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How should you be Squatting?
By: Bret Lusis, CPT Show Up Fitness Santa Monica
Let me introduce you to some 90's basketball players: Manute Bol and Muggsy Bogues.
Manute is one of the tallest to play the game- 7'7, while Muggsy is 5'3, do you think these two should Squat the same way? HELL NO. Bodies are different, and in this article, I'm going to explain why people should change up their Squat.
In certain lifting communities, people are told to line up their feet a specific way (NSCA say's 10-15 degrees of external rotation), while others say parallel. What about the jacked dude with the biggest quads who says you need to squat like him? Which one is it?. In today's world with social media, if someone has success, or a ton of followers, people naturally try to re-implement that pattern to emulate what they've done. It must be that simple to do what Mr. & Ms. Tool / Toolette with 1.5 million followers says to do, right? Wrong!!!! For the most part, bodies are built differently. In this article, I will discuss three topics that should ultimately decide how your stance is going to be under the bar: Anatomy, Mobility, and Stability.
1. Anatomy is the structure of the body and the relationships to its proximal and distal joints. My femur may be longer than yours, or maybe your torso is longer than mine- we're all different. Maybe your femoral head inserts into your acetabulum posteriorly to anteriorly, while the person to your left may have an articulation that is at 90 degrees. Take a look at the following femurs, do they look the same? What do you think will happen if they are instructed to squat the same way? The important thing to understand is bodies are different. If my bone structure is built differently than yours, odds are we're going to move differently. One variable is the depth of the hip sockets (acetabulum depth varies from person-to-person.) This will determine the maximal depth before you “butt wink” and the width at which your feet are externally rotated.
As you can see, these two Pelvis's are different in width and height...
And these two femur's articulate at different angles. One is closer to a 90 degree articulation, while the other is closer to 45 degrees.
2. Mobility is the ability of a joint to go through it's optimal range of motion (ROM.) This varies from person-to-person, gender, age, and prior injuries. My mobility has never been great. I remember when I first started squatting it felt so awkward. My heels would come off the ground, my back rounded, and I damn near fell over! Unlike anatomy, mobility can potentially improve by practicing and establishing the proper motor behavior. If I would've continued to squat with those faulty patterns, I would have created poor motor behaviors. Instead, I worked on a stance and pattern that allowed me to program proper mechanics. Never compensate weight for form, this will lead to bad behaviors, and potentially an injury.
3. Stability deals with maintaining a strong and sturdy core. One thing that I learned when I attended the Show Up Fitness Academy is how to properly brace and engage my core. You know that guy in the gym who makes a loud sound when he Squats? Ya, that's me, I'm that tool who grunts when I have a ton of weight on my back, but it's for a reason. When I grunt, it's because I'm creating a large amount of pressure in my core (intra-abdominal pressure) which allows me to utilize the Valsalva Maneuver. The valsal what? The ability of my core to create a lot of pressure to stabilize my back. This fluid ball is why lifters use a belt. The greater the surface area on your front-side allows for greater protection for the lower back. I suggest to use a belt whenever you're lifting a weight above 80-85% of your 1rm. Knowing how to properly brace your core and engage other supporting muscles can be a major factor in stability for your lifts.
In the following image, we have a student at the Show Up Fitness Personal Training Academy in Santa Monica (the best personal training school EVER!) On the left, the student has around 30-35 degrees of internal rotation. After we did a few drills to activate his anterior, lateral, and posterior core, look at the increase in ROM, it's around 45 degrees (optimal ROM for internal rotation at the hip.) So this begs the question, is it mobility or stability? To me, it looks like his restriction is due to a lack of core stability. This image should challenge your mindset the next time you go to stretch some "tight" muscles. Are they truly tight, or is it a neuromechanical mechanism to protect the body from weakness in other areas? Hmmmmmm. SCIENCE :)
Not everybody can get under the bar for the first time and have great form. Shit, I Squat every week and am still learning what feels right for my body. Ask yourself what feels the best, and how much weight can you do? it’s important to take time to see where you feel the strongest, how it feels, and looks. Mobility and stability may be something you can fix, your anatomy and bone structure is something that is not going to change. If someone is squatting 135lbs with their feet shoulder width apart and then they widen their stance to hit 185lbs, why not stay there? If the force production is optimized with optimal mobility and stability, you my friend, have found your proper Squat form. Start out by experimenting with different stances (Shoulder width apart, feet externally rotated, wider stance….), whatever feels the best, and then how much you can Squat. Don’t compromise a lift just because someone says this is the way you have to Squat- CHANGE IT UP! .
Pointers for Squatting
Try to bend the bar on your back to engage the lats
Pretend theirs an orange under your chin aka neutral.
Keep your back straight.
Try to palm the floor with your feet (Ever tried to palm a basketball? Do this with your feet to the ground.)
Don't let your knees buckle inwards (knee valgus) aim to keep them between your big toe and little toe.
Brace your core as if you were going to be punched in the stomach.
How to Deadlift
How to do a Deadlift with Variations & Bad For
Deadlifting for the general person:
The Deadlift is one of the most popular exercises. It's one of the three power lifts (the other two are Squats and Bench Press.) The pattern of movement is referred to as a hinge (look at a door and analyze the hinges, that's how it got the reference.) These brackets allow the door to sway back and forth in one direction. When performed properly, the glutes, hamstrings, low back, and back are lifting the weight off the ground. It's one of the best booty and hamstring building exercises behind the Hip Thrust. If you want to develop a booty that can bounce a bowling ball 5-feet in the air, you need to learn how to properly Deadlift.
