One of our members asked me a very simple question yesterday morning: "Why do we squat this way?"
This is an important question with an important answer. Our bodies are adapted to function in very specific ways; muscles manipulate joints in a mechanical fashion that is both logical and predictable and we can tell how certain joints are meant to move by studying movement patterns in various populations (including toddlers, adults, and even other mammals with slightly differing body structures).
Further, we can make an armchair argument for a hierarchy of movements in terms of functionality by favoring those movements that allow us to move the largest loads the longest distance using the greatest amount of muscle mass. Using these requirements, we can see that something like a bicep curl is less functional than a kettlebell swing is less functional than a full range of motion squat. But why do we want to meet those specific criteria? Think in terms of bang for your buck: you live a life in which you have limited bandwidth to devote to training and exercise, so why not spend that time and energy doing the most work possible in the least amount of time (sounds a lot like how our classes and workouts are designed huh? ..weird..)
So I've provided two excellent reasons why we should squat as far as our range of motion allows, but why do we use the "hip crease below parallel" rule at the gym? Simply put, it's the easiest way to measure a rep that meets our previous criteria. Squatting deeper is better (given your mechanics allow for it to happen without compromise), squatting heavy is great, and squatting deep and heavy is the best.
The best for what? Everything. Properly squatting heavy weights for multiple short-ish sets (say.. 3 sets of 5 reps?) improves everything your body does, physical and otherwise. You're stimulating the largest muscles in your body, the legs and back, putting your body on the fast track to gaining strength and losing fat. You're releasing hormones that function to reduce stress and improve the efficiency of your body's multitude functions (when I say the squatting heavy will make you better at math, I'm only 2/9ths joking).
But is it safe to put ourselves in those ends of our range of motion with so much weight?? Yes, given you listen to what your coaches say. Remember our first argument: the body is adapted to moving in very specific ways and while those movement patterns have a wide range of variability between individuals, there are very clearly things that you should NOT be doing. When we yell to shove your knees out, you should listen. When we tell you to reach back with your hips, to sit a little deeper, you should listen. When I repeat the phrase "chest up, butt back" for the 4th time in 3 sentences, you should probably do that.
At the end of the day, our program is designed to improve your health, fitness, and wellness and one of the best ways to get fit now, build lasting strength and durability for the future, and be awesome while doing it is to squat. You're welcome.
A. Press 5x5 (find a heavy set of 5, repeat for a total of 5 sets or add 5 lbs from last time)
B. Static Hold Tabata Mash-up
Bottom of Squat
Posted by Armen.