Today, , we become better squatters.
Squatting heavily is often misconstrued with squatting well; they aren’t one and the same. And it’s often the little things that kill our squat. Once upon a time we consulted with a fellow from Rochester, NY. This man, we protect his identity to avoid squat shaming, was a strong squatter…but he wasn’t a good squatter. Thinking wider is better; he placed his feet far beyond his hips’ movement capabilities. This, unfortunately, limited his leg drive and invoked hip pain. While there are squatting basics, the squat is an individualized movement. Let’s start the path to squat individualization with a definition.
What is a squat?The squat requires maximal hip and knee flexion followed by maximal hip and knee extension while limiting movement at the spine.
The Basic Squat: What to look forThe squat is a simple, basic human movement that’s often performed incorrectly. Most commonly, folks emphasize knee movement over hip movement causing the knees to shoot forward and the legs, and spine, to be loaded disproportionately. Let’s think success first and bullet point a good squat:
- Movement initiates with hips travelling back
- Knees are driven out as the hips sink
- Torso remains as upright as possible, spine remains neutral
- Weight is maintained in the middle of the feet (feet are turned out to match the angle of the femur)
- Hip tension is maintained in bottom position
- Hips don’t travel backward, trainee sinks straight down
- Knees collapse in
- Torso folds and spine flexes or extends
- Weight shifts into toes or heals
- Hip tension is lost in bottom position (usually squatting too deep)
Squat CueingA solid squat begins with a simple cueing mantra: R.S.D. R = Reach S = Spread D = Drive
ReachReach, in the squat sense, is similar to the deadlift reach cue—only the reach doesn’t continue into hamstring tension. We’re initiating the squat movement by reaching the hips back, rather than dropping straight down. This gives the hips “room to rotate” and equally distributes the load throughout the lower-body. It also helps to balance the weight in the middle of the foot, which is important for being the forceful beast we want to be.
Reach the hips backward to begin the descent.
SpreadHave you heard the old adage, “we squat between our legs, not on top of them”? It’s a good adage. Spread is the cue that gets folks squatting torso between legs, rather than dropping the chest right on top of those bad boys. But it does more than that. Spread is a descent and ascent cue that creates tension in both directions. Like reaching at onset, spreading during the descent gives the hips room to rotate. But the torque created by “spreading the floor” produces tension that starts at the hips and runs the length of the legs. Spreading during ascent aligns the lower-body joints in a strong drive position while building on the tension created during the descent drive. It’ll make you a goddamned sexual Tyrannosaurus.
“Spread the floor” during the squat descent and ascent.
DriveThere’s a butt-popping problem that ruins many-a-good squats. During the ascent, many folks pop their butt by extending their knees before extending their hips, and turn a seemingly solid squat into a good morning hybrid. This weakened, potentially injurious, position is no good for nobody. [Fun Fact: these do make for a great stripper move.] Driving into the bar, however, cleans that butt pop up in a hurry. Focusing effort on pushing the shoulders into the barbell, or pushing the upper-body into whatever loading implement you have, keeps the hips centered under the body and coordinates hip and knee action. Those boys extend at the same time, rather than in an uncoordinated, B-team stripper twerk.
Drive into the bar/implement during ascent.
Set-upSquat set-ups are individually dependent—very few ladies and gents will share the same squat stance. There are, of course, general guidelines that all should follow. But foot placement is dependent upon individual proportions and abilities.
We’ll use different squat variations during the program, so upper-body set-up will differ for each. We’ll coach them individually. A squat, however, is a squat. Nothing changes downstairs—reach, spread, drive. (The one caveat is the box squat, but we’ll coach you on that specifically when the need is presented.)
The key is finding the foot placement, and amount of foot external rotation, that allows you to find a bottom position that maintains your spread and tension in the outside of your hips.
The Bottom PositionHow is a dude, or dudette, to know that they’ve found the proper squat bottom position? There are a few simple indicators:
- Lumbar spine isn’t rounded or hyperextended
- No butt tuck
- Can still spread hard with feet and feel tension in hips