Primate Series: The Squat (pt. 5)

The Fundamental Series - The Primate (pt. 5) by Dr. Craig Davies 

The Squat

Just mention the word squat and a strong response will be followed from trainers, physical or manual therapists or the athlete. The trainer may note that the squat is the most important exercise in the world and that everyone should be doing them as a major or the main component of their leg programming. The physical therapist will often say that squats are the most effective way of detecting an imbalance in the body and many athletes will either agree with their trainer that squats are the greatest leg exercise in the world or conversely that they cant do squats because the squats hurt their knees, hips, back, neck, etc.

Well, I agree and disagree with all of those comments.

I am sure you are saying “Way to take a strong stance there Doc. Way to go out on a limb”. Ok, well here is the branch I am going to walk on….

I think learning to squat is:

  • One of the most important movements for almost everyone to acquire.
  • I believe that it is an incredibly useful assessment tool to identify many body compensations, weaknesses and inequalities.
  • I do believe that many people feel uncomfortable or in pain when they are performing a squat…still no branch Doc…..

But here is the key for me.

  • I think the eccentric loading or the lowering phase is the most important aspect of the squat.
  • I think very few people should ever squat for the purposes of an exercise in a standard square (feet parallel) position as they have you do during an assessment. How many people even analyze an athlete’s hip mechanics prior to making them squat these days anyway?!?
  • The reason most people (not all) are experiencing discomfort during the squat is because of one of two main factors
    • They never bothered to earn the right to squat by learning how to move through the prerequisite basics (as you have done through completing the movements in the Fundamental Series) OR
    • They are choosing the wrong squat or have the wrong intention when performing the squat.

Ok, so I finally showed you the branch I am stepping on and now I will try and explain why I am standing there.

The eccentric aspect to the squat:

If you watch any baby or young child (or most any person I have seen who lives in a more primitive lifestyle where chairs are not something you sit on most of your day) lower themselves towards the ground they do so by performing a squat. They lower in a controlled manner, their knees stay over their feet and do not drop in towards midline and their feet are positioned in an open fashion and not square to each other.

Here’s the key,: When they stand, very few of them actual squat back to standing. Note: even the word squat indicates a shortening of stature or lowering. So if they don’t “squat” back to standing, what do they do? Well, they Deadlift. They drive their hips up and then move them forward through hip extension.

They squat down and dead lift up.

Learning how to lower one’s self in a squat manner is of great benefit and is an important aspect of learning how to move freely and without pain. Learning how to squat back up is of less importance in my opinion but becomes necessary for anyone learning the squat as an exercise in the gym. I also don’t teach my athletes to squat with their feet parallel and hip width. Sure, I may assess someone in this position because I want to make the challenge high so that it is easier to see the faulty movements of their squat pattern but I don’t teach them to squat this way for an exercise. I also wouldn’t teach someone to hit a golf ball with his or her feet square. If I want them to move from right to left (as a right handed golf swing), why would I want to put a barrier in their way?

Heavy Squat Diagram

Heavy Squat

Eldery Squat Diagram

Elderly Squat

Youth Squat Diagram

Youth Squat

Toddler Squat Diagram

Toddler Squat

I want to make squatting, or the ability to squat as easy as possible for you to learn. So, unlike the rest of the Fundamental series where I noted it was important to begin with no external weight / resistance, I believe it is necessary for most people to learn the squat with the assistance of an external resistance.

We are going to look at Goblet Squats today. If you have been able to work your way through the previous installments of the Fundamental Series you should be able to perform the Goblet Squats and then move into free weight squats shortly there after. If you somehow made it through the Fundamental series and still struggle with the version of the Goblet Squat discussed below then you may want to look at the squat progression series that I will develop shortly for the site.

Goblet Squats:

I like to begin with a weight the athlete can hold comfortably in both hands. The added resistance puts more mass in front of you, which makes it easier for most people to sit into their heels and engage their glutes in an eccentric manner without falling forward or backwards. As the exercise gets easier for you, use less weight until you can do the exercise easily with just your body weight.

Once you can do body weight squats with precision you can begin to increase the weight and perform loaded goblet squats or front squats. I like to start with the heels one inch outside of hip width and have the feet turned out about 20 to 40 degrees to start. Everyone has different level of function at the hip joints (retroversion through anteroversion variations) for example so there may need to be some modification to this depending on your specific body type and function. I find this set up is a good starting point for most people though.

Video 1: The Goblet Squat

One of the keys I use with my athletes is to visualize pushing the world down and away from you as opposed to just standing up. I find the focus on pushing the world away has the ability to allow a greater focus on grounding your feet and engaging the body in a way that helps facilitate greater efficiency from the foot through the legs, hips, pelvis and spine.

For most of you, I hope this modified version of the squat allowed you to progress and experience a full depth body weight squat. If you struggled with the body weight squat, don’t stress about it, use the Squat progression series that will be added shortly to the exercise section of the site.

If you cant do a body weight squat, please, under no circumstance, allow yourself to load a bar and place it on your back and perform weighted back squats. This is a sure fire way to experience a loss in functional movement, pain and injury.

Assuming you progressed through the Primate Series and learned how to stand with the assistance of one of your arms and then squat with just your legs and body weight, Congratulations! You are ready to move onto Human Movements! Welcome to the world of the Hip Hinge!

To play great golf you need to understand and become competent in putting, chipping, pitching, bunker play, full swing, driving the ball, wind, rain, soft versus hard fairways and greens. The list could go on for a very long time. You obviously need to practice and improve on as many of these variables as possible.
We have whole sections of the TourCouncil.com site dedicated to full swing science, short game, biomechanics and research and in the caddie corner you will discover ideas on how to play the game more efficiently.
In the Coaching and Game Management section we will explore many of the variables required to play effective golf. A great swing doesn’t mean you will score low (although it definitely helps!) on its own. We will look at the intangibles that go into making a great golfer.

Preparing in the most efficient manner allows for the greatest gains in the shortest period of time. Something as simple as having the camera positioned in the wrong place when filming your swing will lead you to believe your swing is moving in a plane that is different than it actually is. It is obviously hard to correct technique when what you believe to be true is not.
In this section we will attempt to make your preparation more accurate and more efficient. We will combine both technical pieces that would fit in the full swing section as well as philosophical pieces that may pertain to the mental performance section.
Coaching is about combining the most pertinent information in the most easily digestible manner at the most effect time. This section is designed to help the golfer and the coach gain a greater perspective on this and increase both of their performances on and off the course.

Golf is a reflection of our lives. When we achieve empathy, patience, gratitude and perseverance off the course we will gain the opportunity to experience them on the course.

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