T Nation

Old Guy Can't Get Parallel

Gentleman, I’m 49 and was always told not to do squats and deads because my knee condition (knees easily dislocate). Worse, my docs had me doing leg extensions, which I think are brutal on the joint.

I’ve recently been squatting, deadlifting, leg curling and lo and behold, my knees feel much more stable. Although I’m making some progress, my flexibility isn’t very good since I’ve avoided this kind of bending since high school. I have a hard time getting to parallel, let alone getting my butt to the floor. Any good ideas on how I can improve my flexibility or techniques that make it easier?

Seanile

you do it every day, think about it. you take a shit every day (or close to i hope), and unless your a ‘little person’, you should be below parallel when doing that. just set your feet in your squat stance, good and strong, sit back and lower yourself down, poop, squat up, wipe, go on about your normal business. that’s 7 - 10 reps a week, every week. it really shouldn’t be much different with a bar on your back. if you have to do it with just the bar and nothing else for a while, so be it. you’ll make gains soon enough.

If you open a door, and grab the doorknob, one hand on each side, using it as a brace, can you get to a full squat position?

[quote]jp_dubya wrote:
If you open a door, and grab the doorknob, one hand on each side, using it as a brace, can you get to a full squat position?[/quote]

I can get a little past parallel although it didn’t feel too great in the knees. My balance isn’t the best either - that doorknob was doing some work. Do you suggest femur parallel or full ass to the grass squatting?

Work on hip and ankle flexibility. One thing that helped me a lot is overhead squatting, even light stuff with just the bar.

After a few knee surgeries that did’nt work ,i was told the same as you dont bend down, go up and down stairs only if you have to etc.I was having problems bending and i started doing Get ups,just sitting on a low foot stool or the bottom steps and getting back up .

It helped strengthen knee that now i can do lunges ,step ups and squats .Some days it still hurts pretty bad and i have to stop other days fine.Has a lot to do with weather in my case.Good Luck!!!

[quote]roofus_5 wrote:
Work on hip and ankle flexibility. One thing that helped me a lot is overhead squatting, even light stuff with just the bar.[/quote]

I’m tight pretty much everywhere, but I think the hips might be the key. Does anyone know of a web site with specific stretching exercises for squats and deads?

The overheads is a good idea. Why did they help you so much? It seems like it would force me to balance and actually provide more counterbalance through the movement.

Thanks for the advice.

Seanile

There are a lot of good stretches on this site. I would also look into ART, Foam Rollers, and even yoga.

As far as overhead squatting goes I think what it did for me was first force proper position. you cannot OH squat w/o great form. Everything must be tight and no leaning. It also helped me to “open” my hips more. I still use them when warming up for squatting.

A couple other quick fixes would be to experiment with foot placement. Change your width and angle of your toes until you find an optimal position. The other quickfix is to elevate the heels a little. This can be done by either buying olympic lifting shoes or putting a 2.5 or 5 lbs plate under your heels.

[quote]ron33 wrote:
After a few knee surgeries that did’nt work ,i was told the same as you dont bend down, go up and down stairs only if you have to etc.I was having problems bending and i started doing Get ups,just sitting on a low foot stool or the bottom steps and getting back up .

It helped strengthen knee that now i can do lunges ,step ups and squats .Some days it still hurts pretty bad and i have to stop other days fine.Has a lot to do with weather in my case.Good Luck!!![/quote]

Get ups, what a great idea. Do you go all the way down?

Thanks

Seanile

[quote]Seanile wrote:
roofus_5 wrote:
Work on hip and ankle flexibility. One thing that helped me a lot is overhead squatting, even light stuff with just the bar.

I’m tight pretty much everywhere, but I think the hips might be the key. Does anyone know of a web site with specific stretching exercises for squats and deads?

The overheads is a good idea. Why did they help you so much? It seems like it would force me to balance and actually provide more counterbalance through the movement.

Thanks for the advice.

Seanile[/quote]

Just posted today:

http://www.elitefitnesssystems.com/documents/tight_hips.htm

You may want to check out Mike and Eric’s Magnificant Mobility, I don’t have it, but you could post a question on the MM lockerroom to ensure they cover what you need.

[quote]Ruggerlife wrote:
Seanile wrote:
roofus_5 wrote:

Just posted today:

http://www.elitefitnesssystems.com/documents/tight_hips.htm

You may want to check out Mike and Eric’s Magnificant Mobility, I don’t have it, but you could post a question on the MM lockerroom to ensure they cover what you need.

[/quote]

Awesome links Rugger. The Elite discussion about how the posterior chain jumps the track was really interesting. I can really sense it when my form breaks down - usually putting too much strain on my back.

Seanile

Have you tried front squats?

[quote]Zap Branigan wrote:
Have you tried front squats?

[/quote]

I did and had trouble with them, primarily getting my hands to bend back - lack of flexibility strikes again. I just bought some lifting straps to help solve that problem. I’m not quite sure where the equivalent of the “trap groove” is in the front. Any help or advice on that would be great too.

Like the overhead squat suggestion above, I’ve heard that front squats help with form. I’m also trying to locate a video of Dan John teaching a Chalice squat with one dumbbell that I recall seeing a while ago.

