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Squat Part II
This is probably going to be a multi-part article. There just seems to be so much to cover, so I will keep writing. I covered the following in the first article:
• Eyes up
• Eyes Straight ahead
• Eyes down
• Neutral spine
• Sit down
• Sit back
You can check out that article here: ⇒ “The Most Awesome Exercise on Earth: The Squat”
Last time we went over a lot of absolutes that people try to use, and we decided that there simply aren’t a lot of absolutes. Today I am just going to talk real with you. I am going to go over some basics from someone that’s performed the squat to break world records, performed the squat to get better at Olympic weightlifting, and performed the squat to get better at sport.
I am not telling you that what I am saying are absolutes. I am just telling you that these are some of the things that I have done over my career to squat big weights. Here are some of my records:
• Raw Squat 805lb
• Equipped Squat 1015
• Front Squat 285k/629lb
• High Bar Squat 320k/704lb
• Last year at 43-years-old I high bar squatted 295k/650lb
Does this mean that I am an expert? Absolutely not, I could simply be designed to squat, and I am designed to squat. That’s why I watched several videos of my favorite squatters:
• Ed Coan (of course)
• Kirk Karwoski
• Shane Hamman
• Dan Green
• Greg Nuckols
• Nathan Damron
• Eric Lilliebridge
These are just a few, but I encourage you to go watch videos of each. Try to analyze their technique. It’s really easy to get caught up in the shear awesomeness. Let’s go over some basics.
1. Stance- Once again there are no absolutes. Most people fall into that shoulder width category, but there are plenty exceptions to the rule. I am more hip width. Dan Green is a little wider than shoulder width. The key is comfort, so I would start around hip width. Then play around with wider and closer to see what works the best and feels the best.
If you are a powerlifter, you are going to want to go as wide as possible as long as you can break parallel. You don’t get extra credit for going lower. You want the maximum stretch reflex to happen right below parallel.
If you are a weightlifter, general strength, or other athlete, I would recommend finding the stance that allows for maximum depth. Range of Motion is directly related to muscle fiber recruitment; so deeper gets you more jacked. Deeper squats will also keep you more mobile and moving better. Weightlifters obviously need maximum depth and more upright torso. If you are a football player, you need the hypertrophy (muscle growth), strength, and the mobility to optimize their athleticism.
2. Toes forward or out- this is another one that doesn’t come with an absolute. Once you’ve found the most comfortable stance, now it’s time to see where your feet go. The goal is to have the toes and feet tracking the same direction. A closer stance will normally come with near straight ahead toes, medium around 15 degree, and wide around 40 degrees. Once again this all depends on your own personal anatomy and skill level.
To say that everyone should be hip width and toes straight ahead is to not take into consideration that people have different anatomical lengths and angles. Greg Nuckols would have a hard time performing a close stance and toes straight ahead air squat. Does that mean that he is dysfunctional in the squat? No may it never be!
You will find that a wider stance with as straight of toes as possible will make it really tough to reach depth. The toes straight will start to lengthen the glutes and other external rotators early in the squat. This can create a little extra torque, and therefore lead to a little more stretch reflex. However if that position is uncomfortable or won’t allow for good depth, that slight advantage is rendered null and void.
Personally I would play around with the stance and foot position until maximum comfort is established, and then roll with that stance. You can play with things as you progress with the barbell. Right now the key is good depth, comfort, and adding muscle mass.
3. Descent- now I am going to get real with you. This is coming from a world record squatter, and someone that is friends with a lot of other world record squatters. In the list of athletes that I mentioned prior, the only one to choose an eyes down stance is Dan Green. Is he wrong? Well of course not, but all the others aren’t wrong either.
All that I am saying is that the final battle of a squatter is staying upright. It seemed easier to do so for me by keeping my eyes up. Now I am done with the eye thing, so you can do whatever you want.
Here are some of the things that I do:
-If you are a powerlifter, sit slightly back and then down. We talked last time about the advantages of sitting back. You will start to lengthen the glutes and hamstrings, which will limit the ROM a little sooner.
-If you are a weightlifter or basically any other athlete, break at the hips and knees simultaneously sitting straight down. This will give you the most range of motion and allow for a more upright torso. However, if you are a weightlifter that is loose in the bottom or is hypermobile, a slight sit back isn’t a total no, no.
-As a powerlifter I will am going to spread the floor with my feet and screw my feet in the ground (screwing outwards). This will activate my glutes during the entire movement and help me to keep my knees out. Once again this will cause for maximum torque and a slightly shortened ROM, since I am shortening the glutes as they are trying to lengthen.
-As a weightlifter the goal is to simply keep the toes and knee in alignment. If you are having major trouble with knee valgus, you might want to try spreading the floor as well to counter that movement.
-Speed- I want to sit as fast as I can, but under control. The best powerlifter ever at sitting with the most speed is Shane Hamman. He basically dive-bombed without losing a bit of rigidity of the torso. It was amazing to see him dive-bomb with 1,008lb in person.
Once again this is a personal thing that you can get better with over time. As you get the torso stronger, you will be able to go a little faster. The faster that you can sit will equal a more powerful stretch reflex, but that doesn’t matter if you are getting loose in the bottom.
-Bracing- without a doubt using intra-abdominal pressure is the way to go. A diaphragmatic breath is the key. Basically breathe into your belly, and then push out against your belt with your abs and obliques. The goal is to produce enough pressure in all points of the belt that it would chop off someone’s finger if it was placed in your belt prior to taking a breath.
We will go over ascent next time. I think that this series might go on for a long time. I am enjoying writing about my favorite exercise, and I am having more fun researching all about the most functional exercise on earth.
My next FREE E-Book drops in a few days: “The Mash Method”. The book will contain over 15 different ways to use the Mash Method with detailed descriptions, periodization, and more. This is the way that set so many records in days as an athlete. It’s also the way that my athletes are setting so many records.
The book will contain:
• Ways to increase absolute strength in the squat, bench, deadlift, press, and the Olympic lifts
• Ways to maximize hypertrophy by using this method
• Ways to use the method in everyday strength training phases
• Ways to increase vertical leap
• Ways to increase 40yd dash time
• Ways to crush sticking points
I think that you are going to love it, and I am excited to give it away for Free. Make sure that you are signed up for the Newsletter to get the book. If you sign up now, you will get my Free E-Book “The Big Six”.
Thanks for reading!