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The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
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StrikeBack Offline
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The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
Out of all lifts I've ever learned, the squat (and its variations) remains my most favourite, by far. From day one setting foot in the gym, I was drawn to it and felt natural with it. It was also the main reason I got interested in powerlifting. When I suffered my old serious hip injury, it rendered me unable to squat for months (deep hip flexion hurt the most) which forced me to rebuild the squat from scratch.

This thread is where I'll try to pass on what I've learned about the squat.

== Bodyweight Squat ==

I subscribe to the Chinese and FSU weightlifting systems when it comes to this. Kids who enter those schools get to squat with the stick for a very long time until they're good at it. By the time they get to the barbell, they make faster progress than most adults doing Starting Strength, because they are already so good at the basics. It's no different to any sport, really, but in the West, we are always so obsessed with getting results NOW, that BS like Starting Strength novice gain linear progression gets sold to everyone without regards to actually learning how to do it properly. If someone claims they can teach a bunch of nonathletic adults to squat correctly in 30 minutes, they're full of shit.

The very first thing I always get people who ask me for squat coaching is to get them to do a few bodyweight squats, ideally with a stick on their back or holding their arms up pretending there's a barbell. I look for basic squat mobility, depth and balance.

If you can't do a bodyweight squat to decent depth for at least a few reps, or with good enough balance (some just fall over), you have no business putting weights on your back for the barbell squat. For longevity and future gains, just stop barbell squatting for now and fix the basics first.

Ideally I'd like to see this:





i.e the correct form version, done with a stick or just an empty barbell.

If you're half way between horrible and the above, then you should start incorporating bodyweight squats in your warmups and warm downs. You'll find new gains and overcome current plateaus easily when you can do bodyweight squats like that.

There are so many mobility drills on Youtube to get a better bodyweight squat, so you should find whichever works for you. This is what I get people to do:

Goblet squats with a KB:

Cheesy as hell video, but it's from the coach who came up with it.





Grabbing the power rack or whatever as support for balance, then going all the way down. When you're down there, just wiggle around, teach your body to be comfortable with that position. Ease yourself down slowly, don't tense up, don't stretch hard, but relax into the stretch instead. Find the balance. Slowly let go of the support.

The idea is that if you're comfortable with the position and are very balanced there, you will be able to produce maximal force from it, instead of leaking power due to your body fighting against its own tension.

Do it everyday, a few times a day. Even if you're really terrible at first, you will make great improvements in 4-6 weeks. People who are too impatient to do this will still be in the same place (terrible mobility, mediocre squat) after that amount of time anyway.

== Squat Setup ==

Many times when someone asks me to watch their squat form and comment, I end up commenting on the setup - or lack thereof - instead. Without a proper setup, the entire set has no direction or consistency to comment on. Many people seem to hobble out of the rack in a random fashion then fall down the hole and wiggle back up. If that somewhat describes your squat, then you need to learn how to set up.

Fortunately, someone (a USAPL National coach) has already done the hard work, and here is the exact setup I use and teach people:





Watch it a few times.

The only thing I'd add to that excellent setup is to take little pauses between each step of the setup to clearly separate them. It will make you learn much quicker and easier to diagnose if something isn't right.

That is not the only good squat setup in existence, but it's a damn good place to start. If you learn a solid setup, you will improve straight away, and fixing any flaw you have will be easier as you now have a baseline to make changes to.

If you're curious to see more squat setup, have a look here:





and other similar videos on the IPF channel.

You'll find that most of the top IPF squatters set up similar to the above, and also precious few setup and squat like Starting Strength style. Most will have a medium-narrow stance, elbows down, head up, and squat straight down instead of sitting back and hip-draaaaaave. That will be the topic of another post though where I'll get into more details.

Like the deadlift clinic, you can ask me any squat question here as well.

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(This post was last modified: 05-31-2015 07:48 AM by StrikeBack.)
05-31-2015 07:47 AM
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Windom Earle Offline
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RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
Great post.

That first video is probably the most succinct/educational example of proper form I've seen.
05-31-2015 08:00 AM
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RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
Should I do squats with shoes or without them?
05-31-2015 08:13 AM
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StrikeBack Offline
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RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
(05-31-2015 08:13 AM)Kvothe Wrote:  Should I do squats with shoes or without them?

With shoes, always.

Shoes help you screw your feet into the ground to produce more torque. It's hard to do this with bare feet as you don't have enough friction.

You're probably not allowed to squat barefooted in most gyms anyway.