Form: If your goals are to develop speed, explosive power, strength and an awesome backside, the Deadlift should be implemented 1-3x weekly. Before you start picking up a bunch of weight off the floor, your form needs to be pristine. Common mistakes are seen by Squatting and not hinging, rounding the lower back, the bar path is not close to the body, not maintaining an upright torso, and leaning too far back (hyperextension). At Show Up Fitness, I Miyagi the hell out of our clients by constantly stressing the hinge pattern: Golfers pick-up, band Deadlifts, Bent-Over Rows, and Hip Thrusts. I want you to be able to pick up 1.5x-2x your body weight without having to rehearse all the checkpoints, I want them to be second nature. I don't suggest doing more than 6-8 reps per set- OWN EACH REP. If implemented properly (with amazing form, and heavy weights), you'll notice changes in your booty and strength within a few months.
For proper instruction on how to Deadlift, skip the next section and watch the video, then implement the program at the end.
Deadlifting for the Personal Trainer:
The concentric action for the Deadlift at the hip is extension, which makes the Glutes the agonist at the hip and the Quadriceps at the knee (Vastus Lateralis, Intermedius, Medialis, and Rectus Femoris). The Semimembranosus, Semitendinosus, and Bicep Femoris (long and short head) are synergists and the deep abdominal stabilizers brace the core (transverse abdominals). The femoral action is extension (Gluteals), therefore the flexors are the antagonists (Psoas Major / Hip Flexors.)
To properly execute a Deadlift, the shoulders should be slightly over the bar, with the weight focused posteriorly by engaging the Lats. Make sure to lock yourself into the bar by pulling it to the shins and internally rotating the Lats - TURN THOSE KNUCKLES WHITE BY SQUEEZING! You can also try cueing, "put your scapulae's into your back pockets." The neck should be neutral as if your client is holding an orange under his/her chin. As the trainer, you'll see the following mistakes: 1- The client sets up in a Squat position (look at the angle of their shins; vertical is a Deadlift, a 45-degree angle is a Squat. Don’t let them Squat the Deadlift, 2- Their shoulders come too far over the bar – their torso looks parallel to the floor like an RDL, 3- The hips shoot up faster than the knees aka stripper Deadlift (this sounds good, but it’s not), 4- Hyperextension instead of a posterior pelvic tilt, 5- Improper breathing mechanics. Make sure they understand the purpose of a large, deep breath to brace the core, 6- Rounded lower back. Once the spinal column loses its integrity and goes from three to two curves, force is directed in the lumbar region.
If you look like the following girl, congratulations, you’re Squatting the Deadlift. There’s no fear becoming “Quadzilla” from Deadlifts as the exercise is hip dominant.
There are numerous variations to the conventional Deadlifts- this can be good and bad. It’s like teaching someone how to cook, they want to try every recipe in the world! Not so fast Chef Boyardee, I want you to own the mechanics of the hinge pattern before you start trying the variations (Miyagi the hell out of your clients!) This will take a few months to properly program in the proper motor control. After you’re deadlifting at least your body weight (ideally 1.5x), you can begin to play around with the variations. Here’s a list from beginner to more advanced:
Jefferson (1-leg over / behind bar)
Banded / Chain’s
Single Leg Deadlifts (love these to strengthen the glute med & prevent valgus)
Hack (Bar behind body)
Windmill - Checkout this video at stack.com
Hands on Weights (Wide stance / further than a Snatch, your hands are holding the rubber plates)
How to Spot the Deadlift:
NO SPOTTING- don’t be that weirdo perving out on a client by spotting a Deadlift. This is one of the few exercises that you do not spot. Teach your client to drop the weight in the case of an emergency.
A belt should be worn when the client is lifting 80% of their 1rm. Dependency on a belt could make the clients lower back vulnerable. The same goes with wrist wraps. If your grip is one of the first things to give out, implement 60-second Pull-Up hangs and Farmers Walks. These are tools to help your 1rm, don't use them as crutches. You’re only as strong as your weakest link. Listen to your body and train the weak segments.
1- Deadlift / Trap Bar (Beginners) 5 sets of 6-8 reps resting 2-3-minutes (If you're a beginner, perform 3 sets of 8-10. There’s no need to perform more than 8-10 reps. OWN THE MECHANICS TO INSTILL PROPER FORM, the likelihood of performing bad reps after 10 increase chances for injury.)
2- Kettle Bell Deadlift into Straight Legged Deadlift (RDL’s) 3 sets of 12 reps
3- Windmill Deadlift (See Article that I wrote for Stack.com) 3 sets of 10
4- Band Deadlifts as seen in beginning of Youtube tutorial 1 set of 30 AMRAP (Choose a weight that you think that you can do for 30 reps and then do As Many Reps As Possible)
Hip Thrusts are a great compliment to owning the Hinge pattern.
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Interested in becoming a personal trainer? The time is NOW to SHOW UP! Chris teaches a 4-month personal training course which will prepare you to take the NSCA, ACSM, or NASM certification. Unlike other schools, the Academy allows you to train real people. You'll be able to enroll in an internship at Show Up Fitness and start getting your reps in training clients at Show Up Fitness. The Academy is located in Santa Monica. Chris has graduated over 700-personal trainers and will teach you how to become the most successful personal trainer with his background in Kinesiology and owning two successful personal training gyms.