Whenever I am trying to build my own squat up or a clients, I start by watching them squat with anywhere from 90% to 100% of their one rep max. This will show me where speed starts to break down and where the lifter may have a weak point throughout the lift. Once I find exactly where or what the weak point is, I run through my mental checklist of trying to figure what special exercises or variations of the squat will help fix it. So for example:
Weak out of the hole (Without wraps)- Whenever this is a lifters weak point, my first go to move will be to have them perform pause squats without a belt. I like having the pauses be anywhere from 2-5 full seconds, and without the use of a belt forces them to use their core to keep them upright and from getting rounded over as they start to fatigue. I will either have the lifter do very heavy low reps with these (2-4 reps), or one single set for as many reps as possible, but always 1 shy of failure.
Weak 1-2 Inches above parallel (With or without wraps)- This weak point is usually wherever actual strength will have to take over after the lifter gets their initial rebound out of the hole from the knee wraps or just rebounding from a faster descent without wraps. Once that momentum stops it’s all on the lifter at that point to finish the lift. To fix this my favorite exercise is a dead-squat. I only ever do this one particular way, and that is with a safety squat bar and doubled mini bands looped underneath the squat rack, and setting the starting position 1-2 inches above parallel (right at or slightly below the sticking point). From this position it forces you to break the bar from the rack with zero rebound that you would normally get performing a standard squat, and the doubled bands force you to break the bar off even faster than normal to be able to finish the lift when the full band tension kicks in. I always perform these for 6-8 singles with only 60-90 seconds of rest time, and performed as a secondary movement after performing my regular squats for that day.
Shaking on the descent or poor stability- This could obviously vary from lifter to lifter, but I have been able to pin this down to having weak quads and weak calves. Your calves are what stabilize you and are able to keep you planted firmly into the ground. If for some reason you get pitched forward during a squat and get put onto your toes, you are going to want strong enough calves for you to be able to correct that mistake mid squat or at least be able to finish the lift without falling forward. So an obvious fix for this would be weighted standing calf raises, or to kill 2 birds with one stone, sled dragging with build both the quads and calves as well as improving your conditioning. Some other options are squatting with chains attached to the bar, BUT having them fully suspended off of the floor, and attached using bands versus smaller feeder chains. This makes the chains bounce around and swing all sorts of ways which really forces you to stay tight and control the shaking. Kettlebells will also work but I prefer chains because they swing much more, kettlebells just seem to bounce up and down.
Poor Unrack in Monolift- I really believe that this comes from poor upper back strength or just not having the experience and repetitive motion of unracking heavy weights. If I am feeling unconfident about unracking weights, I first add in reverse band squats. This way I can still get actual squat work in and mentally be aware that even if it feels heavy on my back that I am going to have to attempt to squat it. I set the reverse bands up using red or black mini bands, and doubled them up in the middle of the monolift, so when you stand up with the bar the bands are completely hanging off of the bar, so 100% of the weight is on your back. If you are someone that walks out all of their squats I recommend walking out a weight over your max without a belt and just standing there for a full 15 seconds and walking it back into the rack. Doing it beltless will force you to tighten your abs and teach to you stabilize everything, so when you add the belt back on it will feel easier.
Poor Bar Speed (with or without wraps)- Sometimes people just do not move very fast or don’t know how to. I have seen people make every lift from the bar to their max weight for the day look exactly the same speed. To me this isn’t good because then it becomes very hard to judge what a lifter “has left in the tank” for further sets or attempts at a meet. I always go about increasing my speed by doing jumps, box jumps, or explosive pause squats. For jumps I love doing kneeling jumps with a broomstick on my back and doing them for distance, and for box jumps I love sitting on a below parallel box and jumping to a 45+ inch box without using any arm swing. I do singles with these but wait 15-20 seconds between jumps. The point here is to increase speed, not do a crossfit workout. For explosive pause squats, I will either take straight weight, or a weight with equal part bar weight and equal part chain weight. I descend at a slower speed than usual and focus on getting tighter and tighter the more I go down, and once I hit parallel I pause for a 2-3 count and literally stand up as fast as I possibly can. These should not be heavy at all, but you should feel yourself having to work more as the sets go on. Doing these beltless for 4-5 sets of 2-3 reps is ideal for me. Adding all of these accessory movements over time can really help build you squat up from all points. I personally find it very important and useful to always record my lifts each week so I can go back and review them to see if I am developing any of these weak points as mentioned, and just to watch my form overall. Hopefully these help a few people out!