3 Things You Didn’t Know About Squatting

Fitness & Training Tips
By Dan
Dan

About Dan

I’m one of our resident Exercise Physiologists, and also an accredited Strength and Conditioning Coach, Personal Trainer and Level 1 Weightlifting Instructor. Outside of the gym, I tend to go in search of good food and great coffee. And yes, Dan’s Shoulder Stretch is mine.
 Squatting isn’t simple. It gets even more complex when you start to decide why you’re squatting. Here are three of my pearls of wisdom on the subject. Hopefully you can take something away from this!!
Squat upright and full depth to improve the Olympic lifts
 There are two dominant ways to squat – Olympic style (or high bar), and powerlifting style (low bar). The low bar squat allows you to lift heavier weights through better leverages and position (more glutes, low back and hamstring), but has very little transfer to the Olympic lifts.
 Because the clean and snatch rely on being as upright as possible when you lift, the squat should be the same. Training it with weights that are too heavy will often tilt you forward. You can still lift the weight, but it’s not going to be pretty.
 For the perfect Olympic squat, the body should descend downwards, not down and back. Knees need to travel outwards, and forward over the toes for maximal ankle range. Your bottom should finish just above the heels, usually with the calf and hamstring touching each other. The sternum should be kept as high as possible, encouraging a smooth extension through the upper spine. Muscle tension needs to be maintained throughout the lift. Don’t rely on “bouncing” out of the bottom.
 This squat technique will help you in your mastery of the Olympic lifts.

 

 

The most common limiting factor of front and back squats is NOT the legs!
 Unless you are a very upright squatter (as in point #1), the likelihood is that your legs aren’t the part holding your squat numbers back. Your back strength is.
 As you drive out of a back squat, the body will want to tilt forward and load the lower back. If your low back is strong enough, you’ll be able to lift the sternum form this position and complete the squat. If you’re not, the hips will go up but the sternum will drop, pitching you forward and squishing you in the process.
 For the front squat, the bar position keeps you more upright, saving the low back. However, the catch is the position of the bar pulls down on the sternum and elbows, forcing the upper back to round. When the weight is too heavy, the elbows will start to drop, and the upper back can no longer support the weight, popping forward out of the hands.
  Strengthen the back, and strengthen the squat. The best back strengthener? Deficit snatch grip deadlifts.

 

 

 A big improvement in the squat rarely improves Olympic lifts immediately
 It’s a weird one, and contrary to what most think. Of course Olympic lifting requires that you have a strong squat, otherwise how can you possibly stand out of a heavy clean? But a big improvement in the squat won’t really transfer to the clean and snatch, nor will the best squatter be the best Olympic lifter.
 Often, a couple of cycles of focus on the Olympic lifts (with emphasis on speed and technique) AFTER a big squat improvement will yield the best results. During heavy squat training, it’s more common for your O-lifts to go down because of how taxing heavy squats are on the nervous system.
 For great results, get the squat up to where you want it, allow for adequate recovery, and move onto the O-lifts and their variations, while only performing maintenance squats. After 4-8 weeks of good technical snatch and clean practice (including plenty of speed work), you should feel great under the bar, even though the squats won’t be at their best.
Remember, when it comes to O-lifting, squats are a means to an end, not an end unto themselves.

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