The Air Squat
The squat is a beautiful, natural movement. It demands midline stabilization, posterior-chain engagement, and core-to-extremity movement, and it can be used to move your bodyweight or very large loads held in a variety of positions. At one end of the spectrum, the squat is an essential component of weightlifting and powerlifting, and at the other end, the squat is essential to getting off a toilet seat. Regardless of what the problem is, the answer is to squat.
All athletes/individuals should begin their squatting with the “air squat”; that is, without any weight other than body weight. As a matter of terminology, when we refer to the “squat” we are talking about an unladen, body-weight-only squat. When we wish to refer to a weighted squat we will use the term back squat, overhead squat, or front squat, referring to those distinct weighted squats. Training with the front, back, and overhead squats before the weightless variant has been mastered retards athletic potential and compromises safety and efficacy.
When has the squat been mastered? This is a good question. It is fair to say that the squat is mastered when both technique and performance are superior. This suggests that none of the points of performance are deficient and fast multiple reps are possible.
How to do a good Air Squat:
–Maintain the arch in the back
–Look straight ahead
–Keep weight on heels
–Reach the full range of motion (i.e., below parallel/below knee level)
–Keep the chest high
–Keep the midsection tight
The most common faults to look for are surrendering of the lumbar curve at the bottom, not breaking the parallel plane with the hips, slouching in the chest and shoulders, lifting the heels, and not fully extending the hip at the top.
Do not even think about weighted squats until none of these faults belong to you.
These are the common faults during the air squats:
1) Not breaking the parallel plane.
2) Rolling knees inside feet.
3) Dropping Head.
4) Losing lumbar extension (rounding the back—this may be the worst)
5) Dropping the shoulders.
6) Heels off the ground.
7) Not finishing the squat—not completing the hip extension.
A relatively small angle of hip extension, while indicative of a beginner’s or weak squat and caused by weak hips extensors, is not strictly considered a fault as long as the lumbar spine is neutral.
Causes of a Bad Squat
1) Weak glute/hamstring. The glutes and hams are responsible for the powerful hip extension, which is the key to the athletic performance universe.
2) Poor engagement, weak control, and no awareness of glute and hamstring. The road to powerful, effective hip extension is a three-to-five-year odyssey for most athletes.
3) Attempting to squat with quads. Leg extension dominance over hip extension is a leading obstacle to elite performance in athletes.
4) Inflexibility. Tight hamstrings are a powerful contributor to slipping into lumbar flexion–the worst fault of all.
5) Sloppy work, poor focus. This is not going to come out right by accident.
It takes incredible effort. The more you work on the squat, the more awareness you develop as to its complexity.
The squat is essential to human movement, a proven performance enhancer, and a gateway movement to the best exercise in strength and conditioning.