Archive for the ‘The Big Lifts’ Category

The very first time that I squatted was on the Smith Machine; biggest mistake of my life. If you want to be as strong as an ox, read on about how the Squat can help you with your goal.

The squat is probably one of the most controversial exercises in existence. If you ask me, or any of the best powerlifters/ olympic lifters/ strength coaches, they’d tell you that a perfect squat is one in which you go down till your hip bone is at least in line with your knees. Here is an excellent article about how you can work on your depth.

Now the question, why is the depth so important? Well, if you load up the bar and unrack it only to go half way down before coming up, you’re not working most of the muscles involved in a squat. This is something which I like to call half squat (or quarter squat, depending on the depth). You’re probably just working a little bit of your quads and maybe a little bit of your core. The squat is meant to be a full body exercise. If you want bigger arms, you know what you should do: that’s right – heavy squats. And unless you do it completely, you’re not going to reap the benefits associated with it.

There are two kinds of back squats, the low bar back squat and the high bar back squat. As explained by Rippetoe in this video, the low bar back squat enables you to lift more weight. If you want to know how to low bar back squat, buy your copy of starting strength here or check out the resources on the stronglifts page or just shoot me an e-mail and I might be able to help you figure it out.

Now, a lot of people argue that deep squats (parallel and below parallel) will blow your knees. Let me put a counter-argument about bench pressing here. If you study the mechanics of bench press, it is quite similar to the squat. The lever joint in the squat is the knee while in the bench press, it’s the elbow. Would it be a valid point to say that benching heavy weights will blow your elbows? I am sure you get the point. However, you can injure yourself if you load up the bar heavy quicker than you should or squat with improper form.

I have had my own issues with the squat. I broke my fibula (ankle) a few years ago so my right ankle isn’t as flexible as it should be. And then there’s muscle imbalances. But I haven’t yet hurt myself on the squat bad enough to stop squatting. The key thing to keep in mind is to squat with flat sole shoes or barefoot. This way you have a solid base to push the weight off the floor, also your feet stay flat which enables you to keep the weight on the heels as opposed to squatting in running shoes.

Another key point to keep in mind is that the squat isn’t supposed to be just knee bending and sitting down. One needs to push their hips back far enough and sit back as if sitting in a chair (try doing this and finding the analogy). As far as I think, you don’t need to go all the way down to the ground. That is impossible for many due to mobility issues and is controversial too. Go down deep enough so the hip bone is in line with the knee, make a video of yourself squatting if required.

Oh, and don’t forget to keep your core tight. Imagine yourself flexing your abs in the mirror or getting ready to get punched in the gut. Your core should be as tight as it would be in any of those cases. This helps keeping the spine neutral and reduces shear forces on the back. If you cannot do this yourself, get a belt. Remember, the belt is not support. It just helps you to push against it and keep your core tight.

Remember to start light and move up slowly while focusing on form. If you have questions, there are tons of resources out there both good and bad. Shoot me an e-mail and I’d point you in the right direction.

Have fun squatting!