Huzzah my brothers and sisters. What it is. I know you are ready for another action packed chronicle from yours truly. Today’s topic… “The Squat.”
A quote from my guy (I don’t know him personally) Dr. Bret Contreras. He’s the author of “Strong Curves.” The book I reference a lot for women…
During my first-ever squat session I hammered out sets with 95 pounds, 115 pounds, and 135 pounds like a boss. A week later I was moving 185 pounds. Within a month, I was busting out 225 pounds. I can still recall the feeling of my first set of 275-pound squats. I proudly busted out 5 repetitions and my quads were on fire. Pretty soon I’d be squatting three plates!
Pretty impressive, right?
Here’s the crazy thing: In my mind, I was going deep — at least down to parallel. However, I was mortified to learn that what I thought were “deep squats” were in fact not even half-squats, but more like quarter-squats.
Shortly after my big set with 275 pounds, something very memorable occurred. A gigantic mountain of a man walked up behind me and uttered nineteen life-altering words:
“Why don’t you drop down to one-hundred-and-thirty-five pounds and squat deep like a real man?”
From the article “Seven Reasons To Squat Like A Man.” And no if you’re apart of the easily offended new-age sensitive area, it’s not just for men. Women must squat deep too.
Sadly this experience is not limited to this incident. Millions…and Millions (The Rock voice) of gym folks can be seen right now quarter squatting…and yes a low quarter is still a quarter…
Good morning my neighbors!!!!
Due to the complex nature and much needed detail of the squat, I realize how difficult it can be to put everything in one article. This article will serve as a primer. Some points to illustrate for beginners, a call to all you cheaters out there to actually squat low and a nod of excellence for the advanced warriors out there. Since my goal above all things (or one of them) is to make things as simple as possible, and because I can’t stand when people make things sound unnecessarily confusing, this will not be the only article on squatting. Again this will serve as the primer.
It’s with great pleasure and good cheer that I pen this, as I have took painstakingly care to create and achieve a proper and respectable back squat. Recently I hit a true one rep max of 405 and I weigh in the two twenties.
Admittedly there are many, many who make my 405 look like a paltry one, but guess what…I have only five toes…so there…yes though that know me know I wear a brace due to my partially amputated foot.
I type this because I truly believe that if I can squat deep, then you have what it takes too. Whatever ailment or issue you may have, be encouraged. I’ve been lifting for seven years, and like
Jon Snow, I know nothing.
Quick back story…and yes, it’s purposeful in today’s instruction.
Lo, there was a time when I wasn’t a full depth squatter. Yes, I was Saul before I became Paul. I tell people that I too was an ignorant quarter squatter. Hahaha, there was a time where I actually used “workout gloves.” Don’t do that…they actually rob you.
I was semi-fresh off therapy, and was still a rookie in the realm of proper movement (I was still an animal though). I would frequently squat every Friday either solo or with my workout bros. However I was unaware that I could reach depth. My range of motion was jiah limited. I would…quarter squat…you know how the bros do, quarter meaning not all the way down, and yes a low quarter squat is still a quarter squat. As time went on, I would “get better” and go as low as I thought I could. The only time I probably hit good depth are some of the days I would work out with my dude Rashad.
Even had a great record once (but since I can’t remember how low, I don’t talk about it…there is a point in this).
As CrossFit came along, I was amazed with how strong some of the cats were. Despite its flack, some of these guys could still solid 3’s in their Olympic lifts.
In good aspirations I would look at their lifts. Rich Froning the 4th time champion (he’s a beast) had a squat in the 4’s. “I can squat as much as Froning” I cheered to myself. I felt good in believing I had similar strength in a lift among these guys.
Until I realized something.
A 400 plus full depth squat and a 400 plus non squat (quarter, half or anything non depth) are miles apart. It’s not even close. For one, one is a lift and the other is not. The gap between these two things is literally the distance between Heaven and Earth. If this confuses you, it’s like saying you can outrun Usain Bolt when you don’t even qualify for intramurals. You might as well be Lavar Ball saying he beat Jordan.
It’s a like comparing Chipotle to anything that is not Chipotle. It’s like going to a steakhouse and ordering…chicken tenders!!!! You see the temerity of the uncouth knave who would dare utter such things?
It was literally my Damascus Road moment…when Paul is approached is by Jesus and Jesus says…“Ay I’m really a cool dude, so sayeth thee chill and stop all that fakin.”
The point is I saw my err and made a long conscious effort to do better. Ultimately all of this is an anecdote against ego lifting. It is OK to make mistakes but it IS not OK to do it perpetually especially when you stumble upon the correct information. It is not ok to walk away from knowledge.
This overall took a few years, but later I would start with making my Front Squat low. Well get to that later…
Time after that I ran into my dude Juan (@fitnessflourishpres on IG), the brother who was and is the living example of macros and flexible dieting.
If you are mobility challenged, then the tips I will share are the tips I utilize will help you start on a path of respectable squatting.
