Squat ‘er right

Posted: May 20, 2011 in CrossFit, Exercise, Fitness, Health, Obesity, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

I vaguely recalled squats from the feared PE class of youth, so it was news to me that squatting is not only a key ability for functioning healthy, but also pretty tricky to do correctly. CrossFit founder Greg Glassman says it takes three-five years for “an athlete” to learn how to squat correctly, so I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself to do it completely correctly.

Squatting always reminds me of something my physical therapist, Stephanie Thurmond, once told me: “There is no day off for good body mechanics.” My husband is always giving me a hard time about having “old person” bends; I don’t always remember to lift with my legs or squat to do things like loading the dishwasher. I do the potentially dangerous thing: I bend at the waist.

Now, I should know better. In a former life, I was a litigator, and I deposed a lot of doctors about back injuries. Almost all of them, conservative or liberal, would tell you that bending at the waist to lift something puts too high a load on the back, particularly the lumbar spine, and can lead to joint and tendon strains and tears as well as the more serious herniated disk.

But knowing something and doing something about it are too different things. And if you’re obese and/or deconditioned, then your knees or hips may hurt when you try to squat (especially if you’re doing it incorrectly) and the involved muscles may not be strong enough to take the weight.

So my squats started on the 19.75″ high plyo box; when I made the move to the 18″ box (actually a box for stepping up and down on that I set on its side), I started having knee problems, so I went back to the plyo box to work on my form, strength and flexibility until my knees are ready for a deeper squat. Eventually I will get to the below parallel “mature squat,” but right now, form is king, and strengthening my joints and muscles to take the majority of the 242 pounds I weigh and lift it from a deep squat without injury precedes any other consideration.

Like a lot of beginners, I have trouble with the following parts of the equation:

  1. Keeping off the balls of my feet. The correct form is driven through the heels and out to the side.
  2. Keeping my knees from drifting inward. The correct form is to keep your knees tracking over your feet.
  3. Keeping my back in a neutral position. Throughout the squat, you should keep the bend in your lumbar spine.
  4. Looking down. You should keep your head up and look straight forward.

There’s more to work on after those four points, but those are the ones that I’m working on now. And this is the kind of thing that makes it imperative to have a good coach watching you; I had no idea I was looking down (and closing my eyes) until Gary pointed it out. I have no idea why I close my eyes … maybe I think it’ll make it go away.

And, from time to time, I try to argue that it’s my big ol’ butt that’s in the way of getting the squat right. Coach Gary won’t let me off the hook with that; he told me to raise my arms higher on the way up to get the counterbalance. So now I do it like I’m doing “the wave” at a ball game. It may look silly, but it gets me to stand up straight at the end, and since I’m in the garage anyway, I don’t really care.

Another thing that helped me was getting a pair of Vibrams. Yeah, they look weird and they take a little getting used to, what with all the separation between your toes (who knew toe socks would return as toe shoes?), but it’s really easy to tell if you’re on your heels or toes. I tend to hold my toes up during squats to force myself back on my heels.

If you want to know more, Again Faster has this great video called “Fixing the squat” about squatting the right way and how to fix it when you’re doing it the wrong way:

I’m figuring that if it takes “an athlete” up to five years to get there, it may take me ten. But I’ll get there when I get there.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s