The Sophisticated Way To...
All right my lovelies. My grounding principle is, as this blog’s name reflects, sophistication. Combining experience and practical values to subtly reflect wisdom and good taste. The original Renaissance Man himself, Leonardo DaVinci is often credited with musing that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” I believe this to be true, not only in style, but in the gym.
This is the premier post of an on-going series (“The Sophisticated Way To…”) on how to improve, polish and refine some of your favorite exercises— and really take these seemingly simple, foundational skills to the next level. We’ll take these simple and timeless exercises and elevate—SOPHISTICATE—them.
So let's get this series started with a discussion on one of my favorite strength exercises- the squat.
Why Should You Improve Your Technique
So why should you improve your squat? Why do we need to break out something that seems so common-place and self-explanatory? Well, to improve your results of course!
We squat heavy for many reasons. It's a big chain, total-body lift that can help you get stronger, lose weight, feel better, and most importantly #getabutt.
And yes, glute size is at the top of my priority list. I'm obviously the slightest bit biased when it comes to butts. But just ask the Oxford researchers who correlated a bigger butt with longer life expectancy.
ANYWAY, If you can squat better, you can get those better results you want(including a longer life!) without changing a thing about your current program. Unless that is, that your squat gets so much prettier and easier with all the extra attention, that you have to pick up heavier weights. There's levels to this sophistication thing, people. And I happen to know a thing or two about leveling up your glute sophistication....
Squat to the Depth You Can Be Successful
Squat depth is a prime consideration, something you should plan out specifically, before you even think about picking up a weight. You do not need to squat to, what we call, "ass to grass" in the business. Yes, it sounds quite badass, but there's a very likely chance that dropping it like it's hot is only available to you in the club(*it is significantly easier to squat lower in heels). And squatting too low when your body cannot stabilize itself and keep integrity in the joints, can do more harm than good. You'll also likely still have a pancake butt. And eventually ache-y joints. So let's not do that!
You can easily find your perfect squat depth by getting into something like a squat-like position, only on your back down on the floor. Pull your knees in towards your chest, keeping your spine flat to the ground. That's where you can squat to. Check it out here....
Brace Yourself With Your Breath
So I already mentioned how important keeping integrity in the joints is when you squat. Bracing through your midsection helps keep some of that integrity. It helps create stability in your spine, and specifically important to most ladies, stability through the lower back. And that's important to not only keep you out of pain, but to limit the movement to the hips. I'll say it simply...You do not want to move through the lower back on a squat. When you do so, you increase the chance of compressing the joints of your spine together(while under load!) and well, that's pretty obviously a bad thing.
When you squat, you want to maintain the length in your spine. And you want to engage your abs to help you do so. I always say the only real 8-minute 6-pack abs workout is a quick and heavy squat session.
You can easily chase down that chiseled midsection and brace yourself by creating a sort of pressure cooker with your trunk. Take an inhale and try to use that breath to push your sides out. Now, when you exhale and continue to breathe, don't lose that pressure on your sides. That's how you quite literally brace yourself to squat some heavy weight. Check it out here....
Pull Everything Apart
Another way you can keep integrity in the joints during a squat, is to create more stability in the hips. You don't want to crunch your spine up and you certainly don't want to jam up your hips either.
This one is great too, because even before you begin to descend to your desired squat depth, you'll feel the outsides of your hips and your glutes fire up. That's what you're trying to train, right?
The cue is simple. Pull everything on your lower body apart. I like to start with the floor and work my way up. I pull the floor apart, spinning the balls of my feet away from each other(they don't actually move though. We're just talking shearing force). I pull my knees apart, pushing them out as wide as I can. And I pull my hips apart, as if I'm stuck in a wet pair of jeans and I'm trying to make more space. Feel that lower body fire! Check it out here....
Any one of these tips could quickly add another 20+ pounds to your squat if you're not regularly practicing the technique already. And squatting heavier for less reps serves many of our fitness goals like fat-loss and strength-gain, without adding that dreaded bulk you might be afraid of. Except of course, to your backside. #getabutt #sophisticatedstrength
Check out Periscope for live videos on the cues each week! Bonus... I will also try to answer all of your questions, about squatting!