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05-31-2015 08:16 AM
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RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
Not sure if that elbows down cue works so well if you have long arms and perform the low bar squat. I noticed Candito is doing them high bar style in that video.

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05-31-2015 09:02 AM
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KeepMovingForward Offline
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RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
(05-31-2015 09:02 AM)RexImperator Wrote:  Not sure if that elbows down cue works so well if you have long arms and perform the low bar squat. I noticed Candito is doing them high bar style in that video.

It's interesting to note that Johnny Candito has been back and forth between high bar, low bar, and hybrid squat over the years, and he is an elite powerlifter.

Just goes to show that best form is highly individual after getting the basics down.
05-31-2015 10:12 AM
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RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
Can't rep you again so I'll just say thanks for putting on this clinic, StrikeBack.

1. I see some of the IPF lifters going very narrow stance and others going rather wide.

What factors determine the ideal stance for a given individual?


2. What's the best way to address imbalances?

When I get up towards my max, I feel my left groin/psoas muscles under a lot of strain and my right leg is definitely way stronger than my left.

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05-31-2015 11:30 AM
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kbell Offline
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RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
How do deep do you go when you squat? Looking at the competition they look like they go a little bellow parallel with the knee but not quite as deep as Johnny Candito with just a bar. I tend to lose a lot of strength at bellow parallel. But I have always squatted with a wide stance so perhaps that weakens it.

Will you cover the front squat too? I hear that can help with depth as well in tandem with the goblet squat.
05-31-2015 11:34 AM
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Hades Offline
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RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
I thought IPF rules were different meaning that squat styles have to be adjusted. They have to have their hip joints lower than the knee or it's not greenlit. Most of the other top squatters in other powerlifting federations use a very wide, toes far out, manspreading on the subway type stance when squatting.
05-31-2015 12:20 PM
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RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
I've had to strip my squats to bare bones. My shoulders and back are not very flexible, so I'm working that problem. Body weight squats, front squats, and even cleans into a squat are good to go. But strangely enough my back squats are shitty. I've changed foot placement, and I'm working on full stretch as to floor squats. I keep reminding myself to work the muscle, and not the ego, because the weight is a fraction of my personal bests. Excellent job with this post +1.

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05-31-2015 12:45 PM
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StrikeBack Offline
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RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
To answer the questions above regarding style, elbows etc.

I use the IPF Classic (Raw) competition as examples because it is the closest to what you guys will be squatting normally in the gym, for whatever goals: raw, without suits or wraps, deep enough etc.

In the IPF, you need to squat below parallel, meaning hip crease below top of knees. The rule says you stand erect (less than 15 deg forward lean) awaiting the squat command, then descend to below parallel and return to the top position, awaiting the rack command.

Nowhere in the rule it says you have to squat in a certain style. It is entirely open to the lifter to choose whichever style makes him the strongest.

Most lifters choose to have the bar placement in the low bar position, however this does not mean they squat low bar the way you may know it from Starting Strength. In fact, if you go through those competition videos, you'll find that they do a kind of athletic squat that is rather different to what Rippetoe teaches. Hardly anyone squats like SS in classic competition. There's a reason the USAPL National coach teaches his lifters this IPF way when they compete for strength... The SS style is a bizarre unnatural squat that makes no sense.

With this kind of IPF squat, you aim to stay as upright as possible despite the low bar placement, so that you channel all energy directly up, utilise the legs better, put the back at a more favourable angle and the hips closer to the bar. Very similar to how the deadlift is set up, if you remember from the Deadlift Clinic.

Think about it this way: if I tell you guys to squat down and jump up as high as possible (producing maximal force against the ground in the opposite direction of gravity - same as a squat!), would you squat down like a low bar Rippetoe style (that'd be so much lolz) or would you squat like one of those IPF lifters? You may get your muscles very sore, but you're channeling energy all over the place instead of straight up. It's like swimming: you can get very sore splashing water around but not move much forward.

In order to stay more upright, you will need those elbows down, because if the elbows are up, you're basically pushing yourself into the good morning position. If the bar is in the high bar position, the elbows will be pretty much vertical. Less so if the bar is lower. It's like a lat pulldown behind your neck like the squat setup video says.

RexImperator: if you have long arms, use a wider grip, and perhaps don't have the bar too low.

If you notice, most of the raw classic squatters adopt a narrow to medium stance. It's because sans equipment which protects your hips and provides a massive rebound, that's the best stance. Same as if you were to jump up as high as possible, would you stand really wide or adopt a narrow to medium stance?

Of course there are raw squatters who go really wide to cut dept, but that is a very risky thing to do for your hips and very often they get redlighted for depth anyway in the IPF.

