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Rene Renteria
05-04-2007, 06:20 PM
I posted this to the CF forum but am not getting many comments and would like to ask for some help here. If your form looked like this, what would you try to change?

Link to squat video (w/f s)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ym185o4gub0

Iím looking for help with my form, particularly about that butt tuck I have at the bottom of the movement. Also whether my knees get too far forward, that sort of thing. I know that on the last couple of reps in the video I get a bit forward; Iím not very smooth in and out of the hole (no sniggering!). I'm also slow, both up and down.

I am wondering if my form is possibly or likely going to hurt my back. My pelvis tucks under at the bottom of my squat, which is only just below parallel. The tucking starts even before parallel. The depth in the video Iíve posted feels quite deep to me. (Itís not that deep, but thatís my perception when squatting.) In videos from the front, it seems that I do track my knees in line with my toes.

Should I be trying to increase the weight of my back squat even with these form issues? Would moving to front squats be better?

I have always been inflexible. I was doing CrossFit WODs somewhat to fairly regularly over the last couple of years and included OHS with PVC in most of my warmups, for example. But my squat ROM just does not seem to have improved. So if itís not working, I need to change something, right?

I have been doing a Starting Strength program recently, after a period of getting detrained (yet again!), to get my base strength up and then plan to add metcon back in once I reach some weight goals. Right now, Iím still barely at the ďNoviceĒ level in the book--weights for 3 sets of 5 reps: squat 190, power clean 135, bench press 150, press 85 (ugh), deadlift 265 (1 set of 5). (Iím 5í9Ē+ and between 155 and 160 lbs.; yes, Iím pretty weak.)

I now am using dynamic flexibility drills (from ďMagnificent MobilityĒ) as my warmup to see if that will help improve my ROM or at least make reaching my current ROM limits more easily. I need at least 95 lbs. on my back to force me down into the hole past parallel because of how tight I feel in the hips, hams, and ankles.

Any comments are much appreciated!

Best,
Reneí
PS--Those are the TDS safety stands from New York Barbell. You can see that theyíre not very wide. I set up way to the back of them b/c I figure if I need to dump the bar, itíll be forward, not back. I havenít dumped yet.

Pierre Auge
05-04-2007, 07:52 PM
OK here's what I see:

1. you engage the lift from the knee (on the way down) - you are low bar back squatting but letting the weight drive you down by pushing the knee forward rather then engaging by pushing your butt back!

2. your stance is too narrow - its hard to tell from the angle but I can almost guarantee that if you widen your stance by 2 inches and angle your toes out a bit more then you'd like too it will allow your pelvis track more efficiently.

3. You need to allow the hamstrings to engage - I'm betting you feel the vast majority of muscular tension in the quads when lifting. If you're front squatting or Olympic Back Squatting fine, that would be the point but you aren't you need to get stronger first.

4. The posterior tilt at the bottom of the movement will almost assuredly be solved by pushing your butt back some and letting yourself lean forward more. (folding at the hip) This is a posterior chain exercise and your doing it with your quads. This is also causing you to shift the weight onto the toes.

5. From the bottom you need to drive the hips up! - When you are in the hole you need to think of pushing up against your sacrum... Think of reaching for and sliding your ass up the wall behind you. This should be a life changing experience for you because you wont even notice the weight on your back at this point until it gets REALLY heavy. This is driven from the hammies...

6. lastly you need to DRIVE your knees out (apart) as you drive your hips up - this will engage the adducters, small muscles yes but important in the proper lifting of really heavy things!

