Try Some Squat Therapy to Improve Your Position and Focus
Written by Michele Vieux, Video by Libby Landry
Since the air squat is one of the foundational movements we use at the gym, it is imperative that it is PERFECT before we start adding load or moving into more dynamic movements like Olympic lifting. If we don’t, all the errors we make without load will be exemplified under load and could even become dangerous.
Most people don’t look like Travis does (in the video above) when they squat so let’s take a moment to talk about how working some squat therapy into your life can help you not only achieve all the difficult positions of the squat, but also give you a focus point for each so that you can make more gains while lowering the risk of injury.
Squat therapy is not new but I venture to guess you don’t regularly work it into your routine, which is why I want to encourage you to start incorporating it into your warm-up on squat day.
How to Perform Squat Therapy
1) Start by facing the wall with your feet in squat stance (under the shoulders) and standing about ten to twelve inches away from it. Focus on tight abs and squeezing your glutes.
2) Extend your arms above your head and activate your lats and scaps by pulling your shoulders down and toward the center of your back. In this position, you should be focusing on: keeping the chest up; staying tight in the upper back; and keeping the lats engaged so that they form a shelf for your arms to rest on.
3) Initiate the movement by sending your hips back slightly before you begin to pull yourself toward the floor with your hamstrings. Everything you focused on in the first two steps should still be a focus as should be keeping the weight toward the back of your foot and externally rotating the hips. If your knees touch the wall, you probably initiated with them instead of the hips. Keep practicing this step until you get the hang of sending your hips back and down.
4) Continue to actively pull yourself into the bottom of the squat. This drill is great for ingraining that idea versus just dropping down to the bottom. Everything must stay tight for this. If your hands touch the wall, your chest is likely pitching forward. This could be due to restricted mobility in the ankles or hips and now you know you need to work on those areas. Or, you might just need focus more on keeping your scaps and upper back engaged.
5) Hold the bottom position for a second or two. Ask a friend to watch or video you so you can see what you look like in this position. Many of you might notice what we call a “butt wink” which is when your hips round under at the end, loading your lumbar spine in a less-than-ideal position. If you have a wink, try executing more focus toward squeezing your abs and glutes throughout the entire movement.
6) Stand slowly. You should come straight up out of the squat and not pitch forward at all which puts extra strain on your lower back when it has to take over for your legs. The focus to correct this is to squeeze the upper back and scaps so your chest stays up and also to make sure your weight is still toward the back of your feet, not shifted toward the front of them.
7) Repeat for 10 reps at a tempo that helps you focus on the portion you need to work on.
– External rotation, butt winks, pitching forward: @ 5111 tempo
– Soft bottom position: @ 5211 tempo
– Squeezing the abs and glutes: @ 5212 tempo
Try using a band above your knees when you do this for added glute activation and focus on external rotation. You should not only be plenty warm by the time you finish the ten reps – the practice also primes your movement pattern and helps give you a point of focus for your squat session.
Ready for some massive gains? Let’s hit some PR’s! Share your favorite squat warm-up in the comments below!