My Perfect Squat Journey
Funny story. When I was still in a globo gym I would hear guys say “Damn, that’s a lot of weight!”, but in my transitional phase I only heard “Damn, that is a low squat”. I was proud to hear the latter.
Squatting is my second favorite lift of all time, dead lift being number one. I have invested a lot of time and research into trying to perfect all of my lifting movements. And while I do not claim them ALL to be perfect I think I just about have the squat and dead lift down.
I thought I could squat once. I was doing 405 lb. box squats for 4-6 reps at one point. I mean, I was squatting more than most of the people I knew in the gym. But I kept having to ask myself the same questions every-time I would squat. Why do my knees hurt so badly? Why is squatting so uncomfortable? It wasn’t long after, that I realized how much you can squat is no indication of how well you can squat. I decided it was time to completely reengineer my squat. It has been a little over a year since I made that decision and I after watching a crap ton of videos of me squatting, to correct my technique, I finally feel like I have a damn near perfect squat….depending on the load.
It was a combination of Kelly Starrett’s videos in the CrossFit Journal and the guys at EliteFTS that I have to give 100% credit to correcting my squat. However, they did not give me my 5 words that gave me the perfect squat. The five words I still to this day say every time I walk to the bar about to squat.
BACK TIGHT. DOWN. OUT. UP.
This is something I always overlooked and I don’t know why. After you get a firm grip on the bar it is time to start thinking about your back. You are going to put yourself under the bar with a tight back. Shoulder blades pinched together. Keep the lower back tight in preparation for the lift.
Sounds obvious, you have to go down to do a squat. But you need to think about the down. All I think about is the weight on my heels. There is a huge difference starting the down on the balls of your feet and on your heels. You will be driving through the heels so make sure you know where you “down” is going. Correcting for a center of gravity shift can be difficult.
This is the most important one!! It has multiple meanings. The first out is your butt. You butt should be the first thing to kick out when you start to squat. A very basic principle that some people can overlook. The second out is overlooked by most. You need to think of the squat as a down and out motion. As you go down your legs should spread outward.
These “outs” were my biggest squatting weakness. Not performing the “outs” properly can cause the knee to go ever so slightly past the toe, and now we are getting to hurt knee syndrome.
This is just as simple as the down. You are thinking how are you going to go up. Where is the weight displaced. Are you driving with your heels? No, really are you driving with your heels!?
BACK TIGHT. DOWN. OUT. UP
These words are more about visualization before you squat. Visualize yourself doing the perfect squat. Make sure you have it in your mind mapped out perfectly, then execute.
I took nearly 100lbs. of of my squat when I started my quest to make sure I was doing it right. You cannot reengineer anything without deconstructing it a little bit. I found out in the process I was not as strong as I thought I was, especially when doing the squat correctly. However, now that I am doing it right, I squat pain free. I am getting back to my pre-reengineering strength and my squat looks way better. I also always used to have a stronger squat than deadlift. Now my deadlift is stronger than my squat by about 100lbs.