Here are my cues for you -

Initiating the movement:
Plant your heels
Push your butt to the wall behind you
Lean forward - TIGHT BACK TIGHT BACK

Getting out of the whole:
Slide your butt up the wall behind you!
Hips UP! Knees out! TIGHT BACK TIGHT BACK
Hips forward (to lock out)

Thats it! I mentioned that this would help correct the posterior tilt, let me explain why I think this. Because I see it all the time! Your posterior tilt comes from a strength imbalance between your front and your back, NOT A FLEXIBILITY ISSUE perse. The flexibility is there, your spinal errectors are not strong enough to keep your sacrum supported in place. Your hamstrings aren't even doing anything at this point. Your glutes are tight and the psoas is getting lazy. This is causing your pelvis to roll under (posterior tilt). You need to do something that will get all of the muscles doing what they are designed to do.

The torso muscles basically have one primary job - keeping your spine intact. Or as we CrossFitters like to say midline stability. (the swing arm of your crane) Get them strong doing this properly and it wont be an issue anymore. My posterior tilt vanished almost immediately after spending some time with Rip. I in turn have been teaching these things to others in far worse condition then you and they are doing just fine...

Rene,
just for reference I weigh 150
(I'm not trying to show off I have far to go myself)
BS 280
FS - no idea
Bench 195
Press 135
Clean 200
Snatch 155
DL 322

I was where you are about 2 years ago. And only marginally better about 8 months ago since then my numbers have all jumped drastically! Technique is everything...

Do that and you will be good to go! No ifs ands or buts about it you'll do well!

Chris Forbis
05-05-2007, 07:42 AM
Great stuff in that post Pierre. I'm pretty sure I have similar problems to Rene so I tried following these tips today during my back squats. Seemed to help...

Robert Allison
05-05-2007, 09:00 AM
Nice post, Pierre.

I have had some problems with the back squat as well, and have been re-reading the section in SS that deals with the squat. Your thoughts seem very much in line with that, but helped me see some things a little more clearly, Good stuff.

Robb Wolf
05-05-2007, 09:08 AM
Great post Pierre. Not much to add. Rene, just think tight! and try to minimize "wiggle" during the movement. If you have read any of Pavels stuff emulate that full body tension.

Elliot Royce
05-05-2007, 09:10 AM
I only recently realized what Pierre means by driving up with the hips. Basically I just think of moving the top of my butt straight up, and as he says, it's a very direct sensation of the hamstrings engaging.

Gary John
05-05-2007, 02:41 PM
Pushing the knees out is a big one. Pierre covered it. I started so late in life at this stuff, that the little things make the difference. Lots of RDLs and SLDLs off blocks are a good foundation for the back squat. RDLs will get you pushing the butt back as a more natural motion. I think working the hamstrings carries over to the squat.

Derek Simonds
05-05-2007, 03:23 PM
Great topic and an incredible post by Pierre. Watching the video reminds me that I need to video tape my squat form so I can check it out.

Greg Everett
05-05-2007, 04:36 PM
just to add to pierre's epic post--work on some hip flexor activation drills to help actively pull yourself to the bottom--it will both improve your depth and your lordotic maintenance.

for example, lie on your back with the lumbar arch intact. bend your knees to 90 degrees, raise the thighs to vertical. have a partner hold your feet and attempty to pull your legs (straighten them) while you attempt to pull your knees to your chest. your partner should provide plenty of resistance, but should slowly allow you to get your knees to your chest. make sure not to let go of that lumbar arch in the process. throw in a couple of those immediatey before a set of squats and see what happens.

that drill from pavel t, by the way.

Pierre Auge
05-05-2007, 09:23 PM
I've got one simple rule that really works wonders:

You get good at what you do!

The only way to get really good at Squats is practicing lots of squats with little or no weight. If you can make an unladen squat/deadlift/press feel the same as when you are loaded then you are doing it right. Thats all I can say, squatting will give you the flexibility to squat - deadlifts will give you the flexibility to deadlift and pressing the same.

It goes for everything - a gymnast isn't uber mobile because he/she does tons of flexibility training. It's because their skills require it of them. Learn the skill - learn the flexbility.

My motto could be this:

Skills are not trained they are learned. We train with skills we've learned. We do not train them into being. Training is the application of skill while practice is the development.

