Squat Like Picasso

Squatting is an art form, and like art there are Picassos and then there are stick figure professionals. The form that you practice will be the form that you’re good at. If you practice abstract you’ll be good at abstract, and if you practice quarter squats you’ll be good at quarter squats. Moreover, if you stop painting you will get worse at it. Dedicated weightlifters will approach a person in a squat rack like a hipster approaches a coffee house’s art-wall; if the quality is good they’ll probably instagram what they see. (#douendu?)

A lot of art critics believe that there is only one good genre of art. In like manner, a lot of coaches believe squatting has only one true form, and they will argue tooth and nail to defend their favorite. If you read the book, “Starting Strength” you’ll hear Rippetoe’s overbearing tone of “my way or the highway”. He has the right to feel that way. But like any famous art critic, that doesn’t make him right. A lot of coaches feel the exact same way. I’m not one of those coaches. I do, however, believe that there is a strict parameter that a squat must fall under. If you’re squatting outside of this parameter then you’re gonna have a bad time.

Bar Position
There are two ways to load a barbell on the back: High bar and Low bar. When I coach, I refer to the high bar as a more “athletic squat” and the low bar as a “weight mover” squat. High bar squatting requires a more upright posture, while low bar allows the lifter to lean forward and create more leverage at the hip. A lower bar position results in a reduced hip and back angle, which theoretically helps produce greater force. Everyone is different, which means bar placement is not an exact science.

To find the high bar position the squatter should:
1. Place the bar on the taps behind the neck.
2. Make sure not to load any weight onto a bone; muscle tenderness does not indicate a bone site.
3. Squeeze the upper back, and raise your elbows to stabilize the bar.

To find the low bar position the squatter should try:
1.  Grab the bar and squeeze it, flexing your lower delts. This will create a muscular bulge/shelf.
2. Glide the bar down, past your traps, onto the muscular shelf.
3. Continue squeezing the upper back as the squatter flexes his/her delts. Lift the elbows up behind to make the arms more parallel to the floor.

It doesn’t matter how strong your legs are, if you don’t have a proper shelf you won’t be moving much weight. Strong legs with poor bar loading is like have a car engine but no frame to put it in. Furthermore, training with a pad on the squat bar is like driving a dragster with the parachutes deployed the whole time. Keep squatting with the bar on your shoulders and eventually muscle mass will increase and build a better shelf.

Once the bar is safe and sound on your meat-shelf you will have to set your spine and hips. To do this you should squeeze your upper back, breath air into your stomach, push your butt back, and flex your glutes. (He's using the high bar in this picture)

Squat Depth
Different forms of art require different types of brush strokes. In similar fashion, different squat depths will require different muscle recruitment. Athletes who do quarter squats are, in the same manner, like artists who just throw paint on a canvas; quick and easy. Although there are many different genres of art, we can tell the good from the bad. Likewise, there are many different categories of depth, but only some are good.

Determining which depth category an athlete is squatting to is harder than it sounds. Everyone has his/her own unique leg girth. This means that we cannot determine depth based on the look of the leg, but of something more concrete. Everyone has bones, and everyone that has bones has a femur (the long bone of the leg.) That is why we should call depth based on the angle of the femur to the hip or tibia/fibia.

Parallel to the floor is the highest that anyone should squat. I call this depth, “powerlifters only,” because it’s the minimum depth required at a competition (depending on the organization). The bone angle on this is 90 degrees at the knee. This would be a good depth to squat to for a max out day. To some people this is lower than they have ever squatted before. Which is sad. Don’t make me sad.

A knee angle of 70 degrees is the middle child of squatting. However, unlike most middle children, this depth is actually the crowd favorite. According to some literature in the book “Managing the Training of Weightlifters,” the authors determined that the best depth for producing power was a knee angle of 70 degrees. This is a good depth to squat to any training day.

Obviously, the lowest you can squat is hamstring to calf. This occurs when the muscles at the back of the leg touch. The bone angle on this changes with people. If you have Thor-like legs you’ll be unable to squat as deep as Foghorn Leghorn. When squatting this deep it’s easy to relax the knees. Remember to keep your knees externally rotated and tight. This should only be trained with lighter weight and moderate reps.

Keep a good shelf, tighten your posture, and hit one of the three depths. You’ll like the way your squat PR and quads look, I guarantee it. 

1 comment:

  1. thank you for sharing. It is really good information for me.


About Me

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BS, MS - exercise Physiology
EPC - Board Certified Exercise Physiologist

Published Thesis
The impact of three different forms of warm up on performance

The Effects of Glucose Supplementation on Barbell Velocity and Fatiguability in Weightlifting - A pilot study"

The Accute Effects Of Different Squat Intensities on Vertical Jump Performances
The Accute Effects of Different Squat Intensities On Jump Performance

Graduate from Midwestern State University, founder of Endunamoo Barbell Club, and Endunamoo Strength and Conditioning. Working to help athletes physically reach their goals and achieve scholarships while spiritually pouring into as many people as possible on all platforms.