There are some things to consider about squats before attempting squats.
Squats are very popular and they are almost like a religion for people, so I figured I would drop some nuggets to relate this exercise to functionality.
The reviews of that video were good, but it appeared to anger the olympic lifting and powerlifting community very much. Enough that I decided to follow up with a blogpost addressing their concerns. So we are clear from the beginning and I cut the bullshit from the gate, I see your version of a squat as a distortion hurting the 3 million year human evolutionary process.
The Squat, along with the deadlift, is possibly the most popular exercise in the fitness industry today. It is also the exercise in the fitness industry done most incorrectly. A question I always ask myself: can a squat be made right in the way people are doing it today? The clear answer is no, because people aren’t asking themselves what the point of a squat even is in the first place. I myself just see this exercise (squat) as a base position to make you ready for scenarios where you may need to transition into dynamic movement. The squat is not my religion, it’s just something we do maybe 5 percent of the time at Functional Patterns, but it does need to be utilized. A good summarizing sentence for everything you will read below: A good squat happens if other, more important, factors are put into place that relate to human movement optimization.
I will now discuss popular pop culture topics in the field of fitness regarding squats. All of these topics are typically ways to justify variations of a squat without considering deeper concepts that make these assertions irrelevant in many regards. The squat is not that important. Sorry, but it’s the scientific truth at this point in relation to functional movement practices showing their results. Until I see transference to real world movement adaptation, I cannot accept these “scientific” studies promoting their theories on this overrated exercise. Don’t get me wrong, the squat is a good thing to do, just not in the way people obsess over it.
Many have claimed that bone morphologies are the culprits hindering people from instituting certain squat mechanics, but after looking at cadavers first hand, I couldn’t buy that logic. When you see a femur move freely from the acetabulum in pretty much all directions on multiple untreated cadavers, you can’t help but feel a bit skeptical on what people are claiming as a limitation nowadays. Especially with all the synovial fluid still present in those areas. Even with people who were into their 80’s, it appeared I could take their hip joint and put it into a deep squat position with absolute ease.
From my own experience getting regular joes and athletes to improve their 3 dimensional movement capability, it is quite clear to me that bone morphologies are limiters to movement, but those limitations pale in comparison to faulty neuromuscular associations. We must consider that bone morphologies are very much dependent on the stimulus you provide on a human. Look at babies as an example. Bones aren’t hard when we are babies. They are soft. Ready to be morphed by our movement. If the movement wired into the baby is inefficient, that baby morphs bones around the inefficient movement. This is basic adaptation. The question comes down to when bones fully settle and stop morphing. Truth is, they will change if the stimulus changes, even at old age. If you still move the same, your bones remain the same. If I took up muay thai and started kicking and elbowing palm trees like the Thai, my bones would change dramatically in those areas. Bones aren’t completely rigid structures and can change. Let’s treat them as such.
Since most people’s movements are influenced by cultural adaptations, it is virtually impossible to find a good bone morphology in my eyes. When I look around, I see gait cycles everywhere and people’s pelvis’s and lumbar spines looking like boiling water in a pot. Meaning that their is no muscular structural support for their disintegrated bodies. If the tissues are the first issues, which normally they are, we can’t conclude that a bone morphology determines “your version” of a squat. Why is that morphology there? That is the question I ponder. Assessing a human with adapted muscle imbalances trying to perform a squat and making determinations from imbalanced humans is scientifically irresponsible.
End of the day, a squat is not an effective assessment tool for human movement potential. Gait and throwing are probably a closer approximation to determining efficiency. Whether you are talking hip morphology or femur length, I have found it to mostly be irrelevant and that just about anyone can get into a functional squat if their tissues are prepared in our system. That said, a squat doesn’t determine human efficiency.
In case you didn’t know yet, your gait cycle determines your efficiency as a human. This is fact in the world of functionality relative to human structure. The base point of a sharks movement efficiency would be determined by how it treads water, because it does that most. The base of human movement efficiency is determined by what humans do most: Walking and Running. So how does all this jargon relate to a squat? Why am I discussing a gait cycle in relation to a squat if they don’t seem at all related? Believe it or not, they are related. Very deeply. Since most people’s gait cycles do not reflect efficiency, their squat mechanics relate to that inefficiency. Since the root of human mechanics orient around contralateral reciprocations while moving on two feet, every movement after that will be influenced. The squat is included here. Therefore, the restrictions present in their gait cycle will be revealed during a squat. You might call a person’s movement limitations “normal to their structure”, I call it a distortion. A distortion adapted from an imbalanced culture wiring in muscle dysfunctions.
Correct the gait deficiency, correct the the imbalance created by culture. This corrects your squat and makes it uniform. If everyone has efficient gait, their squats look pretty much the same.
What is a good squat?
