The picture above is an example of things the human body is capable of surviving, and not that but potentially thriving with. The squat you see is far from “perfect” and it is the bottom position of this athlete catching a snatch, trust me he dropped into that position fast! Many of you would say, “OMG that’s terrible, not safe at all”. He would argue I’m sure, replying that he honestly catches his lifts like this on a daily basis. So who is right? Well you both are, I would venture to say your idea of what the body is capable of is limited and I would also back you by saying that consistent exposure to this position will not 100% lead to injury but the chances are likely. The other thing to consider is that the man in the picture is a professional weight lifter, comitting his life to making difficulat lifts on a daily basis and pushing the threshold of what his body can tolerate, not just to get strong but to earn a living or more importantly be a champion. How does this carry into us at the gym? Well whether you are training for NFL, NBA, Olympics, CrossFit Games (like me and Tiff) or just doing CrossFit for your overall health and fitness the difference in what we need differs not in kind but only in degree. I train daily for hours for physical dominance in a sport that is worldwide and open to any and everyone, most of you reading this train to look better naked, we must do the same functional movements but you may not need to have the same capacity in these movements as I therefore you doing exactly what I do, just at a different degree, hope this makes sense.
Topic of today however is how low should we squat? Should we risk it all and look like that guy to make the lift? I do, at the Games, to win it all with 1 lift….only then though. How about you? How low should you be willing to go? And are you?
In CrossFit we teach the proper depth is for the hip crease to break below the top of the knee. Why? First off you have to understand the purpose of the squat, it is essential in everyday life multiple times a day. Sitting on the toilet, getting on the floor, sitting at your desk, laying down at night on your bed. You use variations of the squat to achieve all of these. We are lucky that most of the chairs we sit in and toilets we must squat to are all well above parallel, our non CrossFitting countrymen would be destroyed if they were lower. Think about what starts the conversation of when an older person needs to start living in a nursing home or living with someone that can give them daily assistance. It is when that person can’t stand up on their own, can’t lay down on their own, if they fall they can’t get up on their own. We train the squat as deep as possible in order to prepare you for any situation in life like when you don’t have a toilet and you literally have to squat to poop. Some of you wouldn’t be able to even hold yourself up in the very bottom of a squat either due to flexibility issues or a lack of strength that low, sorry but it’s true you’d be a poopy mess.
Greg Glassman has taught us clearly that we fail at the margins of our experience. This holds true for all functinoal movement, our end result for any funtional movement that we train is to commonly take every joint through it END RANGES and still uphold critical points of performance. If you do this with the squat, you will end up in a nursing home later in life and hopefully never, seriously. Those who remain independent the longest are commonly the strongest physically. But guess what? If you only squat to parallel all your life and fall on the floor and need to get up at age 81, find yourself lower than your used to and you will not have the strength or awareness to get up. You may even injury yourself in the fall due to the lack of flexibility in those joints from only exposing yourself to such a short range of motion consistently.
Are there other benefits? You know it. The lower you go the more muscle you can successfully recruit and build. A squatter well beow parallel involves the posterior much more than the lifter that only squats to parallel and uses the majority of their quds to stand. (Ladies who want to target those glutes…….you will squat heavy, low and often, men you’re welcome.)WAIT WHAT ABOUT THE KNEES? It hurts my knees! And isn’t it bad for them? First would I tell you to go that low if it was bad for your knees? Ok, so obviouslly it isn’t. But just to teach why, it is more gentle on the knee joint to decellerate the weight below parallel because of the pressure being take by the hips, glutes, hamstrings vs. stopping and starting the weight above parallel where it is more forcefull on the knees. What if it hurts my knees? What if I can’t get low enough? Well we must find a way. Healthy joints are ones that can move, you may be limited by flexibility (takes place mostly in the ankles for most people), you may just not be driving the knees out enough to create space for your hips settle down and back. Either way you must practice and feel a sense of urgency to reach the standard and become a nerd on wanting to improve your squat, it will change everything!!
Now for those of you that tend to “forget” how low you should go in the middle of a strength set, or on a large set of wall balls don’t worry the coaches will be eye balling you and helping stick to a strict standard today. But always keep in mind that strength, size and more fitness are found below parallel much sooner than above. The greater distance you travel during each rep, the more power you put out, the more power the more results……and now that brings us back to looking better naked, GET YOUR BUTT DOWN. Don’t short change yourself because you’re uncomfortable or don’t know if you can stand it up from that low. To us coaches at Wasatch CrossFit the squat is hip crease below the top of the knee clearly. Not hip crease kind of ABOVE the knee, or hip crease even AT the knee….but BELOW. A squat, is a squat, is a squat with just body weight, with a bar on your back, on your shoulders or over your head. GET YOUR BUTT DOWN.
1. Front Squat (4” lower/ 2” pause/ fast up) 4×5 (no super set, 1:30 rest)
A: Step up jump 3×5 each (DB’s each hand (20′))
B: RDL (DB’s) 5” lower, smooth UP. 3×10
Power Clean 15-12-9 (155/100lb.)
Wall Ball 30-24-18