The Big Three – Part 2: Squat

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What is a Squat?

            To squat or not to squat. That’s a rhetorical question right? Because of course you should squat, humans have been doing it for millions of years.

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Literally ATG (ass to grass)

            If you travel to most any country in Asia you will notice almost immediately that there are a large number of men and woman who have assumed the squat position and are usually attempting to sell you massages, unidentified meats and/or drugs. This position seems as natural to them as sitting on a couch watching American Idol is to us Westerners. However this type of squat, which is used for rest, is different from a heavy barbell squat which requires the entire body to be under constant tension for the duration of the exercise. The loaded squat is the exercise that we will be briefly discussing today.

            A Back Squat involves placing a barbell on your upper trapezius muscles (if you’re doing a high bar variation) and squatting down until the crease of your hip goes below your knee. Your heels should remain firmly on the ground throughout the entire motion and your spine should remain in a neutral position.

 Why should you squat?

            The full squat is an exercise that should be used by anyone who would like to, increase strength in their entire body, increase hip, knee, and ankle mobility and/or promote better bowel function which is a topic to be saved for another day. Everyone should be able to preform a full range of motion bodyweight squat.

            If you are an athlete squatting will help you run faster and jump higher. If you are an overweight dude looking to lose weight and gain some muscle squatting will help you do that. If you are a 70 year old woman squatting will help you retain your mobility and make moving around in day to day life an easier experience.

            You should squat below parallel because it is only once parallel has been broken that the hamstrings, glutes and adductors are fully recruited. If you are half squatting or god forbid quarter squatting than the majority of the load is taken by the quads which will eventually become overdeveloped and lead to injury and more importantly the lack of a booty, and everyone loves booty.

 How should I squat?

This is one way that you can properly perform a back squat.

1. Place your hands evenly on the barbell, a bit wider than shoulder width, and step under the bar.

2. Place the middle of the bar on your upper traps (make sure it is not too high on your neck as this will hurt and most likely screw up your neck.

3. Set your feet up about shoulder width apart with your toes pointing either straight ahead or at no more than a 45 degree angle away from your midline.

4. Keep your upper back tight and your elbows under the bar.

5. Think of sitting on a toilet and squat down breaking at the knees first.

6. Push your knees out to keep your hips open.

7. Keep squatting until your hip crease is below your knees. 

8. Try not to shit your pants as you have just squatted ATG (ass to grass).

9. Stand up keeping your chest up and feet evenly and firmly planted on the ground. 

10. Do it again. 

 How can I suck less at squatting?

Mobility

            My heart goes out to those people who are unable to squat below parallel due to mobility issues. Don’t worry I am sure that you have a remarkable personality, but we need to work on that squat before I find out. 

            The best technique that I have adopted to improve my squat has been to try to sit in a squat position for 10 minutes everyday. This alone will make a big difference in how able you are to perform a squat under load. It will loosen up you ankles knees and hips and you look really cool when you do it on the subway. 

           If 10 minutes seems crazy to you try to accumulate 3 minutes a day at first. You will find that your body will slip back into it’s primal need to squat like a hand smaller than OJ’s hand into a blood stained glove.

           Here’s a great video that will show you mobility techniques that I have found useful for improving my squat. And remember if you don’t squat below parallel no one likes you. 

Regressions 

            If it is proving very difficult to perform a back squat which is in the end a quite advanced exercise there are a few options for you! The Goblet squat is a great way for the beginner to hammer down squat technique and gain some strength at the same time. It can also be used in a warmup for the more advanced trainee. Just grab a dumbbell, start light!, and hold it as if it were a goblet under your chin. This positioning will force you to keep your chest up and your spine in a neutral position. Keep this up for a few weeks until you feel confident about getting under a bar. 

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You aren’t allowed to do a goblet squat with a shirt on.

            So there you have it, a by no means exhaustive look at the wide world of back squats. I hope that you have been able to glean some information from this article and that you now understand that squatting is a great and some may say essential way to get you to your fitness goals.

Also here is a great and simple video on how to squat properly. It’s not the easiest to read something and then do it so this should help!

If you missed it, Part 1 was on the Deadlift and we’ll have Part 3 out soon covering the Benchpress.

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