Squat advice from an all time great Ricky Dale Crain.
"The Squat, the King of all lifts: Everybody's body structure can and does dictate different form and style, but some things are the same or very similar (or should be to be successful) for the vast majority of lifters. Let us take a look at these: -Hand placement on the bar and bar placement on the back -Arms and elbows -Walk out and set up -Feet placement and hips -Head placement and eyes -Breathing and flexing of certain muscles -Thinking and concentrating through the lift from beginning to end Before you approach the bar, all your equipment should be fitted and fitting properly. All your psyching up and mental preparation should be pretty much done. It is time to perform. Hand placement on the bar and bar placement on the back:
A person?s structure, limb lengths and size have a lot to do with hand placement on the bar. The main rule of thumb is the closer the better. It will keep the bar tighter on your back, and no chance for the bar to roll. The lighter lifter usually has no problem with this, but the bigger and heavier lifter, usually through inflexibility, wants put his hands out wide. Thus, he decreases his leverage by the fact the bar will have to be placed higher on the neck to keep it from falling. "I will say this once, and I am sure I will take some hits on it, but it is the absolute truth. The vast majority of bigger/heavier lifters have very poor form, for many reasons, but inflexibility and the refusal to practice good form is the main reason. They pretty much try to rely on their size to muscle up a lot of weight. That is one reason why the smaller lifter is so much superior pound for pound at all the lifts."
The weight should be supported by not only the back of the deltoids where the bar sits, but some should be supported by the arms, forearms, elbows, wrists, hands. This dictates as narrow a hand placement as possible. Smaller frame people will have narrower grips than bigger frame people, i.e. my grip is considerably narrower than Bill Kazmaier's. Grip the bar tight. The tighter the grip, the less pressure will be on the wrists and elbows and shoulders, and the bar will have less of a chance or almost no chance of moving or rolling. Arms and elbows:
If your elbows, wrists or shoulders hurt, try tilting your elbows up as you get under the bar, and/or rotate your hands a bit inward. If you still have a lot of problems, you may need to move the grip out a bit, but work on flexibility constantly so as to keep them in as close as possible. The wider the grip the more the hands will probably tilt inward. I disagree with false grips. They are dangerous because you do not have the bar under full control, and it makes you place the bar higher on the neck, hurting your leverage. Also, some federations allow holding the collars. This practice is very dangerous and really cuts down the leverage. The key is to not only feel tight but also be tight and have everything under control. The lower the bar, the better your leverage is and the more the hips will be utilized. And the hips are where the power comes from. You should not squat totally upright utilizing the legs only.
Only a few people are so big they cannot grip the bar fully and squeeze into a position inside the collars. Many big guys could work on flexibility and be able to achieve this. Walk out and set up:
Walk under the bar, elbows high, squeezing the bar tight and pull yourself under the bar. With the bar about 1-2 inches or so below the deltoid or shoulder, there is a groove for every person that will be evident and sit comfortably. You may have to experiment to find it or it may come naturally. If you are having trouble finding it, ask an experienced lifter. After the bar is sitting tight on your back, set your feet side by side but with one foot just ahead of the other, i.e. heel to toe. Make sure your back is chalked up good to help keep the bar from slipping down your back.
Take a very deep breath, squeeze your hands, shoulders, abs, (i.e. everything) and swing the hips forward. Push up and come back out of the rack. The momentum of the bar and plates, while under control will help you to come out of the rack much easier. Walk out with a minimum of steps, 2-3 at the most. Practice your walk out with an empty bar and while warming up. Practice does make perfect, and learn to do it right every time.
Feet placement and hips:
After walking out and setting up, make sure your feet are the proper distance apart. What is that you might ask? Hopefully you have some idea what is comfortable, and best suited to your body structure, age and strengths. In case you have not a clue as to what planet we are now on, here a few helpful suggestions: -Shorter people usually are narrower -Taller people further apart -Short back and long legged people (i.e. Lamar Gant) can use either form of foot placement Look at this chart to summarize stances:
Short Back Medium Back Long Backs Short Legs: Med/Wide Medium/Wide Short/Medium Medium Legs: Med/Wide Med/Wide Short/Medium Long Legs: Narrow/Med/Wide Medium Short/Medium
This is fairly accurate and there are reasons for the above. It would take a few pages and 20 minutes to put it down on paper to give it a fair discussion. If you really want to know call or e-mail and we will talk. Hip, leg, and back strength also dictate to a point where your stance might be at the present...but not where it should be. See the chart below to help with this area: Strength comes from: Hips Legs Back Stance: Wide Wide/Med Med/Narrow Head placement and eyes:
After walking out and setting up, look out (not up too far), but never down! Now your head can be in 1 of 4 places:
- Looking way up - for people with wider stances, and the bar higher on their back (and checking out for aliens and space ships in the sky). 2. Looking out - for the average lifter, and the most correct way. 3. Looking down - for the closer stance squatter with the bar really low on the back (and also allows you to check to see if you tied your shoes). 4. Looking at the mat, with a flat face, showing you screwed up and haven't listened to anything I've said to you. Breathing and flexing of certain muscles:
You should still be holding that deep breath from the set up and walk out. Make sure as you get ready to descend (that means go down for some of you), you are flexing everything: abs, face, hands, neck, and all upper body parts. As you go down, push your knees out, hard. As you cock your hips and shoot them back (as if sitting on a chair), get your chest out, shoulders back, and have a small arch in the back. At the bottom, your shins should be vertical or almost vertical and never past your feet. Michael Bridges made this popular by giving it a name: The Bridges Fair. It has been part of my form, however, for 30 plus years. As you approach the bottom of the lift, where the imaginary line from the top of the knee to your hip joint breaks parallel, you pull yourself through the point with a slight bounce. Then drive upward with your upper body, hands, arms, legs, hips, back, or otherwise with everything you own. Sometimes the imaginary line is more imaginary at times than others depending on how much you paid the referee or whether you are dating his sister or daughter. As you stand up (or get scraped up, whatever the case may be) and as you complete the lift, go ahead and walk forward and rack the bar. Hopefully the spotter/loaders are not taking a lunch break and will help you a bit, hopefully a lot. Stop, walk, rack, and breathe. Finally it is over. Thinking and concentrating through the lift from beginning to end:
Remember: Squat slow and under control. Form is everything. Always squeeze the bar. Always squeeze your abs (or ab, whatever the case may be). Always squeeze everything. Practice makes almost always perfect. And remember, form and style is in essence more important than the workout itself. Age dictates style and form. The older you get, the more your form will need to be altered or adjusted. Sex (male or female, not the action) will dictate form changes. Experience in lifting, etc. will also be a factor.