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Post  Admin on Sun Sep 05, 2010 3:58 pm

Are they part of your workout?

If not, why not?

Afraid of getting a big bum? Think again.

The squat is essential to your well-being. The squat can both greatly improve your athleticism and keep your hips, back, and knees sound and functioning in your senior years.

Not only is the squat not detrimental to the knees it is remarkably rehabilitative of cranky, damaged, or delicate knees. In fact, if you do not squat, your knees are not healthy regardless of how free of pain or discomfort you are. This is equally true of the hips and back.

The squat is no more an invention of a coach or trainer than is the hiccup or sneeze. It is a vital, natural, functional, component of your being.

The squat, in the bottom position, is nature’s intended sitting posture (chairs are not part of your biological make-up), and the rise from the bottom to the stand is the biomechanically sound method by which we stand-up. There is nothing contrived or artificial about this movement.

Most of the world’s inhabitants sit not on chairs but in a squat. Meals, ceremonies, conversation, gatherings, and defecation are all performed bereft of chairs or seats. Only in the industrialized world do we find the need for chairs, couches, benches, and stools.

This comes at a loss of functionality that contributes immensely to decrepitude. Frequently, we encounter individuals whose doctor or chiropractor has told them not to squat.

In nearly every instance this is pure ignorance on the part of the practitioner. When a doctor that doesn’t like the squat is asked, “by
what method should your patient get off of the toilet?” they are at a loss for words.

In a similarly misinformed manner we have heard trainers and health care providers suggest that the knee should not be bent past 90 degrees. It’s entertaining to ask proponents of this view to sit on the ground with their legs out in front of them and then to stand without bending the legs more than 90 degrees. It can’t be done without some grotesque bit of contrived movement.

The truth is that getting up off of the floor involves a force on at least one knee that is substantially greater than the squat.

Our presumption is that those who counsel against the squat are either just repeating nonsense they’ve heard in the media or at the gym, or in their clinical practice they’ve encountered people who’ve injured themselves squatting incorrectly.

It is entirely possible to injure yourself squatting
incorrectly, but it is also exceedingly easy to bring the squat to a level of safety matched by walking.
In the accompanying article we explain how that is done.

On the athletic front, the squat is the quintessential hip extension exercise, and hip extension is the foundation of all good human movement. Powerful, controlled hip extension is necessary and nearly sufficient for elite athleticism. “Necessary” in that without powerful, controlled hip extension you are not functioning anywhere near your potential.

“Sufficient” in the sense that everyone we’ve met with the capacity to explosively
open the hip could also run, jump, throw, and punch with impressive force.

Secondarily, but no less important, the squat is among those exercises eliciting a potent neuroendocrine response. This benefit is ample reason for an exercise’s inclusion in your regimen.

The Air Squat

All our athletes begin their squatting with the “air squat”, that is, without any weight other than body weight. As a matter of terminology when we refer to the “squat” we are talking about an unladen, bodyweight only squat. When we wish to refer to a weighted squat we will use the term back squat, overhead squat, or front squat referring to those distinct weighted squats.

When has the squat been mastered? This is a good question. It is fair to say that the squat is mastered when both technique and performance are superior.

This suggests that none of the twenty-three points above are deficient and fast multiple reps are possible.

The most common faults to look for are surrendering of the lumbar curve at the bottom, not breaking the parallel plane with the thighs, slouching in the chest and shoulders, looking down, lifting the heels, and not fully extending the hip at the top.

A relatively small angle of hip extension (flat back) while indicative of a beginner’s or weak squat and caused by weak hips extensors is not strictly considered a fault as long as the lumbar spine is in extension.

Causes of the Bad Squat

1. Weak glute/hamstring. The glutes and hams are responsible for powerful hip extension, which is the key to the athletic performance universe.

2. Poor engagement, weak control, and no awareness of glute and hamstring. The road to powerful, effective hip extension is a three to five year odyssey for most athletes.

3. Resulting attempt to squat with quads. Leg extension dominance over hip extension is a leading obstacle to elite performance in athletes.

4. Inflexibility. With super tight hamstrings you’re screwed. This is a powerful contributor to slipping out of lumbar extension and into lumbar flexion – the worst fault of all.

5. Sloppy work, poor focus. This is not going to come out right by accident. It takes incredible effort. The more you work on the squat the more awareness you develop as to its complexity.

Bar Holds: Grab a bar racked higher and closer than your normal reach at bottom of squat, then settle into perfect bottom with chest, head, hands, arms, shoulders, and back higher than usual. Find balance, let go, repeat closer and higher, etc. Lifts squat (raises head, chest, shoulders, and torso) putting more load on heels and glute/hams.

This immediately forces a solid bottom posture from which you have the opportunity to feel the forces required to balance in good posture. This is a reasonable shoulder stretch but not as good as the overhead squat. This is a very effective therapy.

Box Squatting: Squat to a 25cm box, rest at bottom without altering posture, then squeeze and rise without rocking forward. Keep perfect posture at bottom.

Bottom to Bottoms: Stay at the bottom and come up to full extension and quickly return to bottom spending much more time at bottom than top. For instance sitting in the bottom for five minutes coming up to full extension only once every five seconds, i.e. sixty reps.

continued - Many will avoid the bottom like the plague. You want to get down there, stay down there, and learn to like it.

Overhead Squats: (illustrated below) Hold broom stick at snatch grip width directly overhead, arms locked. Triangle formed by arms and stick must stay perfectly perpendicular as you squat. Good shoulder stretch and lifts squat. With weight, this exercise demands good balance and posture or loads become wildly unmanageable. The overhead squat is a quick punisher of sloppy technique. If shoulders are too tight this movement will give an instant diagnosis. You can move into a doorway and find where the arms fall and cause the stick to bang into doorway. Lift the arms, head, chest, back, and hip enough to travel up and down without hitting the doorway.

Squat Troubleshooting - Common Faults and Therapies
Over time, work to move feet closer and closer to doorway without hitting.

String Touch: Hang something on a string, like a tennis ball or shrunken head, at max reach, and touch it at every rep. Alternate hands touching.


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Post  Ganymede on Mon Sep 06, 2010 2:47 pm

I love doing heavy barbell squats, I'm currently at 125kg for 5X5, though I may have to deload a bit after Ramadan.

I frequently get funny looks from others at the gym while doing it though.

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Post  Timbo on Mon Sep 06, 2010 3:07 pm

Ganymede, that is nice work. Decent weight.

Do you vary your programming much or always do the 5 x 5? How deep do you go?


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Post  Ganymede on Tue Sep 07, 2010 2:21 pm

I started off with 3X15, that's when I was doing just body weight squats. Since then, as I've started adding weight, I've stuck rigidly to 5X5... At the moment, I can go just deep enough for my thighs to be below parallel.

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