How do you find the stance for you? Squat down below parallel and jump up as high as possible. Find the stance that allows you to squat then jump highest comfortably.

I will answer the other questions later.

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05-31-2015 10:48 PM
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RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
To add to the thread, I learned how to squat via Youtube videos specifically from this guy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rq8CWv8U...8F10C4DE1F

Probably the best "series" of videos for learning to squat I've seen on the internet.

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05-31-2015 11:05 PM
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RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
(05-31-2015 10:12 AM)KeepMovingForward Wrote:  It's interesting to note that Johnny Candito has been back and forth between high bar, low bar, and hybrid squat over the years, and he is an elite powerlifter.

Just goes to show that best form is highly individual after getting the basics down.

Exactly, and he'd be the same as most powerlifters. We'd tweak the tiny little things to get an extra 2.5kg / 5lb out of our squats, usually they're irrelevant for most recreational lifters.

Having said that, his squat style doesn't change that much. It's still a quad dominant squat like most IPF lifters do. Sitting down, not back etc.

(05-31-2015 11:30 AM)VincentVinturi Wrote:  Can't rep you again so I'll just say thanks for putting on this clinic, StrikeBack.

1. I see some of the IPF lifters going very narrow stance and others going rather wide.

What factors determine the ideal stance for a given individual?


2. What's the best way to address imbalances?

When I get up towards my max, I feel my left groin/psoas muscles under a lot of strain and my right leg is definitely way stronger than my left.

Cheers, no worries.

When watching those IPF guys, I'd choose the technical ones not the brute strength ones. Usually you wouldn't see very wide stance for the medal positions, because it's not ideal for raw. Very wide stance is to cut ROM and is a relic from equipped squats. It's not safe for powerlifters nor recreational lifters. Narrow to medium stance works best. I'd start with shoulder width and make small adjustments.

Try pause squatting for balance. Also, if you work with lots of submaximal squats (heavy enough to challenge but not overwhelm the weaker side) and good technique, over time, the imbalance will correct itself. I had the opposite imbalance to yours (right groin straining, left leg way stronger than right) due to an injury and it has now gone back to balance.

(05-31-2015 11:34 AM)kbell Wrote:  How do deep do you go when you squat? Looking at the competition they look like they go a little bellow parallel with the knee but not quite as deep as Johnny Candito with just a bar. I tend to lose a lot of strength at bellow parallel. But I have always squatted with a wide stance so perhaps that weakens it.

Will you cover the front squat too? I hear that can help with depth as well in tandem with the goblet squat.

I go just bellow parallel for my main barbell squat, but I do plenty of variations including bodyweight ones where I squat right to the bottom. If you have a medium stance, your legs will be right under your hips and you can push much stronger with them.

Everybody loses plenty of strength below parallel. I once attempted to prove this by repping my 1RM for 7 reps about 2 inches above parallel (albeit with a slight rest on the safety pins).

Yeah I will cover the front squat a bit. It's one of my favourite lifts, I still have the biggest front squat among my training partners (over 2xBW, 150kg, probably more now, but I haven't tested for a while). However it actually is a better assistant exercise for the deadlift, not for the back squat.

(05-31-2015 12:20 PM)Hades Wrote:  I thought IPF rules were different meaning that squat styles have to be adjusted. They have to have their hip joints lower than the knee or it's not greenlit. Most of the other top squatters in other powerlifting federations use a very wide, toes far out, manspreading on the subway type stance when squatting.

lol @ manspreading squat.

Well due to the rules, it means the IPF squats would make the closest example for how a recreational lifter should squat. You guys wouldn't have knee wraps and suits anyway, and you'd like to squat a bit deeper too.

(05-31-2015 12:45 PM)vinman Wrote:  I've had to strip my squats to bare bones. My shoulders and back are not very flexible, so I'm working that problem. Body weight squats, front squats, and even cleans into a squat are good to go. But strangely enough my back squats are shitty. I've changed foot placement, and I'm working on full stretch as to floor squats. I keep reminding myself to work the muscle, and not the ego, because the weight is a fraction of my personal bests. Excellent job with this post +1.

I'll try to post up some mobility work for the upper body. Meanwhile, I think you may find that tight chest might also be related to your issues.

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06-01-2015 08:59 AM
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RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
(05-31-2015 08:00 AM)Windom Earle Wrote:  Great post.

That first video is probably the most succinct/educational example of proper form I've seen.

I didn't see any proper squat form in any of these squat videos. The first video almost has it right.

Letting your thighs drop below the floor parallel = bum knees in the future.

