My all time favorite movement in weightlifting is THE SQUAT! I love loading my legs. I love all the squat variations there is out there, but I give the most credit to the front squat, the bulgarian squat and the back squat. I know that most people and especially man focus on their upper body, but that is a wrong approach. Squatting is really important and if you are still wondering why…well keep on reading!
Let’s start it simple. The squat is the most fundamental movement to all of us. Just think about it. In your everyday life even if you do not realize it you squat hundreds of times. For example when you sit in a chair-you squat; when you get up from the chair-you squat; when you sit down in the bus…guess what? YOU SQUAT! Even from our earliest age as infants, we first start learning to move by squatting. Think about a baby that is trying to get up from the floor, or trying to pick up something from the floor. It won’t lean down with straight legs. Instead the infant will squat down and take what it needs. By the way if I should show somebody what a perfect squat looks like, I’d show them a baby picking a toy from the ground. Infants squat with perfect form- weight on the heels, knees tracking over the toes and back straight.
Seems like we are born with some instincts of how we are supposed to move properly but later on influenced by our environment we lose it and start moving in a way that is hurting our health. As we get older most of us lose the requisite mobility in our hips, knees and ankles to be able to squat properly. That is a result from our lifestyle- we spend way too much time sitting. Actually most of our ancestors’ lifestyle, demanded performing a squat- when you start with eating a meal, ceremonies, gatherings, going to the toilet and etc…all of them were performed bereft of chairs or seats! But after the industrialization we started using chairs, benches, couches and other similar furniture to perform our daily tasks. As I already said this leads to a loss of functionality.
Unfortunately, during the years the squat has earned a bad glory as a dangerous exercise. Most people claim that it hurts your back and your knees. But does it really? Yea, my knees would hurt too, if I squatted like most people in the globo gym do. Walk in a gym and look at the corner where the squatting rack is. Shocking! People squatting with rounded backs; with knees going way forward; the weight on the toes instead of on the heels and so on. If I wanted to learn how not to squat, I’d spend a day watching these guys train their legs. Actually if you do the squat properly-it is one of the safest, most natural movements the human body can perform.
As I already said the squat is a really important movement. It is the so called compound movement- meaning that it exercises multiple muscles in the same time. During the squat, the body recruits your glutes, hamstrings, lower back and abdomen to successfully execute the lift. A stable upper body is required for your lower body to create enough force to drive the weight up against gravity. As we get older, being able to squat becomes even more essential. Good knee health is a consequence of being able to squat properly! And as the years pass, we need to make sure that we will preserve our ability to move as much as possible! Think about it! Even today, if you go to some village that is further from the industrialized city, you will meet people over their 80’s that are working on the field, performing tasks you couldn’t even imagine a person that age could do! That is because during the years they completed many different tasks involving vigorous physical activity, and they did not lose their ability to move. But go back to the big city and you will see people in their 60’s with walking sticks, in wheelchairs….people that aren’t able to walk, climb stairs or even help themselves!
But let’s go back to the squat and weightlifting. Most people don’t bother to train their legs. But even if it happens they focus only on the back squat and add up some isolation movements to the whole picture. You can rarely see somebody in the gym doing the front squat. There are a lot of reasons for it, like the one that doing the front squat you should use lighter weights and it seems like most people forget to leave their ego on the front door and let it stop them from getting real results doing some real work!
I like the front squat a lot more than the back squat(BS), and if I had to pick between one of the movements I’d pick the front squat(FS). First when you do the FS you can squat a lot lower than when doing the BS. That puts a lot more pressure on your glutes. Next, you should stay a lot straighter and that automatically puts more pressure on your abs(lower ones and obliques). Besides that FS requires more balance and stability which helps to train your body fully-provides core strength. It is a lot harder to balance doing the FS than the back squat.
Though it is such a good exercise you should make sure that you learn the right technique. First of all you should be able to squat really good withought any weight. Then you can move on to the bar. Lots of people doing the FS use the california grip which is particualrly a grip that requires to cross your hands. To me that is wrong. I’ve never done it that way. First of all the front squat is a movement included in other movements like the squat clean thruster. Imagine how are you gonna do it if you are use to crossing your arms when doing the front squat? Besides when one arm is above the other that creates an imbalance in your structure and when the bar is loaded it can be pretty bad on your body.
After you’ve picked the right grip, you should concentrate on keeping your elbows high! That is really important. Make sure that when you squat down, your upper arms make a paralell line with the floor, and that your elbows are not pointing down. That will help you lift yourself up-when you squat and you are lifting up, the rising of the elbows helps you stand up. It also helps you stay straight and not leaning forward. If your bar is loaded and your elbows are pointing the floor, you will most likely fall forward with the bar.
And last but not least-make sure that your lower back has a nice arch, and that you are not letting your butt move inside. Remember-always push your butt back-like you have a wall behind yourself that you are trying totouch with your butt! Sounds funny, I know. But helps a lot.Now you can go in the gym, leave your ego on the door, and get working! Start squatting PROPERLY! I do not care if you are gonna do a back squat, a front squat, Bulgarian squats or whatever squat you pick….JUST SQUAT!
Here are the steps to a proper back squat and a proper front squat:
Here are the nine steps to the perfect squat according to Mark Ripettoe:
1. Feet shoulder width apart
2. Toes slightly turned out
3. Wheight on heels
4. Chest up
5. Grip outside of the shoulders
6. Pelvis turned forward
7. Elbow down and back
8. Scapula contracted
9. Eyes forward
And here are some tips for the front squat, recommended by Lee Boyce from T-nation:
1.Keep the toes pointed slightly outwards, and make sure knees track in the direction the toes point
2.Keep the chest up proud
3.Elbows high at all times
4.Hinge from the hips, and let the glutes fire to come back up
5.Press through the full foot, keeping the heel on the ground
6.Breathe deep on the eccentric, and hold full of air at the bottom to increase intra-abdominal pressure
7.Don’t panic – the legs have loads of fight – or – flight in them. You’ll get out of the hole!
That is for squats for today. Soon I will dedicate an article to women and why is squatting so important for them!Till then, share your thoughts on squatting and which one do you prefer the most! 🙂