The Air Squat – Sun 4.10.16

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The squat is essential to your well-being. The squat can both greatly improve your athleticism and keep your hips, back, and knees sound and functioning.  Squat training begins with the “Air Squat,” that is, without any weight other than body-weight. As a matter of terminology, when we refer to the “squat” in a WOD  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.

Unfortunately, the “Air Squat” is also one of those movements that is easy to forget in your training.  Many people mistakenly believe they have mastered the movement and tend to stop thinking about how to improve it.  (That’s where you start to see Jump Squats and other dynamic forms of the squat really start to break down individuals form).

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.  That is when form does not break down no matter how long or fast in a workout you go!

How to Squat

So how do you perform such an “Easy” movement like the “Air Squat”.  CrossFit HQ only lists 22 cues to think about while for a sound squat (Note:  many of these encourage identical behaviors):

  1. Start with the feet about shoulder width apart and slightly toed out.
  2. Keep your head up looking slightly above parallel.
  3. Do not look down at all; ground is in peripheral vision only.
  4. Accentuate the normal arch of the lumbar curve and then pull the excess arch out with the abs.
  5. Keep the midsection very tight.
  6. Send your butt back and down.
  7. Your knees track over the line of the foot.
  8. Do not let the knees roll inside the foot. Keep as much pressure on the heels as possible.
  9. Stay off of the balls of the feet.
  10. Delay the knees’ forward travel as much as possible.
  11. Lift your arms out and up as you descend.
  12. Keep your torso elongated.
  13. Send hands as far away from your butt as possible.
  14. In profile, the ear does not move forward during the squat, it travels straight down.
  15. Do not let the squat just sink, but pull yourself down with your hip flexors.
  16. Do not let the lumbar curve surrender as you settle in to the bottom.
  17. Stop when the fold of the hip is below the knees– break parallel with the thigh.
  18. Squeeze glutes and hamstrings and rise without any leaning forward or shifting of balance.
  19. Return on the exact same path as you descended.
  20. Use every bit of musculature you can; there is no part of the body un-involved.
  21. On rising, without moving the feet, exert pressure to the outside of your feet as though you were trying to separate the ground beneath you.
  22. At the top of the stroke, stand as tall as you possibly can.

There’s more points to focus on, but that should keep you busy for a while!

So why all the less-than-stellar squats?

Causes Of A Bad Squat

  1. Weak glute/hamstring. The glutes and hams are responsible for 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. Resulting attempt 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 helps you perform better and is necessary for the best movements in fitness!  Don’t avoid constantly trying to make this movement better (18 years and counting for me).  Get down there, stay down there, and learn to like it!

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