Note: Squatting to me is below parallel. If you compete in a sanctioned meet then whatever, I’m not concerned with you. Do what you do for your sport.
Below parallel is when the crease of the hip is below your knee. The crease of your hip is the fold between your side and your butt.
Some people associate this with ATG Squats…”Ass to Grass”…Butt to blade if you’re strict on the language.
The point is to squat low. As long as you are below parallel, that’s fine with me. Can you go lower than that for full ATG…if you’re mobility allows it. I say…”SQUAT DEEP YOU COWARD!” Leave no bloody room for error. Let all who gaze upon know truly that your squat is pure. If you have to wonder if you hit depth…you aint hit depth!!!!
Bill, I’m still kind of lost. What do I do to start right now in my office or right now?
Bring your feet to shoulder width apart. Me I put my feet even wider apart…due to how I’m built.
Point your toes slightly out, this helps with using your hips..,thus saving your knees…some people don’t need to do this and it’s OK.
Keep your feet planted. Visually imagine yourself as a tree or mountain, plant your feet on the floor. Your heels are the roots. Keep them sturdy.
Tighten your stomach – This braces your core which helps keep you balance. If confused imaging you’re Thor or Wonder Woman and you’re about to get with a truck…you would brace yourself…apply that to your stomach….boom
Inhale – take a big breath. Do this as your tightening your core.
Slight break…bracing as you tighten your stomach work simultaneously, at the suggest of my dude Juan, I’m going to introduce to you the Valsalva maneuver.
Here’s an article
Here are two videos from two great channels
Alan Thrall of “Train Untamed”
If you’re a gym familiar you may notice you do this all the time. A good trainer will tell you this, even if he or she doesn’t know exactly what it’s called. Me I do this automatically. If you look at my Squat vids, you’ll notice I do it with each rep. I’m not in a hurry. I treat every rep like it’s a single, as perfect execution is always the goal. Also I’m not racing, I’m focused. This is serious business here.
Back to the action…
Descend….sit down, shoot your hips back and pretend your butt is a heat seeking missile looking for a chair…target locked…
As you descend…push your knees outward…left knees points left…right knee points right…this will help you open up your hips…saving your knees.
GET DOWN THERE!!!!
EXHALE AS YOU’RE BLASTING OUT OF THERE LIKE A BOSS!!!!
Keep your chest up to avoid leaning over and press that floor as if your life depended on it…BECAUSE IT DOES!!!! YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON THIS!!!! This is one of the most mental exercises you can do!
DO IT AGAIN!!!
For the prescribed number of reps.
“Bill why do my legs hurt?”
You’ve never used them before.
Congratulations you’ve just done TRUE bodyweight squatting.
What’s next? Do it again!
As a progression….do goblet squats.
What are goblet squats?
Hold a plate, dumbbell or kettlebell close to your chest as if you were going to drink from a cup. This will work your core and teach you how to keep your chest upright. It’s always often a good finisher or warm up. Start with 10 lbs, then move to 25…after that practice with an empty bar. If you’re afraid of the bar…aside from telling you to grow a set, some gyms do have lighter bars than 45lbs (standard weight bar)
How many reps?
As a beginner, I say…go for 10. Why? It’s a complete number…higher reps are solid for endurance and as a beginner; you’re working on ligament and tendon strength. No there’s no magic in 10. It’s just a great number. And ten rep deep squats with medium/heavy weight is pretty dope period.
Here’s some science below,
Muscles worked and contribution- From “All about Powerlifting” by Tim Henriques. Tim H is the Director at NPTI. A great resource, strong dude and all around cool guy. I credit him in this article and the list of references in the next.
Glute Maximus – Hip Extension
Glute Medius/Glute Minimus -Hip Stabilization
Quads- Knee Extension
Hamstrings- Hip/Trunk Extension
Adductors (magnus) -Hip Extension/Stabilization
Erectors -Trunk extension
Core- (abs/obliques) -Trunk Stabilization
Gastroc (calf) – Knee Stabilization
Hip Flexors – Hip Trunk Stabilization
Basically the whole lower body…along with your core. That mystical section of your body everyone obsesses over that folks can’t explain. Hint: Free weights and standing up while you workout works your core. More about that in another issue.
Staff note: Just like many Game of Thrones series this was meant to be one article, but we’re going to stop right here to break this article into two articles as we like to keep it ji brief at Citlr.
As technical as this is, we know y’all understandably can have short attention spans (myself very much included). In Part two, were going to pick up immediately where we left off with a slight Q and A session and any other bonus info. Also this will not be the only series on the squat. Just the beginning. This two part article is a but a primer. Tune in next time true believers. Same Strong time, Same strong channel.
P.S. Don’t use a neckpad…ever. I will appear in front of you and RKO you if you ever do so.
Tim H of NPTI – National Personal Training Institute – @nptiva on IG
Brett Contreras – @bretcontreras1 on IG. Author of “Strong Curves.”
Juan Gonzalez – @fitnessflourishpres on IG