How to Squat

CJ Lyons
March 19, 2023
How to Squat
  1. Start with the feet about shoulder width apart and slightly toed out.
  2. Keep your head up, looking slightly above parallel.
  3. Do not look down at all; ground is in the peripheral vision only.
  4. Accentuate the normal arch of the lumbar curve and then pull the excess arch out with the abs.
  5. Keep the midsection very tight.
  6. Send your butt back and down.
  7. Your knees track over the line of the foot.
  8. Do not let the knees roll inside the foot. Keep as much pressure on the heels as possible.
  9. Stay off the balls of the feet.
  10. Delay the knees’ forward travel as much as possible.
  11. Lift your arms out and up as you descend.
  12. Keep your torso elongated.
  13. Send your hands as far away from your butt as possible.
  14. In profile, the ear does not move forward during the squat; it travels straight down.
  15. Do not let the squat just sink, but pull yourself down with your hip flexors.
  16. Do not let the lumbar curve surrender as you settle into the bottom.
  17. Stop when the fold of the hip is below the knees–break parallel with the thigh.
  18. Squeeze the glutes and hamstrings and rise without any leaning forward or shifting of balance.
  19. Return on the exact same path as you descended.
  20. Use every bit of musculature you can; there is no part of the body uninvolved.
  21. On rising, without moving the feet, exert pressure to the outside of your feet as though you were trying to separate the ground beneath you.
  22. At the top of the stroke, stand as tall as you possibly can.

Causes of a Bad Squat

  1. Weak glute/hamstring. The glutes and hams are responsible for powerful hip extension, which is the key to the athletic performance universe.
  2. Poor engagement, weak control, and no awareness of glute and hamstring. The road to powerful, effective hip extension is a three-to five-year odyssey for most athletes.
  3. Attempting to squat with quads. Leg extension dominance over hip extension is a leading obstacle to elite performance in athletes.
  4. Inflexibility. Tight hamstrings are a powerful contributor to slipping into lumbar flexion–the worst fault of all.
  5. Sloppy work, poor focus. This is not going to come out right by accident. It takes incredible effort. The more you work on the squat, the more awareness you develop as to its complexity.

Therapies for Common Faults

  1. Bar Holds: Grab a bar racked higher and closer than your normal reach at the bottom of a squat, then settle into a perfect bottom position with chest, head, hands, arms, shoulders, and back higher than usual (Figure 2). Find balance, let go, repeat closer and higher, etc. This lifts the squat (raises head, chest, shoulders, and torso), putting more load on heels and glute/hams. This immediately forces a solid bottom posture from which you have the opportunity to feel the forces required to balance in good posture. This is a reasonable shoulder stretch but not as good as the overhead squat.
  2. Box Squatting: Squat to a 10-inch box, rest at the bottom without altering posture, then squeeze and rise without rocking forward. Keep a perfect posture at the bottom. This is a classic bit of technology perfected at the Westside Barbell Club.
  3. Bottom-to-Bottoms: Stay at the bottom, come upto full extension, and quickly return to the bottom, spending much more time at the bottom than the top; for instance, sitting in the bottom for five minutes, coming up to full extension only once every five seconds (60 reps) (Figure 3). Many will avoid the bottom like the plague. You want to get down there, stay down there, and learn to like it.
  4. Overhead Squats: Hold broomstick at snatch-grip width directly overhead, arms locked. The triangle formed by the arms and stick must stay perfectly perpendicular to the ground as you squat (Figure 4). This is a good shoulder stretch and lifts the squat. With weight, this exercise demands good balance and posture or loads become wildly unmanageable. The overhead squat is a quick punisher of sloppy technique. If shoulders are too tight, this movement will give an instant diagnosis. You can move into a doorway and find where the arms fall and cause the stick to bang into the doorway. Lift the arms, head, chest, back, and hip enough to travel up and down without hitting the doorway. Over time, work to move the feet closer and closer to the doorway without hitting it. The broomstick foundation is critical to learning the snatch–the world’s fastest lift.

Taken from the CrossFit Level 1 Manual | Page 105

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