Now, how do I define what a “good” squat is suppose to look like? Simply put, I look at the anatomy of the ankle, knees, and hips as the main points of reference. It is quite clear that an effective gait cycle revolves around these joints staying for the most part in the sagittal plane of motion. If this is true for gait, it does not change for a squat. Why would it? Relative to the testing we have conducted and the people who’s movement we rehabilitate very easily through FP, there is no reason. Ofcourse, does your body need to have the capacity to create an external rotation during a squat, or even an internal rotation? Absolutely, you don’t potentiate the muscles to do that with a vertical force placed on your body. There are smarter ways of doing that… Another blog for another time. I will make video explaining this too as it gets very deep.
After testing it for many years, it becomes more and more clear to me that there is a base level squat all people need to learn. Trying to convince people of this is hard, but the testing continues to clear it up for me. Here’s a basic nugget to drop on you guys without turning this into a 30 page article: If your C-spine/T-spine/ribcage/pelvis does not have a high quality rotation, you will export that rotation to your femurs and tibias, modifying your squat relative to a limitation of rotation happening up above. This is present in just about everyone I know. Don’t rotate upstairs and you end up with compressive/lateral/rotational forces in the lower body that you’ll have to account for through some kind of hypermobility training. The hypermobility training will then ingrain the deficiencies in the upper body even deeper, setting the stage for a disaster anytime you have to actually use your body in an uncontrolled setting. The point I’m making here is that if you don’t modify your gait through an effective trunk rotation/counter pelvic rotation/counter cervical rotation, you won’t attain a “good squat” no matter what you do. Atleast not a squat that will help you move better in a 3D functional reality.
You can’t just jump into a squat and expect to perform it uniformly if you don’t address these CULTURALLY ADAPTED DISTORTIONS first. It’s impossible. Trying to get a shark to swim better by making it move on land does not equate to better swimming… Think about that.
By far the biggest rebuttal I get in regards to squatting. The question I put forth is why you even care about deep squatting that much? Ofcourse when we defecate, biomechanically, it’s nice to have that range of motion. I have no doubts. But a person with an efficient bowel movement would only need to be there for about 10 seconds. In regards to those who always bring up Asian cultures that do deep squatting for hours at a time, how do we determine if that’s really preparing them for scenarios that require 3 dimensional movement demands? These are all bold claims already and they only hold water in limited contexts. I’m not certain why people hold onto these notions of the depth of a squat being so important, if the testing performed on deep squats never related it to the problems we have in real world scenarios. Think about it… It’s kind of ridiculous… Just think of the last time you watched any sport where you saw someone positioned in a deep squat trying to lever another human being.
To those that say there is “science” backing a deeper squat… Just because a scientific study determines you get more glute activity at a certain squat range of motion, does not reveal anything conclusive. It just reveals a particular adaptation by a person with a certain set of deficiencies wired into their body. I can get just about anyone to fatigue their glutes in any context if I place the right forces on the body. This means I could modify the conclusions of an EMG just by simply changing their structure and the body orienting its tension from a different lever. Simple stuf…
Barbell Squats? I don’t believe in them. The barbell is a human invention and we created ways to lift heavy things with this invention. Whether that correlates to human performance and sustainability remains to be determined. Especially when I see fitness industry leaders now complaining about their knees bothering them apparently out of the blue. It’s not out of the blue to me. I’ve been shaking my head for quite some time now watching this stuff. One thing I do know is that if I ask someone to elevate the entirety of their ribs at my course, they are always incompetent in that function without having 200 lbs on their C-spine. I can’t imagine how someone would be able to command such an important function while a barbell is on their back. As much as someone tries to convince me that a Barbell Squat is somehow functional, I can’t buy it. These people aren’t thinking far enough.
The relevance of a concept is measured by how stringent the testing is to verify it. I don’t deem the testing on humans today in relation to movement or stress adaptation as anywhere near enough to account for the factors we encounter in this reality. Many “scientists” have been jumping to conclusions without considering whether our cultures have been morphing dysfunctions into human beings or whether these are just the way people are. In the field of progressive social science at this stage, it is quite clear humans are not adapting to favorable stimuli for our biology. I’m inline with that way of thinking. When I look at why I do my squats the way I do, it’s because I look at the science of anthropology guiding me there. Human social science tells me what we can adapt into and that many times it’s not so good. Couple that with a base level understanding of geometry, and it’s easy to determine what’s likely a better squat, along with many other things.
We can’t look at a squat and just see joints moving. We have to start looking at an organism attempting a certain kind of movement and asking ourselves whether that person is adaptable enough to perform that movement. If the person somehow is, we have to ask what the point of that movement is and whether it relates to optimizing the human’s functions, or detracts from them. As I assess the fitness industry as a whole at this stage in the game, I clearly see that these questions are not being asked.
At the end of the day, these are just opinions from someone training people who don’t feel pain exercising with us. The results are what guide us at Functional Patterns. I have seen the results from traditional training practices and want none of that for me and my people.
More to come…
Train intentionally, not habitually,