What’s more useful than a SQUAT?
When I am delivering my pitch for fitness and health in the setting of my gym, I always start with what I affectionately call the schwat! Or the SQUAT as some people call it. This is my initial baseline test of fitness for new clients of whom I aim to help guide down their path towards overall fitness. My “sales pitch” to these new clients goes something like, “We are going to start by perfecting your squat. It is important because it is the basis for everything else we do in fitness.” Its functional application is broad and all encompassing.
If I could choose only one movement for the rest of my life in order to stay fit, it would be the squat. Simply put, the squat is sitting down and standing up. Just about everyone does this! I have new clients coming to me telling me they can’t squat to save their life. But, in reality I know this not to be true. And, much of the time I see the least fit appearing person to have the most suprisingly functionally correct squat. Hips go back to initiate the start of the movement, knees then track out, chest stays high throughout, and the client’s hips reach a point below the level of their knees that I didn’t think possible. I love the suprises that working with new athletes gives me on a regular basis.
The Best Part?
The best part of the squat, and what most people (or coaches) won’t tell you from the beginning, is that the squat does more for your nuero-muscular connections (make my brain move my body-part in the precise way I want to) than any other exercise. While olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, or cardiorespitory movements have their moments for sure, squatting is an easily accessible, constantly challenging, infinitely varied, and wholly satisfying fitness exercise that everyone (yes everyone, no matter their age, disability, or mobility) should be consistently developing.
What I will tell you as a person who fit into that camp as a beginner, is that I wish I had started squatting earlier and more often.
The mistake that most people make about developing their squat is that they put it off for too long. If you think of the typical CrossFit client who comes in with next to zero experience having performed a proper back, front, or even overhead squats, all feel awkward and painful to this person. What I will tell you as a person who fit into that camp as a beginner, is that I wish I had started squatting earlier and more often. Get started now! Because, it will take a lot of reps and plenty of experience to build from a bodyweight back squat to a 2x body weight backsquat, and even more time to get to 2.5x or 3x body weight backsquat. But, it is possible with enough dedication.
Do you want to clean and jerk more weight? Snatch more? Are you struggling to stay tight during a pull-up? Or maybe you just need to work on controlling your breathing? Do you want to be a more explosive basketball/football/soccer/baseball player? If you need to execute a weighted movement or generate more force, nothing will assist you more than developing your squat. Learning to take a deep breath and brace your body with greater efficiency and power will lead to heavier lifts, greater gymnastic achievements, and better respitory recovery. Preparing you for either the struggles of life or sport, squatting will help you to improve in almost any physical field (and some mental ones as well).
There are ratios that compare your back squat to what your other lifts should be. For instance, your dealift should be 120% of your back squat. Your snatch should be 66% of your back squat, and your clean about 80-84% of your back squat. There may be multiple reasons your lifts are are lower than this, such as mobility problems, poor technique or lack of experience. However, if you’re really close to these, then generally the only way to improve these lifts is to improve your maximum back squat.
So what should I do?
That’s very easy; find a squat program and try it out. If you’ve never done a squat program before, or you don’t have an accurate one rep maximum, then you should look for beginner programs. “Hatch Squat” is a good program that many beginners start with. But if you want to see the whole breadth of programs out there, visit either Mikes Gym or Catalyst Athletics. At either site you’ll find a plethora of examples. The main goal is to find something that you can stick to for the entirety of the program. If you can push yourself to carry out the whole thing, I promise you you will find all of your Olympic lifts improved, breath easier during your work, and you will have a greater sense of moving heavy weights more efficiently.
Now, get squatting!!!