Australian Natural Bodz - - Train Smart -

Whether you love them or hate them, the good old squat of­fers a lot of benefits for both sexes when it comes to strength­en­ing, build­ing and in­creas­ing over­all per­for­mance for sports. The only is­sue with squats is the risks can out­weigh the benefits if they are not per­formed with good tech­nique. One thing I dis­cov­ered from my years in the gym busi­ness was some peo­ple are able to pick up the proper squat tech­nique right from the start where oth­ers tend to strug­gle and ap­pear awk­ward! The only thing I could put this down to was ge­netic struc­ture; some peo­ple’s bod­ies are more suited to the squat move­ment where oth­ers are not. In gen­eral I found taller peo­ple strug­gled with cor­rect form, they tend to tilt for­ward and round their backs on the down­ward part of the move­ment. De­spite these ge­netic vari­a­tions that are ob­vi­ously out of our con­trol how can we as­sure we per­form the squat safely with good form and tech­nique? To start with how do you know if your form is good? If any­thing hurts when you squat or the move­ment feels awk­ward or im­bal­anced, those are good in­di­ca­tions that you’re do­ing some­thing wrong or us­ing too much weight. More im­por­tantly, if your lower back is round­ing at the bot­tom of your squat, that is an is­sue that needs to be ad­dressed be­fore you start in­creas­ing the weight. By ex­per­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent squat vari­a­tions you can find a squat that will not only feel right for you but also pro­vide the max­i­mum benefits. The two main vari­a­tions are the front squat and back squat. Which­ever squat vari­a­tion you use, start light and make grad­ual progress as one of the main causes of in­juries are let­ting your ego get in the way of ex­er­cise form. In most in­stances a lighter weight squat per­formed cor­rectly will tar­get the key mus­cle groups more ef­fec­tively than an ex­ces­sive load. Adding weight grad­u­ally will al­low your body to re­cover and adapt, a con­cept that is com­pletely ig­nored when you read or hear about the sup­posed dan­gers of squat­ting. Amaz­ingly, your body will adapt to the de­mands placed upon it, as long as you don’t ex­ceed its cur­rent abil­ity or its ca­pac­ity for re­cov­ery. Usu­ally, this is more of an is­sue with men, who try to add 20, 50kg at a time to the bar in an at­tempt to force progress or prove their mas­culin­ity. (Women typ­i­cally go in the op­po­site di­rec­tion, hes­i­tat­ing to add much weight at all out of an ir­ra­tional fear of get­ting big and bulky and los­ing their fem­i­nin­ity, an­other stub­born myth that has no ba­sis in re­al­ity.) A good way to avoid this men­tal­ity is to ap­proach each squat­ting ses­sion as an op­por­tu­nity to prac­tice the squat, rather than a chance to show off how much weight you can lift. Keep­ing your ego in check is vi­tal when it comes to avoid­ing in­jury. One of the key points to de­ter­mine is why are you per­form­ing the squat move­ment in the first place! Is it to in­crease strength for your cho­sen sport, build and shape your quads and glutes, or is it purely just for the sake of how much you can lift? For most gym go­ers the squat is per­formed purely to build and shape the quads and glutes. In this in­stance your goal should be to fo­cus on feel­ing the quads and glutes con­tract not merely mov­ing the weight from A to B. For the taller peo­ple front squats may be a bet­ter op­tion be­cause you have to hold the bar­bell across your chest in an arms crossed fash­ion so the bar sits across your col­lar bone. The front squat tends to keep your body more ver­ti­cal. You can’t tilt for­ward be­cause the bar will fall off your shoul­ders. I have found that the front squat does tend to place more load on the quads and to a lesser de­gree the glutes.

So if your fo­cus is to shape or build your glutes as well the

back squat is prob­a­bly your best choice. One thing to keep in mind when per­form­ing the back squat to en­sure you do not round your back or tip for­ward. Be­fore you de­scend with the bar fo­cus on a fixed point at eye level in the mir­ror and al­ways main­tain vis­ual contact with that point when you are de­scend­ing into the squat. This will keep your head up and help to main­tain a neu­tral back po­si­tion so you don’t round your back. An­other key point is to de­scend into the squat in a con­trolled fash­ion. Don’t drop at high speeds and bounce as you bot­tom out as this will leave you open for se­ri­ous in­jury. Don’t laugh I have seen this tech­nique per­formed nu­mer­ous times in my ca­reer! Lower slowly to just be­low par­al­lel and then drive back up to the start po­si­tion. Re­mem­ber at all times keep­ing your eyes fixed on that one spot! There are a few mis­con­cep­tions about how deep you should squat, some state that you should not go be­low par­al­lel, how­ever if you per­form the squat in a con­trolled man­ner there is no rea­son to fear go­ing be­low the par­al­lel point. I have been squat­ting for years and have never had any is­sues as long as I used a cor­rect weight and a con­trolled move­ment. Some folk sug­gest par­tial squats. My thoughts on this are if you only want to par­tially work the quads, glutes and ham­mies then per­form par­tial squats. Half an ex­er­cise or a quar­ter in some cases will never pro­vide the same re­sults as a full move­ment. I like to call par­tial squats – Ego Squats be­cause you can load a ton of weight on the bar and squat down 2­3 inches and feel like you have lifted half a ton but in all re­al­ity you have achieved noth­ing. In most cases if the par­tial­squat­ter was to de­scend to be­low par­al­lel they would never get back up! Purely an ego boost­ing per­for­mance. On a fi­nal note squats are one of the most pro­duc­tive ex­er­cises you can per­form. The se­cret is to mas­ter the form, start slow and grad­u­ally in­crease the weight. Ex­per­i­ment with both front and back squats to see what move­ment works for you.

Happy squat­ting!

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