The Squat

Jack 
Jack is 2 and has perfect squat form. Check out how LOW he gets. We're all born with the full range of motion but loose it if we don't train to it.

CrossFit uses several variations of the squat: back squat, front squat, and overhead squat. One important aspect of the squat, as with other olympic and powerlifting moves, is full range of motion. Rarely do you see a squat performed in the gym, and when you do see it, chances are it's a partial squat where the hips do not drop below the top of the patella. Many times the range of motion is only a few inches, sometimes called a quarter squat. Why? Because most people can't load up as many plates on the bar with the full range of motion. It's easier to move heavy weight with partial range of motion, but what are we trying to achieve? Another myth you've probably heard is something along the lines of "I have bad knees and so I can't go deep when squating". Consider this:

"In a partial squat, which fails to provide a full stretch of the hamstrings, most of the force against the tibia is upward and forward…This produces an anterior shear, a forward-directing sliding force, on the knee, with the tibia being pulled forward from the patellar tendon and without a balancing pull from the opposite hamstrings. This shearing force – and the resulting unbalanced strain on the prepatellar area – may be the biggest problem with partial squats."

Mark Ripetoe and Lon Kilgore, Starting Strength, 2nd edition

What does this tell us? Partial squats provide forces on our knees causing pain, and often times it's blamed on squatting. The solution may be to put ego aside, strip off a couple of plates, and train to full range of motion. It will take some time and practice to build up the amount of weight you can move, but the payoff is huge:

"There is simply no other exercise, and certainly no machine, that produces the level of central nervous system activity, improved balance and coordination, skeletal loading and bone density enhancement, muscular stimulation and growth, connective tissue stress and strength, psychological demand and toughness, and overall systemic conditioning than the correctly performed full squat."

Mark Ripetoe and Lon Kilgore, Starting Strength, 2nd edition

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