Pavel T. has some good neuroactivation drills he uses which I really like. All the zipping techniques, strength focus and breathing skills he teaches are uber cool too!

Gary John
05-06-2007, 08:27 AM
Got to put weight on the bar. I'm still "learning", but we are talking about lifting weights. Box squats help clean up some of the ugliness, there was weight on the bar.

Lifted with a strongman friend recently. He helped a little, with the obvious.
More weight kept fixing things. Too much rocket science and watching x-fit videos. Those crack me up.

Rene Renteria
05-06-2007, 09:29 AM
Thanks for the excellent comments and feedback. Great description and nice numbers, Pierre. Iím really doing this for posterior chain, and itís frustrating to not be getting much hamstring involvement.

When I widen my stance, think about shoving my hips back and letting more forward lean happen, I can feel the hamstrings work. It does feel, however, like my body is going to explode--super-tight--and itís harder to get OK depth. I hope that goes away with time. Iíll probably drop down the weight for a while to see how my back handles the change in leverage with more forward lean. Active pulling down with hip flexors gets the butt back; I can tell I havenít been doing this much.

I guess Iím aiming for something like this? (link to BS mpg video):
http://www.bsu.edu/webapps2/strengthlab/images/backsquat.mpg.mpg

wider stance, initiate with and keep butt back, more lean, more vertical shins, not so much knee travel forward.

Gary, whenever I do RDLs I get wicked DOMS, which keeps me from doing them very much. Do you find that hamstrings adapt to the eccentric loading and not suffer DOMS so much with practice?

I, too, feel like I need weight on the bar but will try to work on air squats that are more like sitting back into a chair instead of that upright, more straight up and down pattern like in my BS video.

Thanks, again!

Gary John
05-06-2007, 09:52 AM
RDL's killing you could be a clue to other things. Everything kills me, and I just keep doing them until it gets better. Took two years to get the OHS to finally happen. I'm old, so the body has all these defense systems set up already.

Just recently, finally, my body gave up and let me drop into a squat during the snatch. I'll never pull of a Dimas, but I bet I throw farther than he does.
Watching a video of a perfect back squat or discus throw won't get you there. I watch throwers who are about 20 feet better than me, and see what they are doing.

Look up Dan's article on RDL's in GetUp. Sticking that chin out there like you are taking a punch is a clue.

Dave Van Skike
05-06-2007, 07:57 PM
RDL's killing you could be a clue to other things. Everything kills me, and I just keep doing them until it gets better. Took two years to get the OHS to finally happen. I'm old, so the body has all these defense systems set up already.

Just recently, finally, my body gave up and let me drop into a squat during the snatch. I'll never pull of a Dimas, but I bet I throw farther than he does.
Watching a video of a perfect back squat or discus throw won't get you there. I watch throwers who are about 20 feet better than me, and see what they are doing.

Look up Dan's article on RDL's in GetUp. Sticking that chin out there like you are taking a punch is a clue.

Rene,

FWIW, I have buggered up knees and until about 6 months ago could not do a decent back squat to save my ass. Spent a lot of time working on "form" with light weights and for me....it was a total waste. I didn't get it until I loaded up the bar with about 80% of my theoretical max and just started plugging away..After three months of serious effort I'm about 80% of the way to my first squat goal. The only thing that has worked for me is frequent, heavy, perfect practice.

Working form with a light weight for much more than a couple, maybe three weeks is overkill..."air" squats are not squats and are not going to provoke your weak links to straighten up and fly right.

do it now...perfect it later.

Also DOMS on RDL is a sign you should be doing them....lots.

Do them heavy, for very low reps, say 3, maybe even doubles. Consider ladders. 1,2,3,1,2,3,1,2,3.....

