Squat day is informally known as near-death experience day for me.
I am in constant pursuit to make my squat better. I spent years squatting like garbage due to bad cuing from untrained professionals and it has taken years to retrain my body to squat better. Not only do I find it to be one of the most important functional exercises to master and do well, like everyone else - I’m always trying to grow my heart, my soul, and my glutes.
Let’s take a moment to review some really important technique points of performance. Be on the lookout for the next series in this blog about prehab, rehab, and abdominal bracing and core work.
I always feel like this is the point of performance missed for so many, yet, one of the most
important. The goal here is to generate tension through your midback. Oh, and to not pick up the barbell like a dink. I’m SO guilty to the oh-so famous “good morning” or “lunge” with the bar off the rack. If you see me doing this promise me you will smack me. I’ll do the same for you.
Let us look at some really key points here:
Bar position - chest height on the rack, choosing between high bar or low bar when you
go under it (don’t worry, we will talk about the benefits of both types later)
Hand position - elbows INSIDE of hands.
Scap retraction (squeeze your shoulder blades together, move your shoulders back and
elbows in to squeeze in to the middle of the body)
Notice how the athlete on the left has relaxed shoulders, scaps and her arms hands are even with her elbows? No Bueno. Then on the right she activates her shoulders and her grip is outside of her elbows she's set up much stronger!
Push the elbows under the bar, you should feel your elbows move slightly forward
Lock your head position in neutral, pushing upper back into bar. Avoid “crane neck”
Lift bar up with BOTH legs UP, step a few steps back, and get into your squat stance
(this too will be an entire post)
Create a tripod foot (big toe, little toe, and heel) and corkscrew those feet into the ground, think about spreading the floor by driving your feet down into the floor and out-activating those glutes. I also like the cue “push your big toe down” to avoid getting too
much into your heels.
NOW- CHECK, do you FEEL the tension in your midback? Great!
On to breathing and bracing.
Breathe into your belly first, and then brace DOWN and OUT. You want to feel like you have
360 degrees of brace, and like if I punched you in the gut - I would hurt my hand. You should be able to carry on a conversation with this. Your ribs should not be the primary mover where you feel like you are wearing your shoulders as earrings. Your belly, back and sides should go OUT as you breath in, THEN brace like you are about to get punched. Click HERE to check out a video on this.
Alright. We have set up correctly.
Tension is generated through our midback and we didn’t lift the bar up like a moron. We are in our appropriate squat stance. Time to descend. Start this movement with your hips by pushing them back and simultaneously unlocking your knees. Here is the thing I see all the time though - people forget to allow their knees to move and track forward. If you don’t allow for knee movement, you are going to look like a collapsed torso over thighs, yet not be below ninety degrees. If you unlock your knees and hips at the same time, your knees will travel forward and your hips will naturally descend, and likely with a good bar path (assuming you have good ankle mobility).
However, do not initiate your squat with your knees, it still needs to start with your hips so you don’t come off balance. Your knees should track out over your toes. In your descent, focus on tempo, tempo, tempo. You want to be tight in the first 75% with your speed, and then quicker in the last 25% so you can explode out of the bottom. DON’T SLOW DOWN as you approach the bottom.
Time to get out of the hole. Make sure those feet are still screwed into the ground with that tripod foot like we talked about, push out with those knees, and drive straight up! Let’s touch base on something here - make note of your knee position. If you have followed instructions and done this correctly, your knees will be in a nice forward position over those toes. Maintain this position initially out of the hole! If the first move you make is shifting backwards, the load will shift from your quads to your low back and hamstrings. Your hamstrings aren’t at a biomechanical advantage point until you get above parallel.
Now that you are armed with information - go forward and lift heavy things.
Until next time friends,