To everyone on this thread, thanks for all of these suggestions. The T-Nation is a great one.

Seanile

[quote]Seanile wrote:
ron33 wrote:
After a few knee surgeries that did’nt work ,i was told the same as you dont bend down, go up and down stairs only if you have to etc.I was having problems bending and i started doing Get ups,just sitting on a low foot stool or the bottom steps and getting back up .

It helped strengthen knee that now i can do lunges ,step ups and squats .Some days it still hurts pretty bad and i have to stop other days fine.Has a lot to do with weather in my case.Good Luck!!!

Get ups, what a great idea. Do you go all the way down?

Thanks

Seanile

[/quote]Yes, in fact when i first started doing them ,i pretty much had to keep the knee that hurt almost straight when i sat down.then when i was seated bend it back and stood up .after awhile my knee became more stable and flexible and i was able to progress from there.Good Luck!

[quote]Seanile wrote:
ron33 wrote:
After a few knee surgeries that did’nt work ,i was told the same as you dont bend down, go up and down stairs only if you have to etc.I was having problems bending and i started doing Get ups,just sitting on a low foot stool or the bottom steps and getting back up .

It helped strengthen knee that now i can do lunges ,step ups and squats .Some days it still hurts pretty bad and i have to stop other days fine.Has a lot to do with weather in my case.Good Luck!!!

Get ups, what a great idea. Do you go all the way down?

Thanks

Seanile

[/quote]Yes, in fact when i first started doing them ,i pretty much had to keep the knee that hurt almost straight when i sat down.then when i was seated bend it back and stood up .after awhile my knee became more stable and flexible and i was able to progress from there.Good Luck!

I didn’t see any mention of box backsquats. I have similar problems (53, bad knees, limited mobility) and use an 11" high box {old milk crate) with a 1/2" foam pad) which gets me a bit past parallel. Just do “touch and goes”, don’t really sit on it, it’s just to let you know you’re deep enough.

You can practice with no weight or just with the bar, if needed. If the box is too low, add something to raise it a bit, etc.

Make sure the box is stable and won’t move around.

[quote]Seanile wrote:
Gentleman, I’m 49 and was always told not to do squats and deads because my knee condition (knees easily dislocate).
[/quote]

I’m 46 and grappled with a similar issue. HOW do they dislocate? If they need some sort of shear or twist then this might not be an issue. I’m not telling here, I’m asking. If the injury mode doesn’t arise in squatting, the fact you had an injury might be moot.

[quote]
Worse, my docs had me doing leg extensions, which I think are brutal on the joint. [/quote]

That is what I think too. Unless you have a real strength issue (e.g. post injury rehab) extensions just aren’t worth it. Chad Waterbury, in another thread, stated (accurately I add) that single-legged squats aka pistols do more or less the same in a much more joint friendly way.

Yes! I load off of doing squats and deads for years because I was told they are bad for your knees. No. The function of joints is to put you into positions so the muscles can take the load. Increasing muscle tone definitely has reduced net wear and tear on the knees.

Don’t bother getting your butt to the floor in a squat since at the bottom a lot of force is put on the ACL. Not worth it at our age. What I have found are issues with quad and hamstring flexibility. In particular hamstring flexibility near the butt. To get both of these put your feet apart and just squat, far down as you like (no weight!) and hang your for 30 - 60 sec. Make sure your knees don’t move to your centerline, but away from it (use elbows if needed).

Another great one is an isometric front squat. Find a bench that you can’t lift. Squat down as per above then after 15 sec. or so right next to it, then try to pick the whole thing up doing a front squat, holding for 15 sec. This will teach you how to fire glutes and hamstrings in the lowest position and since you aren’t moving, the amount of wear and tear on the knees is pretty low.

[quote]
Any good ideas on how I can improve my flexibility or techniques that make it easier?[/quote]

Go up stairs two at a time. You can start using the handrail if you need to. Use real stairs, not a machine. Reverse the motion, slowing yourself down. Up gets glutes and hamstrings, down makes your quad work. Quads slow you when you squat and if they are weak you won’t be able to go down right. My biggest problem when I started squatting was weak quads => couldn’t get lower, not flexibility. Don’t know about you, but check this out first. If that’s easy, try 3 or more at a time (depends on the rise of the steps.)

I love single straight-legged deadlifts now. This gets the knee completely out of the chain so you can still work the motion even if your knees are acting up. Besides, all that ankle work will make you feel more stable in everything you do. Mike Boyle’s site has a bunch of stuff on training these.

Best of luck,

jj

As far as stretching, I feel I have gained some flexibility since I started incorporating squats and deads into my program. What is flexibility anyway? Nothing more than moving a joint or combination of joints through a full range of motion.

Most stretching is designed to do that, with a little bit of tension at the extremes to slowly lengthen the muscle. However, it makes sense that working on squats (with light weights) to increase the range of motion would be considered a stretch if you don’t have full flexibility in that movement.

Stick with light weights (maybe just the bar, depending on your strength; or even a broom stick until you get the feel) and keep at it until you get full range of motion. Once the range of motion is there, then start working the weight up. Until you have the form and the range of motion, focusing on increasing weight spells potential injury. Just my thoughts.

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