Pierre Auge
05-06-2007, 09:49 PM
Rene,

FWIW, I have buggered up knees and until about 6 months ago could not do a decent back squat to save my ass. Spent a lot of time working on "form" with light weights and for me....it was a total waste. I didn't get it until I loaded up the bar with about 80% of my theoretical max and just started plugging away..After three months of serious effort I'm about 80% of the way to my first squat goal. The only thing that has worked for me is frequent, heavy, perfect practice.


David,
no offense but that's irresponsible in Rene's case!

do it now...perfect it later. I can't believe you just wrote this!

Air squats are not back squats no, but back squats without weight are still back squats. Rene needs to stick to the weights he is at until he can do it properly. Once that is achieved only THEN move on.

MECHANICS then CONSISTENCY then INTENSITY

doing it the other way around is asking to hand yourself your own ass!

Yes, he needs to practice with weight but as I said where he is at, is not heavy... He is not even close to a max, or even mustering a guess at a max. Theoretical maxes are completely useless. Internet coaches are the worst, and I hate being one of them! Do yourself a favor Rene, get the form down, perfect practice makes perfect. With weight and withought. You need to continue on a linear strength cycle and try to improve your lifts exactly as you are and basically right out of Starting Strength. But do it wisely your ability to replicate the sensation of a laden squat unladen has value don't dismiss it. Dicking around at 80% of maybe perhaps max when you've not a clue what good form is - is well asking for trouble. Beyond that my best advice is get somebody who knows what they are talking about to actually watch you lift in person. Thats the best online advice you'll ever get!

Tip if your knees are stressed during the lift - you're buggering up the entire lift! You can tell this without any weight on your back... All of my clients can demo perfect back squat form with nary a weight on their backs (even the lady with no miniscus) - they understand what it "feels" like moving the body through the range of motion without the assistance of the weight. Performing a movement without the weight forcing you into the proper position is in fact much harder than letting the bar cheat you into position. An Elite weightlifter will always warm-up with a stick or empty bar before moving onto heavier things. Make the light weights look heavy and the heavy weights look light! - better yet make it feel the same. If you can't you aren't really ready! Do you want to be capable of it or do you want to be good at it? Thats the question.

If you don't have a coach expect the learning curve will be longer in time duration. Accept this and your progression will be effective without buggering yourself up!

30 seconds to describe it.
3 minutes to remember it.
30 minutes to understand it.
3 hours to perform it properly.
3 days to try some weight.
3 weeks to going heavy.
3 months to make progress.
3 years to get good at it.
Then you start!

Pace yourself, it matters! Take advantage of being a raw novice get those nice long slow easy linear progressions. Make them last as long as humanly possible, this will pay off in the end!

One last thing the forward lean if the bar is in the proper low bar position sitting on the rear delts below the spine of the scapula will give you a leverage advantage. If you look at a video of yourself in the bottom position your femur should be parallel to the ground the crease of the hip should be even or below the top of the knee (thats as low as you need to get here) and the bar directly over your feet. If you follow the initial directions you'll be good to go.

Allen Yeh
05-07-2007, 05:07 AM
Some great advice on this thread. Thanks!

Steve Shafley
05-07-2007, 05:34 AM
I can't say anything more. Pierre covered everything I could have said.

I do think the "strength as skill" mindset is a very useful one.

Pierre Auge
05-07-2007, 08:11 AM
thats because I'm pompous and long winded!

Dave Van Skike
05-07-2007, 11:03 AM
My experience may be different from others. I'll say what I know to be true for me. Form is relative like heavy is relative. Every time I get under the bar I'm working form, there is nothing else to work…when the form is solidified and good, and things are gettign easy then it's time to move up in weight.

Form is never down, it is never done and lifting an empty bar is not the same as 40 kilos or 100 kilos or 200kilos.

