“The squat is a symphony of contractions . . you have to hit every note in the right sequence”
You ask your best mate . . the girl next door . . you ask your mum . . your grandma . . father-in-law . . what a squat is . . 99.9% of the time they’ll be able to show you . . it may be a rough, unpolished version of the squat but everybody knows what it is . .
Why? Because it’s functional . . it’s a functional movement that we do everyday . .
Boys . . Grabbing a beer from the fridge on the bottom shelf . . or squatting down on the couch watching The Bachelor . . yes boys i’m still referring to you . .
But we are constantly lowering and raising our centre of gravity, almost everything we do is a derivative of the squat.
SO there’s 3 segments we’re dealing with here . .
1. Knee Angle – Formed by the tibia and the femur.
2. Hip Angle – Formed by the rigid back operating as a rigid unit and the femur
3. Back Angle – Formed between the floor and the back
Not to get too technical and fancy shmancy but i want you to UNDERSTAND what your body is doing . . how your body is moving into this movement . . and how “perfect” your form really is . .
Why do we squat at the gym? Maximum power.
Now power = intensity . . intensity = power . . on in a squat . .
When we talk about functional movements like the squat, we need to create what’s called “Midline Stability”.
Look outside your window and spot a building . . look at ANY building . . what do they all have in common ??
A pillar . . right . . ??
That’s structurally the best way to be able to hold those heavy loads.
Same goes for the squat.
We want to think in lines and if i was looking at you from the side angle, i want to be able to see a STRAIGHT line from your head . . to your shoulders . . to your spine . . glutes . . hamstrings . . calves . . all the way down to your heel chords as you’re going down into full range flexion of the squat.
That ain’t the case most of the time . .
Because we’re not super humans . . this thing called LIFE gets in the way . .
If you’re working a 9-5 desk job your shoulders are most likely hunched over . . because your shoulders are hunched over your back is in extension . . because your back is in extension . . your lower back is being around . . because your lower back is being rounded your head is tilting forward . .
Get the gist ????
I’m not telling you to quit your day job . . wouldn’t be a BAD idea but what i’m saying is you’re putting your body, your postural alignment, in this position that is not structurally correct for HOURS and HOURS a day . . you better believe something’s going to give when you decide you want to chuck 360 pounds on your back and “see what happens” . .
So what we have to do is do something to counteract that anti-productive position as often as we can so we can be in an optimum position to receive full range of motion . . and have full access to the good stuff . .
Now when we’re trying to reach midline stability, if you’re used to being in a rounded position . . one of the common tendencies when we tell people not to round their back is to hyperextend the back (sticking the butt out) doing an exaggeration of the opposite (look at pic below) . . this ain’t good . . you’re still forcing your lower back outside this pillar . . this straight line from head to toe . . you’re closing off the joint imaginary line and not allowing any support through the lower back.
Do this test . . stick your arm out in front of you . . bend at the elbow . . now extend out straight . . imagine THAT arm is your spinal joints . . now keep pushing, keep applying pressure, more pressure, more pressure . . that’s essentially what you’re doing to your spine in hyperextension . . that overextension may be a comfortable position for you because you’re used to being in that position 24/7 . . but it doesn’t mean it’s the right one . .
what you’re doing is you’re taking that lumbar spine to it’s end range when you overextend . . and you’re basically just hanging out there . . over time if you keep applying more pressure, more pressure to that end range . . it’s not going to be able to take the load . . because that’s not optimal alignment to be able to support heavy loads and somethin bad gon’ happen !!
Either you’re going to get an injury . . or you’re going to be forcing the surrounding muscles . . those stabilizer muscles to work even harder too support that load . . eventually . . they’re going to give out too.
If you extend your arm right out and keep the elbow nice and stiff at the joint, you can apply a whole lot of pressure and really rely on that joint to create the stability . .
SOO how do we keep that mid-section stiff and strong?
Stand tall . . now stick your butt back . . notice how there’s no way for your abdominals to support the movement from that position . . there’s nothing for your spine to press against . . no opposing muscle to create force against . . so our goal is to get really, really tight in the abs . . so take a deep, full breath and we want to be contracting that stomach and imagine there’s a string pulling your belly all the way into the back of the spine . . THAT’S the set up position we want to be in for maximum power output .
You’ve now put your spine into a compressed position, into a safe position to help support the loads you place on it . . and this position limits the range of hyperextension . . try it out for yourself . . when you’re in that restricted position it’s very hard to over-extend the back.
You want make sure you get in this mechanically sound position before you take the bar off that rack . . if you have a shit load of weight on your back and you’re trying to apply pressure when you’re just about to squat . . it’s too late . . not gonna work . .you don’t stick the pillar after the building has been made do you ??
So by practising this contraction and tensing of those abdominal muscles at work . . in the car . . standing up nice and tall . . really bringing that belly to the spine . . you’re developing that positive habit . . that muscle memory . .
None of this MACHINE crap . . as coaches . . you’re not teaching clients to put pins in machines and move it . . you’re teaching them how to use the human body . . how to effectively . . efficiently move their bodies . . and that’s a vehicle for something AWESOME in their lives.
include video of stretching and mobility prep for squat.