You do not want to squat deep. It may be good for your glutes and hamstrings but it's gonna cost you your knees, which are notoriously fragile. Knees do not get stronger with time. Go easy on your knees by stopping the squat when your thighs are parallel with the floor.

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06-01-2015 10:13 AM
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RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
I thought if you didn't squat deep enough, you would over rely on the quads which would pull more on the knee. Squatting parallel or just bellow would engage the glutes and hamstrings more allowing a more even pull on the knee. Would this cause the one group of muscles to get stronger at the expense of the others? I could be wrong this though so feel free to correct me there. I just know for me shorter squats tend to cause my knees to to feel off for awhile.
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RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
(05-31-2015 07:47 AM)StrikeBack Wrote:  There are so many mobility drills on Youtube to get a better bodyweight squat, so you should find whichever works for you.

I posted 2 different routines in the Ido Portal thread that are really helpful for adding depth to squats, along with reducing injuries. Check out the Squat Routine 1.0 and 2.0 here:

http://www.rooshvforum.com/thread-38372.html

And thanks once again to StrikeBack for his contributions with these threads.
(This post was last modified: 06-01-2015 10:43 PM by LeBeau.)
06-01-2015 10:39 PM
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RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
^^I've noticed fewer problems going deeper than parallel. In fact, when I rehabbed my hip flexor, I was hitting it as deep as possible (high reps, low weight), and my form and everything else improved. When I started putting on the heavy weight, I had less pain. Today I had zero pain, just the struggle of squatting heavy again.

06-01-2015 11:34 PM
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RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
(06-01-2015 10:13 AM)Samseau Wrote:  I didn't see any proper squat form in any of these squat videos. The first video almost has it right.

Letting your thighs drop below the floor parallel = bum knees in the future.

You do not want to squat deep. It may be good for your glutes and hamstrings but it's gonna cost you your knees, which are notoriously fragile. Knees do not get stronger with time. Go easy on your knees by stopping the squat when your thighs are parallel with the floor.

There's research showing the exact opposite, but I'm too lazy to find them right now. Stopping at parallel uses many things to break the descent that actually hurt your knees more.

We're evolved to squat rock bottom. Look at tribes, third world countries, our ancestors etc.

At rock bottom, glutes don't work that much. Glutes work near lockout. Hamstrings don't get worked much in the squat, period.

My dad had knee issues for years that doctors gave up on. Deep squatting fixed it, and he was already a retired 61 y.o when I started teaching him how to squat. Now he's repping 110kg at 63kg bodyweight. Knees in fact can get stronger with proper training.

Olympic weightlifters squat deeper than anyone else on the planet, and they hardly ever have knee issues (shoulders and wrists OTOH...)

IPF raw powerlifters rarely get knee issues from squat, usually it's hips, particularly SIJ.

Now, if you normally squat high or only to parallel and accidentally go deeper because you loosen up, you may end up hurting your knees. This is because your body has never been in that position before with resistance (weights) and it is weak / untrained there, which is a very high risk for injury. This applies to many movements not just the squat. It is one reason why you always train with maximal ROM when possible, if not in the main movement then in variations of it.

And finally, all of those videos feature the best squatters on the planet, one being the actual World Championships, the others having world medalists and record holders. I think it's worth studying their forms if you are learning how to squat. Wink

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06-02-2015 01:54 AM
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RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
@StrikeBack - I just got back from a squatting session.

I was using 70kg so I could focus on form and all the tips you've shared both yourself and through the YouTube videos you've posted.

One thing that really stuck out to me today was that I can't seem to get the bar shelved onto my rear delts for a proper low bar backsquat.

I don't have much of a 'shelf' to begin with as I'm lean, so the bar tends to wiggle up and down.

Keeping the bar that low also involves my wrists to an uncomfortable degree.

I can remedy the wiggling somewhat by flaring my elbows up, but my understand is that this is incorrect as it reduces upper back tightness.

I switched the bar to my traps and immediately felt relief for my wrists and better stability.

I was also able to tighten my upper back more efficiently.

Do you reckon I'm doing something wrong with the low bar position or are guys with builds like mine just better suited for a high bar position?

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RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
Quote:Do you reckon I'm doing something wrong with the low bar position or are guys with builds like mine just better suited for a high bar position?

Hard to see without a video (you can send me one via PM if you want direct comments) but here's a general advice: use whichever position that makes you feel strongest e.g like you described right here:

Quote:I switched the bar to my traps and immediately felt relief for my wrists and better stability.

I was also able to tighten my upper back more efficiently.

