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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Back to Exercise Basics: The Strong Squat

We here at NIFS are what you can call “pattern people”; meaning our team of instructors focuses on fundamental movement patterns and how we can enhance them to allow for better function and goal achievement. Of course we start this process by having our members complete a Functional Movement Screen (FMS). The first assessment takes a look at the Squat pattern. Second in our series focusing on exercise basics, the squat will be the topic here, including how you can build a better one.

The Keys to a Great Squat

As we continue our focus on movement competency prior to attempting the most challenging exercise known to man (I still see this happening every day, in the gym and all over Facebook), we begin by taking a look at the major keys to a great squat. Much like the push-up described in a previous post, the squat is a super-versatile movement with so many real-life and performance applications in which it plays a role. From sitting into a chair (and standing up from that chair) to setting a PR in the back squat in your next powerlifting competition, the squat is a very powerful and functional movement we should all be training. Quite a few things are going on in a great squat; it employs core joint mobility in the ankles and hips, core stability, and motor control. These far-reaching aspects of movement are challenged and improved when incorporating a properly performed squat into your routine.

Cara_squat

Squat Pattern Checklist

Refer to the following checklist to ensure that you get the most out of your squat pattern by performing it correctly. Just as you learned to squat, check it off from the ground up:

  1. Feet 1: Just beyond shoulder-width apart
  2. Feet 2: Slightly angle outward
  3. Feet 3: Weight over the heels and spread the floor
  4. Knees: Tracking over toes
  5. Hips 1: Hips push back to begin movement
  6. Hips 2: At or below parallel
  7. Hips 3: Hips and knees flexing at same time
  8. Spine 1: Angle of spine and tibia are the same
  9. Chest: Keep up, proud chest
  10. Arms: (top of press) Push-up to straight-arm position
  11. Head: Keep gaze straight ahead

Squat Variations

Here are just a few variations you can try after mastering the pattern. Remember, do the basic stuff really well before moving on to the really hard stuff.

Overhead w. Dowel IMG_1201

2KB Front Squat

IMG_1211

BB Back Squat

IMG_1217

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercises powerlifting squat pattern functional movement joints assessment squat functional movement screen

Proud Chest: Hacking the Squat Pattern for Weightlifting

squat-patternnew.jpgSquats, really any variation, are easily one of the most popular exercises out there today. The squat pattern is a fundamental and big-bang movement when done correctly. But before you throw a bunch of weight on a bar and step underneath it, it’s important to focus on some details to help minimize some minimums that will ultimately lead to a cleaner and safer squat.

Getting the Foundation Right

I love the phrase from Gray Cook that goes, “More is not better; better is better,” when it comes to progressing a particular movement. As a society and fitness community we are eager to jump waist-deep into something without considering the notion that you can drown in only 2 inches of water. It is so important that you mind a solid performance pyramid where movement is the foundation before jumping right to performance or skill. Doing so will ensure proper patterning, leading to even bigger lifts (if that’s your thing) and, more importantly, keeping you safe.

Assessing Your Squat Pattern

So how do you know whether your squat pattern is at an optimal level? Get assessed! If you are not assessing, you are guessing (I can’t remember who I stole that from), so know your minimums before jumping into some maximums. The upper-body/chest area falling forward while squatting is a common issue we see on the fitness center floor. Maintaining a “proud chest” (I adopted that phrase from Gym Jones), or keeping the chest up, is a key squat pattern component.

Two Ways to Maintain a Proud Chest

Here are two simple and effective ways to develop and maintain a proud chest in your weightlifting squat pattern:

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS fitness center equipment weightlifting powerlifting squat pattern assessments fms