Zach Kotecki – @ZachKoteckiFitness
4 Squat Tips
- Body Follows Eyes
- Be Efficient In Walkout
- Lateral Movement NOT Vertical
Body Follows Your Eyes
When you’re squatting and have, let’s say 500 pounds of weight loaded onto your back, you want to make sure you are lifting and being as efficient and safe as possible. Often times I see the squatter focusing on a plethora of cues, involving knee positioning, breathing, the walkout but the placement of the eyes are overlooked. Where you’re looking is just as important if not even more so than the others. Have you ever heard the phrase, “The body follows the eyes”? This is something I tell all my athletes from the beginning that can be applied on the playing field and also the weight room, here’s how. In your squat if you’re looking down towards your feet, your body is not in a very athletic or strong stance, you’re actually very vulnerable there. In this case with the squat your eyes are looking down resulting in your body to follow the same suit and lean forward, bringing all the weight on your back over the top of your neck/head and risking injury and making the squat even harder to complete. You want your eyes to be looking straight forward to keep you in neutral spine alignment. Eyes stay focused forward, back stays upright and strong, core braced tight throughout the lift. I like to envision I’m squatting on a stage and have a full sold out audience watching me. Not for ego purposes, rather so to make sure that every time I take a squat my body and eyes know exactly what to do. I pretend to be looking straight out over the tops of their heads every single time I squat to cue myself to be the most efficient I can and stay safe.
Be Efficient In The Walkout
Know what stance you’re squatting in and apply it from the walkout.
What do I mean by this?
If you’re going to be doing a low bar squat you are more than likely also going to be squatting in a wide(r) stance. So then when I walk up to the bar, get myself tight and locked in with the bar on my back I am going to unrack the barbell in the same (Or very close to) stance in which I will be squatting. (High Bar Squat most likely will be a closer stance, follows same steps just close stance). This will cut down energy used and save more energy for the actual lift. There is no need to take 20 steps just to walk out the weight. I guarantee you that when you’re performing near a 1RM squat you are not going to want to take any extra steps than need be. So be efficient and save your energy for the actual squat!
“Breathe in your lifts.” NO! STOP! Don’t listen to the school systems and textbooks telling you to breathe out on the concentric portion of the lift and inhale on the eccentric. If you breathe in your squat as you descend (Eccentric) you will lose all the tightness in your body that your muscles are giving you to stabilize and stay safe. You will break at your core, your upper back will quickly round over each time you let air out and all that weight thats on your back will crush you into the ground 9 times out of 10. Heck I’d go as far to say when working with a 1RM that you wouldn’t even complete the lift safely.
So then am I just supposed to hold my breath? Won’t I pass out?
Yes to holding your breath and no to passing out. Let me explain! You are to get as much air into your stomach (NOT MOUTH) as you possibly can creating a brace for your spine/core. Holding that air in your stomach is keeping you safe from injury. It will keep your back from rounding and having that bar roll over the top of you. There is a time in which you breathe still and this comes whenever the weight is at the top. When the time comes that you do need a breath (Usually a few reps in) you will get that breath quickly, as your body is supporting the weight. Then gather that air right back into your stomach and get back to squatting!
Lateral Movement NOT Vertical
The squat shouldn’t be thought of as just going down and coming right back up. If that’s the way you think of the movement then this little tip might be very beneficial to you! When you’re standing with the bar loaded on your back after your walkout you shouldn’t break with the knees going forward first. Rather so, you should think to push out laterally with your knees. Imagine as if you are trying to spread the floor apart with your feet. When you push your knees out or as we say “externally rotate” you are doing a few things: 1) You’re recruiting more of the glute and hip muscles that are about to be used to perform the lift. More muscle recruitment the better. It also disperses the weight into more muscles throughout the body essentially making the weight appear “lighter” or easer to move “being more efficient”. 2) By externally rotating you are assuring that your knees won’t cave in which often times happens when you come out of the hole in the squat and is a result of weak hips. Keeping your knees pushing out will ensure your knees are staying safe from the start to the end of the squat. Remember that you can only get stronger by staying safe. It is no fun to be sidelined with injuries.
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