In powerlifting, there is no rule that says you HAVE to squat low bar. Nor is there a rule that says lower is better, although there is a rule saying you can't go too low or you get disqualified due to not being able to stand upright. People use whichever makes them strongest. Generally the bar position is somewhat lower, and the weight is directly over your centre of balance aka midfoot.

Some very strong powerlifters squat with a high bar, and then there are guys like this one who squats high bar with almost a front squat hold - 3xBW without belt or knee sleeves.



- competition footage at around 2:30

And this is THE best squatter in the world right now, Carl Yngvar Christensen with a 490kg equipped squat at the SHW class. It's not exactly on the traps but only just below them, and he squats almost like a high bar style (his coach is a famous weightlifting coach turned powerlifting).





If someone tells you that you HAVE to squat low bar, ask him why. And if he says something about posterior chain, just laugh, then go squat in a style that feels most natural to you and makes you stronger.

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06-02-2015 07:22 AM
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RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
My knees always hurt when I squat and I think I've gotten "squat form tutorial" overload.

In the first video, I had thought that the amount his knees stick out during his version of proper form was too much. I have been told and seen many other things advocating basically no forward movement from the knees, or as little as possible. Am I off base with that?

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RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
Yes I've heard that a lot as well. Rippetoe talks about this in his book and I've heard from Crossfit trainers to "sit back and keep the weight on your heels." Basically keeping the shins as vertical as you can. When you do this, I notice you feel it in your hamstrings more.

Re: Low bar vs. high bar. Greg Nuckols has a good article about this on his blog Strengtheory. For the general strength trainee it doesn't really matter. Low bar usually allows you to move a little more weight by reducing hip to bar distance (lever arm) so that's why powerlifters tend to use it. But as far as the training effect, what matters is not the weight on the bar but the torque your muscles overcome.

I learned low bar so I've just stuck with that.

Not sure about the depth thing (ATG etc). I have enough flexibility to squat really low but I try to go only just below parallel because that's what I was told. Basically as high as you can go with the hips still being below the knees. I think this may be another powerlifting thing for moving more weight.

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Post: #23
RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
(06-02-2015 11:03 AM)Sonsowey Wrote:  In the first video, I had thought that the amount his knees stick out during his version of proper form was too much. I have been told and seen many other things advocating basically no forward movement from the knees, or as little as possible. Am I off base with that?

This is a recommendation from geared powerlifting. If you wear a squat suit, you want to stretch it as much as possible because it acts like a rubber band that will catapult you upwards. This stretching is accomplished by sitting back as much as possible.

To improve their back angle and to shorten the ROM when sitting back so far, geared lifters take a very wide stance. Without a squat suit, you're not able to do this or you will fuck up your hips.

As such, if you sit back without a squat suit and keep the shins vertical, your back will be very horizontal. Your squat will become a weighted good morning with a very large ROM and it will be very hard to avoid lower back rounding at the bottom. Also you will not gain a lot of strength in your legs because your lower back strength will always be the limiting factor.

When you squat raw, you want to find the best compromise for your body. Take a comfortable stance width that will not screw your hips. Then balance sitting back and forward knee travel to find the position where you are the strongest and the most comfortable.
06-02-2015 12:47 PM
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StrikeBack
PhDre Offline
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Post: #24
RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
And StrikeBack, thanks a lot for another series of great posts. You are clearly very knowledgeable (and experienced) about strength training and you manage to convey your wisdom in a clear way.

It is about time that somebody ends this posterior chain hip drive madness. The SS style squat looks good on paper but is an incredibly unnatural movement. And once the weight becomes remotely challenging, you cannot keep the back angle constant and it turns into a good morning with too much ROM.
06-02-2015 12:51 PM
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Samseau Offline
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Post: #25
RE: The "Squat Like A Boss" clinic
(06-02-2015 07:22 AM)StrikeBack Wrote:  


This guy has perfect form. Parallel with the ground. I see some guys swearing by deep squats yet I've spoken with lots of older dudes in their 40's and 50's who've told me to NEVER do that.

FYI, before I fucked myself up with propecia, I weighed 160 at 5'8'' and could squat 315 pounds. So going parallel definately does not make one weak.

Also, for the guys who say they've been hurt doing parallel squats - my guess is you don't stick your hips back far enough? It should feel natural.

Perhaps different squat forms are best for different body types, depending on height or torso to leg ratio? This is a possibility.

Contributor at Return of Kings. I got banned from twatter, which is run by little bitches and weaklings. You can follow me on Gab.

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06-02-2015 10:06 PM
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