Deciphering the Squat: Part 3

IMG_5193

3. Why do I suck at Squats?

TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR SQUATS

We already know squats are essential for us, the type of squats we should do more and, the fact that each of us squat a little different from one another. So, you start to do more squat training. But still, after a few cycles of training, you can’t seem to really nail down the movement. You feel that PRs might be a long long long long way to go.

After every wod, you ask yourself, WHY DO I SUCK AT SQUATS?

Let me count the ways…

#1 You Breathe As If You’re Drowning.

Most people neglect proper breathing in training. From professional experience, I can only count on one hand the people who have correct breathing patterns when they train. Some people breathe through their chest stopping the expansion of the lungs and does not let their diaphragm go down. Thus, there is little or no abdominal pressure created to perform lifts. This causes major problems like shoulder or hip mobility issues, cramps, reduced muscle endurance/power and poor trunk stability.

All you have to do is inhale and let your tummy rise before the chest rises. Then, exhale through the mouth 2x longer as your inhalation. Not exhaling all the way will only promote a half-filled lung once you inhale again. Breathing may look easy but PROPER BREATHING TECHNIQUE takes awhile of getting used to especially if you’ve been breathing wrong all your life.

#2 Your Grip Is A Little Weird. Kinda Like This.

squat3 squat3_ squat3_1

As you can see, the shoulders are overly extended, elbows too high and the wrist is bent forward or in too much extension. There are 1 or 2 fingers in contact with the bar and too wide for grip. Most likely any of these might be you especially those who have thumb issues, wrist problem and shoulder tendinitis.

Stop this crap and get your thumb on top of the bar and 4 fingers ALL IN CONTACT with the bar. The thumbless grip helps unload the wrist and secure your grip on the bar. It also prevents tension on your thumb muscles and tendons. I can’t count how many people came to me for wrist problems – too many to mention. Keep your wrists in neutral and slightly in extension. Carry the bar nice and low on the muscle belly of your traps and posterior deltoid just under the spine of the scapula, keeping the shoulders extended. Engage those muscles! Make sure your hands are as close to your shoulders as possible while the wrists are in neutral.

squat3_2 squat3_3

#3 You Keep Looking At The Ceiling As If It Might Fall On You Any Second.

Stop looking at the wall or at the ceiling. Please. You are just promoting a bad back angle. It places the neck at risk for strain at the same time reducing your hip power drive when you squat. It’ll just mess up the spine making it unstable. Look down and tuck your chin.

#4 Believing The Saying, “Always Stay Upright.”

You’ll hear some coaches cueing to be stay upright at all times during a squat. They’ll say it needs to be in vertical position for the spine to be neutral. NO. Don’t believe them. As you’ve seen in Part 2 about squat biomechanics, you can not squat without bending at the hips.

squat2_ squat2_2

The more you try to stay in vertical while squatting, the more your back tends to compensate and overextends. At the same time, your stability gets compromised. You might end up losing balance and fall forward or backwards. Rounding your back won’t help too. Borrowing words from Mark Rippetoe, the developer of Starting Strength Barbell Training, “Think RIGID rather than vertical.” and “Point your nipples on the floor.” Keep the core nice and tight. Contract your erectors, abs and all the muscles around the spine. A tight, flat rigid back keeps injuries away.

#5 Being Happy When You’re Hamstrings Get Super Sore.

Yes, you’ve worked your hamstrings out. You’ve worked it out waaaaaay too much. It’s supposed to be a squat not a good morning exercise. Don’t think about extending the knees on the way up. Lead with your hips! Squeeze those gluts! As I always say, HIP DRIVE FOR YOUR LIFE. When you drift the bar away from the midfoot balance point or mess your back angle into too much vertical, you’ll end up with a stretched hamstring contracting as you ascend from the squat. This is why it gets super sore and not because you’re doing it right.

#6 Lifting Your Chest Like You’re Superman.

Lifting your chest upon ascending from a squat just closes the knee angle. The knee will then slide forward slacking the hamstrings. It just means you are killing the hamstring tension to propel yourself up with your hips and changes the back angle into a more vertical one. Also sliding the knees forward at the bottom of the squat won’t do your knee and back any good. All it does is you loose tunk and knee stability as well as hip mobility. Drive your hips with your chest while maintaining a neutral spine with a horizontal back angle.

 

Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If you really want to improve on something, you must be open for change. Leave your ego out of the door and assess your squat objectively. These tips might help you. Although, there can be special cases like what I talked about in Part 2 about anthropometrically unique bone structures of people.

Stop the insanity and start squatting like a pro.

***

BONUS TIP #7: KEEP CALM AND BE CONFIDENT. Squats can be intimidating at first but all it takes is practice. There are 3 stages in learning motor skills. First, you learn what to do. Second stage is all about trial and error. Don’t get discouraged easily it’s all part of learning a skill. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll start squatting properly without thinking too much. Finally, it becomes automatic.

 

By: Trixia Mae C. Bacani | RockTape Certified Professional. Mulligan Concept Practitioner. Certified Trigger Point Performance Practitioner. Certified Dorn Method Practitioner. Licensed Physiotherapist. Movement Specialist.
http://trixiamaebacani.wix.com/portfolio#!resume/c46c

trixiabacani