Have you seen a bird that cannot fly? Have you seen a cheetah that cannot sprint? The mechanical functions of those animals are essential to their living, without flight and without sprint they cannot live their normal lives. Now let’s shift focus and look to our own mechanical functions. Have you seen a human being that cannot squat? Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t. But one thing is for certain, it is essential to our living. One could go as far and say it is essential to our being. It is one of the methods of how we as babies could transition from crawling on the floor on our fours to be able to stand on our two feet. This important link and transition is often lost in our modern society after we have learned to walk. But one must never lose touch to its roots. People who seek sedentary lifestyle choices over active choices are at a high risk of minimal movement, and no movement means they are at a high risk of dramatic decrease in their performance of squatting. Sitting in classrooms, sitting in front of the TV, sitting at work, sitting in the car, and etc. Sounds far too familiar to some. It might not seem like an issue now but once your ability to squat below 45 degrees without any assistance (putting your hands on your knees or grabbing onto a nearby object) becomes almost impossible you will experience what many seniors might experience. Sitting into and out of a chair and the toilet becomes a threat. Stairs look like a physical confrontation. This no longer becomes a joke but a serious concern.
I have come across multitude of individuals from varying age groups (young as 15 to old as 70) that could not perform a basic mechanical function as squatting. Sitting up and sitting down. In theory it sounds simple but in reality it is a true challenge to certain individuals. Often, I get people saying “A squat is a squat, if it looks good it is good.” No, I disagree. I often do not put my foot down but this is a case where I must. You must FEEL and be AWARE of your squat. You must feel your own load. You must be aware of your hips and trunk. This often forgotten “sixth” sense, proprioception, (where your body parts are in relation to all the space around you) is what we will develop and practice.
STEP BY STEP: SQUAT
Stand Straight, look at a mirror or videotape your self for a good overall alignment of your body.
Keep Core engaged, brace your stomach as if you were about to take the biggest punch!
Push/pull feet, create the rooting.
Hip break first, feel the pressure of your glutes!
“Pull” into squat, imagine pulling into the squat rather than just plain sitting down.
“Squeeze the bottom”, hold the bottom position of your squat and feel the squeeze. Don't just hold and thinking about hanging out at the bottom, squeeze the position!
Lift your lower “belly” and push into the ground as you stand.
Standing with anterior hip tilt; “Tuck” your tailbone under yourself.
Not using your feet. This is your rooting, rooting is everything. It is how you collect energy from the earth and allow the flow of energy into your movement,
Knee break or using too much knees. Sometimes minimal knee breaking is necessary in some individuals for the hips to set better. But using TOO much knees will cause knee pain and more than tolerable load for the knees.
Sitting down without engaging your hamstring. If you do not pull into the squat, you end up neglecting your posterior chain when performing the squat. If you can use more, use more!
Losing neutral spine, disengaged hips, butt wink. This is controversial, so I guess this is more opinionated. However, if our objective is to develop proprioception you must not lose the feeling and awareness of your body parts. Feel the pressure of the glutes, feel the pressure and brace of your core.
Coming up with hips only or tilting your trunk too forward. You must carry the weight of your trunk while squatting up.
Chair, create a depth that will set you up for success. Find the depth where your squat starts to break. This is the depth you will work with until your next progression.
Wall, once you have at least 90 degree of depth (knee height), start to use the wall for proprioceptive feedback for you to better understand where your hip lies in relation to the space that surrounds you.
Load, people often load their backs to perform the squat but through experience I find that front loading creates a more successful squat for those who have poor motor pattern and mobility. I recommend loading once you have practiced bodyweight first but if you are with a coach or trainer they should push you with a minimal load as you are under the watchful trained eyes of a professional.
Combine! I would recommend setting up a depth and using a wall together to create the ultimate feedback system to set you up for the best squat! You can also do front-loading with this feedback system to further challenge yourself to get more out of your squat session.
COMMON ASSISTANCE EXERCISES
Single leg squat
My objective of this article was to help you understand that squatting is something that is natural to us and it must be maintained throughout your entire life. It is essential. I also hope it covered certain part of the squat that you were not as familiar with previously. Stay in tune for the video of this article!
With compassion and regards,
Jimmy from Panacea Fitness