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Yesterday I helped a man with his squat

December 1, 2009

Another little story about my gym session the other day.  There was an 50 something year old Korean guy on the torturous incline leg press machine, which happens to be right next to the squat rack.  While I was doing my squats I could see his reflection in the mirror looking over at me, obviously interested in what I was doing.

After I’d finished my quickfire 3 sets and deadlifts, I moved away to do some dynamic stretching to warm down.  The Korean guy was on the squat rack struggling to do squats with 20kgs of weights on the bar.  I walked a bit closer and I could see so many things wrong about his technique, so in my poor Korean I offered to help him, which he was more than happy to receive.

Firstly his feet were way too close together and  his feet were pointed straight ahead.  Both of those things stopped him from going deep in the squat and probably put a lot of pressure on his knee and ankle joints.   When you go down in a squat your knees will automatically go out so if your feet are straight you’re going to get a twisting in your knees.  If your feet are pointed out, your knees and feet will be aligned so its more of a natural range of motion.  I told him to put his feet wider, parallel with shoulders and point his feet out at about 30 degrees.

His grip was way too wide on the bar itself, so I got him to bring those in and bring his elbows back which creates a nice shelf on the shoulders for the bar to sit on.    All the weight should be on your upper back, your hands are just there to keep the bar in position, there should be no weight on the hands or wrists at all.

I took the weights off the bar so he could practice his new technique without too much weight.  In a good squat your hips should go below your hips to active your hamstrings, lower back and to also maximise hip thrust coming up.  There are some people who say its bad for your knees, but this is wrong if you’re doing a squat with good technique you’ll have no pressure on your knees or ankles.

So he did the squat and he did it really well.  He knew straight away because it felt good to him and we loaded some more weight on the bar and he did a really nice 3×5 squat set with 20kgs on the bar.  He thanked me profusely and I felt good about helping him.

Personally I love the squat, it’s not just a leg exercise, its a total body workout which hits your legs, core and lower back.  A squat done with good technique will work just about every muscle in your body and it really does build functional strength.

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