I Was Totally Wrong:  A Break Through on Squats

I Was Totally Wrong: A Break Through on Squats

Step by Step instructions on how to do a proper squat

I'm assuming the subject line caught your attention and has you wondering what is he talking about? Well to be honest I wasn't totally wrong. It was more a case of seeing a better way of doing things. It was one of those 'aha' moments where from that point forward I will change how I do something. The something in this case has to do with the squat.

The squat is an exercise we incorporate into almost all of our workouts. We do back squats, front squats, overhead squats, split squats, single leg squats and squats with every type of implement and resistance imaginable. To perform a proper squat I look for a few things including:

  1. Initiation of the movement at the hips. When see you most people training their legs in the gym they perform knee dominant movements as opposed to hip dominant movements. As a result when they squat they tend to have lots of bending at the knees but not much bending at the hips. Instead there should be a contribution from both of these muscle groups.

  2. Full depth so that the upper thigh is parallel to the floor. We used to hear that 90 degrees was considered a full depth squat however this is before the thigh reaches a parallel position. Why should we be concerned with reaching full depth? For a couple of reasons including the fact the glutes aren't fully recruited until this point and the knee is quite unstable at 90 degrees. It's no coincidence an orthopaedic surgeon will check knee stability, or lack of, at his point.

  3. Control of the switch from the eccentric to the concentric portion of the lift. What? Basically think of this as the point where the movement switches from muscle lengthening to muscle shortening. Or the most basic way is to think about it is the switch from the downward motion to the upward motion. What I want to see is a control of the movement at this point so there is no bouncing or bottoming out.

I like box squats for a few reasons as well including:

  1. When the box is behind you there is no other option but to push the hips back and touch the box with the glutes. If I perform a knee-dominant squat with minimal hip involvement I will miss the box completely and hit the floor. I like that there is physical landmark for the client to push back with their hips and reach for with the glutes.

  2. If the box height is set appropriately it helps ingrain proper squatting depth. Very few people squat to full depth. Why? Because there is psychological barrier to overcome in order to reach this depth. When you have a substantial load you are attempting to squat you need to have faith in your spotter and in your own abilities that you will get up from that depth. Most people will stop short of full depth as they are nervous about 'driving out of the hole'. Having a box underneath you not only allows you to physically feel when you have reached full depth it also provides a safety net for you while you develop confidence squatting to this depth.

So for a while now we have been box squats to address the issues and develop better squatting patterns. But I started noticing some problems with using box squats. First of all, no two athletes are the same height. To use the same box for myself and a 6'6" rugby player doesn't make sense. If the box is set to the correct height for me then my buddy is having to squat way too low. If we set it to his height then I am not reaching full depth on my squats. Another problem that has come up is that I tend to see people descend too quickly and bounce off the box to return to the starting position. This violates the third criteria I am looking for with a proper squat which is control when going from the down to the up. If the individual is bouncing off the box then there is no control.

Well necessity is the mother of invention. I recognized that we needed something that would encourage proper depth, that was adjustable for athletes of various heights and would encourage control at the switching point from the down to the up. Stay tuned to the next newsletter where you'll see a video of how we fixed this problem.

Until then keep on squatting,