squat. You may not realize you’re doing this unless someone’s watching you or you film your lifts. But when you do the Anderson squat, you’ll quickly be able to tell if you lean to one side because one side of the bar will hit the pins before the other side.
2 Drawbacks of the Anderson Squat
1. You Can Only Do It in a Power Cage or Squat Rack With Safety Arms
You need access to a power cage or squat rack with safety arms in order to place the barbell at a low enough height to do the Anderson squat. You can also use jerk blocks, but they may limit your movement too much, and it’s more difficult to load the weight on them.
2. It Takes a Lot of Practice To Control the Bar
If you’re just learning the Anderson squat, it can take some time to learn how to control the bar on the way down so it doesn’t crash onto the pins. It can also be difficult to resist the temptation to get under the bar as quickly as possible and jerk the weight up.
As well, if you’re used to doing squats without pauses at the bottom, you may initially find it challenging not to bounce the weight off the pins before you start a new rep. It’s important to come to a dead stop and reset properly after each rep in order to get the most benefits out of the movement.
Should You Do The Anderson Squat?
I don’t recommend the Anderson squat for beginners as I believe that people who are new to strength training should first build a solid foundation, perfect their squat technique, and work on developing overall strength and musculature before adding in variations that target highly specific and individualized weaknesses.
But if you’re an intermediate or advanced lifter and you’ve reached a squat plateau, or you can identify specific weaknesses that can be addressed by the Anderson squat, it’s a movement you should consider adding to your routine.
Those weaknesses include a lack of glute or hip strength, failing at the midpoint of the squat, an inability to lock out the squat at heavier weights, and leaning to one side during the squat. You can also use the Anderson squat to work on improving your speed from the bottom of the squat without relying on the stretch reflex to get out of the hole.
Furthermore, if you lack confidence in being able to squat successfully as the loads get heavier, you can use the Anderson squat to train the top-end portion of the lift at supramaximal weights.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Anderson Squats Safe?
Anderson squats are safe, but you need to exercise caution when doing them. Before each rep, you need to create tension in your upper body and brace your core just like you would for a regular squat. You should also avoid doing any quick or jerky movements to get the bar off the pins.
What Muscles Do Anderson Squats Work?
The Anderson squat works the quads, glutes, hips, adductors, core, spinal erectors, and upper back. Some muscles may be worked more than others depending on your starting position. For example, starting below parallel works the quads more while starting above parallel will work more of the glutes, hips, and hamstrings.
Other Squat Exercise Guides
- Tabata Squats: How-To, Common Mistakes, & Workout Sample
- High Box Squat: 5 Reasons Why It Makes Sense
- 6 Cambered Squat Bar Benefits (And, How To Train With It)
- Hatfield Squat: What Is It? Technique, Benefits, Muscles Used
- Cossack Squat: What Is It? How To Do It? Benefits
- Isometric Squat: How-To, Benefits, & Should You Do It?
- 4 Reasons To Do Safety Bar Squats (Plus, How To Program It)
- Partial Squats: Benefits, Muscles Worked, Are They Safe?
- How To Pause Squat (Technique, Benefits, Muscles Worked)
- Kneeling Squat: What Is It, How To, Benefits, Common Mistakes
- Steinborn Squat: Does This “Circus Like” Squat Have Benefits?
- Frog Squat: What Is It, How-To, Benefits, Common Mistakes
- Lumberjack Squat: What Is It, How To, Benefits, Common Mistakes
- 1.5 Squats: How-to, Benefits, And Should You Do It?
- Suitcase Squats: How-To, Benefits, and Should You Do It?
- Prisoner Squats: How-to, Benefits, And Should You Do It?
The Anderson squat is a squat variation that starts with the bar from a dead stop at the bottom position of the squat. By emphasizing the concentric portion of the lift, it can help you improve your squat lockout, improve your hip mobility and glute strength, and develop more power in your lower body. It can also help your deadlift if you’re weak off the floor.
While beginners should focus more on perfecting their squat technique and building overall strength, intermediate and advanced lifters can use the Anderson squat to help break through plateaus and address specific weaknesses in the squat.
About The Author
Amanda is a writer and editor in the fitness and nutrition industries. Growing up in a family that loved sports, she learned the importance of staying active from a young age. She started CrossFit in 2015, which led to her interest in powerlifting and weightlifting. She's passionate about helping women overcome their fear of lifting weights and teaching them how to fuel their bodies properly. When she's not training in her garage gym or working, you can find her drinking coffee, walking her dog, or indulging in one too many pieces of chocolate.