Elliot Royce
05-07-2007, 01:07 PM
As a neophyte who's benefitted greatly from a competent coach, I entirely endorse the idea of getting really competent someone to watch you. It's worth travelling some distance to do so. It's funny: a fully certified trainer with his own gym came down to see what my coach, Gary Valentine, was doing two weekends ago. Gary stepped out of the room, and I said to the trainer," you're going to learn a lot...Gary knows exactly how to coach people without insisting on their learning by the book [Burgener workout for weeks and months till you're perfect]. He figures out exactly what's holding you back and then focuses on that while letting your other imperfections not get in the way." The trainer said, "well everyone does it his own way...I've been training people for 9 years and was responsible for the PT for an aircraft carrier." I didn't argue with him. He then went on to explain that he was unable to do squat cleans because of lack of flexibililty. Knowing how inflexible I am, I figured this was just an excuse.

Yesterday, I see the same guy and ask him whether he had learned anything. The guy broke into a huge smile and said, "absolutely...and now I know I'm not inflexible." He then went on to do some great squat cleans.

My point, besides getting yourself a good coach, is that there is no one way to do things. Clearly, loading a maximum weight on the bar and going for it come hell or high water is going to get you injured. At the same time, I would still be doing Burgener warmups and not squat cleaning if I had waited for perfect form. A good coach will tell you where you can move forward without risk on the weights and where you can't. For instance, because I'm now clean pulling properly, Gary says, go for it, do it until you can't do anymore. But on the snatch pull, he won't let me do it without him.

So I would come down somewhere in between and if you don't have a coach, I would definitely lean towards the more conservative until you are sure your form is right.

Pierre Auge
05-07-2007, 01:09 PM
Elliot,
tis my point. Plainly don't be stupid, progression is key, start small think big! But don't bite off more then you can chew!

Chris Forbis
05-12-2007, 05:05 AM
Self-diagnosis leads me to believe I have some of the same problems that Rene has, and I've been following some advice from your post in this thread, Pierre. My form and (more importantly) my back feels great.

This just further convinces me that I need to find some coaching this summer. Or get a video camera to at least get some online coaching.

Gary John
05-16-2007, 08:21 AM
I was watching Shaf's VBLOG 17 last night. He was doing paused backsquats
with the SS bar. He pushes the knees out, something I know, but forget to do. When I go heavy, I squat different, which I know isn't right. I still have this fear of snapping myself in half.

Push the knees out and pull yourself down. Got to remember.

Pierre Auge
05-16-2007, 08:54 AM
Chris,
if you post some video here are some tips.

Use 3 different angles - oblique, side view, front view
Upload it to youtube in MP4 format it will maintain the best quality when it gets converted

If you do that I might have something of value to say. Check out this video from some of my newer CrossFitters. video (http://ccfvideos.blogspot.com/2007/05/crossfit-15-may-07.html)

it will give you a good idea of what you should be looking for also read the associated notes in the blog post - its a great training tool.

Steve Shafley
05-16-2007, 09:43 AM
Pierre, does your PC and camera automatically capture in MP4 format?

I don't like the windows video format...looks like hell in those outdoor shots.

I forgot if you had a mac.

Pierre Auge
05-16-2007, 10:20 AM
No it captures in Motion JPEG (MJPEG) If you have the full version of quicktime which I suggest getting you can export it in only a few minutes to mp4. It makes the entire process really very easy.

Steve Shafley
05-16-2007, 10:55 AM
I've got a Mini DV camera. I think my issue has to do with connecting and capturing via USB.

Pierre Auge
05-16-2007, 02:35 PM
Do you have Firewire? Because you should be able to stream directly from your cam to whatever editing application you are using in DV. Then you should be able to simply render as an mp4.

Steve Shafley
05-16-2007, 04:11 PM
No. Only USB.

My PC is, ahem, dated.

Pierre Auge
05-16-2007, 05:52 PM
hehehe does your cam do firewire?

Steve Shafley
05-16-2007, 08:06 PM
I'm not real sure. It's like 3-3.5 years old.

It came with a USB hook up.