EYC Podcast #18 Text Breakdown
I have always been a huge fan of squat work, so doing this feature was an absolute pleasure. I feel like squats can sometimes be underemphasized in calisthenics, so I really want to put a lot into showing the types of squat variations that are available. And that’s not to say there aren’t those out there in the calisthenics world doing a great job showcasing squats and their effectiveness, but I feel like squats have always been in a weird place in the fitness world, in that, you see many people that avoid leg work, or at least emphasize it much less than the upper body. This is such a shame because leg work plays such an important role in strength training, and although it may be less glamorous, you’d be quite remiss to avoid it. The progressions in the video are the path I took when I was progressing toward pistol squats. Ultimately, what I am doing, and what I want to do with elevateyourcraft is educate people on the power of progressive calisthenics, and the EYC Squat Progressions are no exception. Similar to the pushup feature, it is not meant to showcase all of the variations out there, but to show you one path, and also give you a glimpse of what is possible. I plan on releasing another video with more squat variations because I want to do a lot with squats, and give them a little more love, so to speak.
Similar to the pushup feature podcast, which was episode #16, by the way, I want to go over some insight around squat progression, that I have seen throughout my practice in hopes that you can learn something, and avoid some of the mistakes that I have made. I also want to go over any key points as pertaining to the squat progression video so you can take full advantage, and maximize what you take from it. It’s all about experimentation and taking notice of what works, and what doesn’t work for you.
So, getting into it, I want to start off with some notes on technique:
Technique – The squat is a basic movement that should be mastered by all athletes, whether training with weights or without. If you aren’t able to do it without weights, than you can’t do it with weights. A couple of things that you might hear in regards to technique within calisthenics are the knee going past the toes, and the positioning of the lower back. I’ve never really worried about how far my knees go past my toes, and I don’t believe you need to, especially since we are not introducing a load on our backs. Also, the lower back will likely curve slightly, especially during more advanced exercises like the pistol squat, and this is ok. Ideally, we’d have the upper body as upright as possible, however because we aren’t adding a load onto our backs, a slight curve is acceptable. In both cases, injury occurs when we don’t respect our capabilities, or technique. Other than the proper standard squatting form, which I’m not going to get into now because I’ll be doing a separate feature on that, some things to consider are: not to bounce at the end of the movement, as this will put undue strain on the knees. Also, you may feel compelled to introduce momentum into the movement by pushing your body forward on the way up, which you want to avoid because this will also introduce undue strain on the knees. This is particularly true with the pistol squat because the whole load is on one knee. Finally, rid yourself of the idea that you cannot go below parallel. Initially, you might not be able to go past parallel, which is fine. As you develop strength and mobility, you will be able to bring the hamstrings to the calves for a deep squat. Just take it slow, and be patient. This brings me right into the next item, deep squats.
Deep Squat – The deep squat is one of the most fulfilling movements that I have added to my repertoire. It may seem rather elementary compared to more advanced squat variations, but it took time, and patience to achieve, and I’m by no means finished with it. I still have a lot of mobility I need to develop to take it to the next level. Not only is at a great exercise, there is something great about being able to drop into a deep squat, and relax. It’s a position you see all the time with children as they play with their toys, but something we lose as we grow into adulthood because of a sedentary lifestyle, inflexibility, or excessive sitting. A great way to help develop that mobility is by holding at the bottom position of a squat on your last rep. I demonstrate that in a video I did very recently of the deep squat with hands behind the back. Be sure to check out the video on my Facebook page. The deep squat is a very important exercise to master which will help build the necessary foundation of flexibility and strength. So spend time on it, implement it into all levels of your training, it will be extremely valuable in later progressions, and develop your overall flexibility.
Close Squats – Like close pushups in a pushup progression, close squats are a very important stepping stone in your squat progression. The great part is, you can apply the principles of progression and slowly inch your legs closer together, building the necessary strength and mobility. The key points to recognize with the close squat are, it will begin to really challenge your ankle mobility and strength. If you find your heels coming off of the ground, you need to develop more mobility to progress further. Similar to the deep squat, go as far down as you can, and hold at the bottom of the movement. Over time, you will become stronger, and more flexible. The second thing to consider is that close squats will emphasize the outer quads, so it’s a good idea to mix up your squat training with wider stances.
Chair pistols – Just a quick note on chair pistols, they do not train the muscles at the full range of motion, so be sure to incorporate full range squat variations into your training. Also, the height of the surface you are using can vary. The one I use in the video is just an example. If you’d like to make the exercise a little easier, use a higher surface, or using a lower surface will make the exercise more difficult. As a final note, you can indeed use a chair as the name suggests, however any stable, flat surface at your desired height will suffice. In the video I use a short parallete, however something like a park bench works equally as well.
Hand positioning – Just something to keep in mind with hand positioning because I will be setting aside more time to discuss the topic of hand positioning in a future podcast, but you’ll notice in the video that I had my hands on my hips during the split squat, and elevated split squat, while all others I had my arms extended out front. Keeping the hands on the hips will make the variation slightly more difficult because of the shift in balance requirements, so just keep in mind that you can have the hands outstretched in front of you with those variations if you need to.
Patience – like any progressions I discuss, developing your squat proficiency requires patience. Respect the progressions, and give each of them the time they deserve. Pay attention to your technique, and don’t overdo it. The squat progression video is representative of the path that I took to get to where I am, and I want to emphasize that it is definitely not the only path out there.
Stay tuned. I’m going to be doing a lot more with squats which I’m pretty excited about, but for now, in the words of Hal Johnson and Joanne McCleod, keep fit, and have fun.