Maintain Your Squat (06/03/2019)

Maintaining your ability to squat is extremely important. Gray Cook, of Functional Movement Systems, is quoted saying, “Maintain the squat. Train the deadlift.”  The importance of the squat is that it carries over to much of what we do in life.

Maybe the ability to squat should be an indicator of health similar to grip strength?

Are you aware the number of times you squat in a certain pattern throughout the day?

Positioning yourself in a car and getting out of the car, getting on and off the toilet, getting in and out of bed.

This type of squatting, your daily activities, is not how you’re necessarily squatting if you’re going to the gym, but it’s the movement pattern that matters.

When training the squat in the gym, a foundation needs to be established first. Of all the squat variations we do at ELEVATE, Kettlebell Goblet Squats rank up there next to Double Kettlebell Front Squats as the one we perform the most. We love the Kettlebell Goblet Squat because of its ability to teach the basic strength pattern with a mobility bias.

Now there are a lot of mechanical things that need to be in working order to squat with load. From the ground up, you need to have foot stability and ankle mobility, knee stability and hip mobility, trunk stability and thoracic spine mobility. This is the alternating chain of stability and mobility that Gray Cook and Mike Boyle came up with in the “joint-by-joint approach.”

The Goblet Squat can be one of the baseline exercises used in your strength program every day. If you don’t have a kettlebell, use a dumbbell, sandbag, a rock or a log.

Let’s review the kettlebell Goblet Squat:

1) You’re going to grab a kettlebell by the horns (the horns are the sides of the handle). Hold the kettlebell in front of your chest, maybe 2-6 inches away from you. This will make your abs light up and, by having the kettlebell out from your chest, reduces the compressive forces on your spine (like a barbell version could). This makes the exercise safer and easier to grasp for almost everyone.

User Tip: To get the kettlebell in position, deadlift it quickly by holding the bell with two hands on the handle, and once you stand up guide the bell up to your mid-chest sliding your hands down the handle to the horns. Get tall and tight at the top – think plank.

2) Once you’re in position, “anti-shrug,” pushing your shoulders down to the ground, packing them in position. We commonly tell people a Pavel Tsatsouline quote: “The shoulders are poison to the ears.” They’re not pals, let’s keep them away from each other for now.

3) Take a breath in through your nose pulling air in and then pushing that breath deep into your body. Once you brace your abs, pull your butt into your heels and reach back slightly. A good visualization to use is if you’re standing in the street and you’re going to squat down to sit on the sidewalk.

User Tip: The sensation of pulling into the bottom of your squat is important. It’s safer and more effective than dropping like it’s hot and bouncing your way out. Pulling into the squat recruits more muscular tension which builds a stronger squat.

4) Squat depth is an argument you can find on many forums and the socials. A good target to aim for is squatting to a position where the crease of your hip is below the tops of your knees. There are cases where this depth isn’t advantageous, but it’s commonly the most optimal target for adult athletes.

User Tips: Keeping your arms close to your body with your shoulders packed, try touching your elbow inside your thighs just behind your knees. Focus on spreading the floor or tearing the ground in half. This will recruit more of your lower body and hip muscles and also help you track your knee over your middle toe.

5) Pause for a brief moment at the bottom, then drive the ground away while you stand up. Push through your entire foot, from big toe, little toe and heel and when you reach the top, flex and squeeze your legs and butt. Ideally, your hips and shoulders elevate at the same time when you initiate the drive from the bottom. The squat is a moving plank so remain braced.

Always focus on technique first. Once you’re competent and comfortable with the Goblet Squat, develop your Double Kettlebell Clean and begin practicing your Double Kettlebell Front Squat.

At ELEVATE, our strength standard for men and women is you be able to Goblet Squat the 24kg bell for 3 sets of 10 exceptional repetitions before progressing to the Double Kettlebell Front Squat.