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Exercises Movements, technique & proper execution

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Old 02-28-2004, 10:34 AM   #1
Brian Hand
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I was reading another thread on Squats and I'd like to discuss and actually dispute some Crossfit tenets regrding back squatting. Of course I voice these ideas with an open mind and all due respect.

I have been mostly lurking for a couple weeks and I have gotten some good information. I'm also very impressed with some of the performances posted on Crossfit.

Still, I don't think rock bottom squats are a good idea, and I don't think Tabata squats make a good prep for back squats.

Don't get me wrong, I squat well past parallel.
However, reading the msg boards, I think a lot of people are squatting to the absoulte limit of their flexibility, and that is risky. Olympic lifters have to squat to that depth; they have to recover from limit squat snatches and squat cleans, so they have to train to that depth. Their knees do pay a price.

I limit my depth to a point where my calves start to press against my hamstrings. I can go lower in good form, but when the calves really press into the hamstring, the joint is opened up and destabilized. It is not a "power position," and not one that real functional activities and sports put you in. Olympic lifters are the only people I can think of that have to rocket out of that position.

Another almost universally accepted point for safe squatting is control in the bottom position. You can't possibly do fast Tabata squats (more than 15 per interval) without doing drop and drive squats. This precludes control in the bottom position; you have to bounce out of the bottom, and the clip on this site illustrates this. Most people will get away with it because there is no load; but it is not going to build good habits for back squats.

Back squats are a great exercise for beginners. They are a foundation strength exercise and should be learned as soon as possible. Most people will have to start slow and take some time to get it right, but the best way to learn is to start (preferably with some coaching.)

And again I hope this doesn't insult anyone, but as a group, the Crossfit WOD posters are really impressive in many respects -- but not with squats. Maybe it is a weak point in the program that has room for improvement.

I look forward to your responses and I know you won't be bashful ;)
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Old 02-28-2004, 11:41 AM   #2
James Taft
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Brian. The debate between Rock Bottom Squats and Squats to Parallel is never ending. I am sure you have already found this to be true just by doing research on the internet. I am sure there are many people on this board that are infinitely smarter on this subject than me, but I am going to give it a shot.

I follow the idea of "Rock Bottom" Squats. I think that "Rock Bottom" especially for beginners is a good visualization que. Meaning when you hear the words "Rock Bottom" you are going to try to get as low as possible with good form. I think several things come into play in stopping this from happening especially with beginners.

1. Flexibility of the hips, legs, and ankles
2. Pre-existing injuries
3. Poor form
4. Anatomic Make-up (i.e. larger versus smaller legs)

I used to be very involved with O-lifting. We would do workouts 5-6 times a week and I can't remember a day that we didn't do back squats and/or front squats. Over time I got pretty proficient and could get myself into the "Rock Bottom" position with good form. Now after years of being in the military and falling from grace (adopting a bodybuilding style approach) I came to realize that I was never as powerful and athletic as when I was doing O-Lifts and Plyo's. I have since adopted the CrossFit routine and love it.

I agree with you partially. I think it is foolish to squat to the limits of your flexibility, but only with minimal experience and heavy weights. I don't think anybody on this site recommends to a beginner or intermediate athlete to go out and do "Rock Bottom" back squats with maximal or sub-maximal weights. I think the reason why O-Lifters and other power athletes are so good at there job is that they practice the "Rock Bottom" position for years if not decades. Lots of physiological and neurological changes occur over that period.

As far as the Tabata Squats are concerned, I can not say much. I am fairly new to this exercise and I have not practiced it enough to get any sort of response from my body. I think form is especially important in this case due to the velocity of your body moving from the start to finish. Overall, I think with practice reasonable progression the Tabata Squat could be an excellent exercise. I know my legs were smoked the day after a session of Tabata Squats.

As far as opening the joint at the bottom position. I agree and disagree. Just from personal experience I noticed that if I released the tension in my legs at the rock bottom position that I did feel some pain and discomfort in the knee joint. I think this may be what you are trying to describe. I quickly learned that you must keep your legs and your core extremely tight (especially with heavy weights) throughout the movement. Once I applied this concept to my squats "Rock Bottom" did not bother me at all. In fact my legs feel great.

Final thought! If god wanted us to squat to 90 degrees he would have made the range of motion of our legs 90 degrees. I think it goes against 1000's of years of evolution to squat only to parallel. It's funny how all the body building press stresses full range of motion, yet when it comes to squats they scream if you are going below parallel.

I guess what is most important is to take your time and let your body acclimate to the demands your are putting on it. In this case "Rock Bottom."

I hope this helps in some way.

Jim
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Old 02-28-2004, 11:53 AM   #3
Brian Hand
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Just to clarify, I go way past parallel - just not to "rock bottom." Look at the pictures of great olympic lifters squatting at Milo - that's rock bottom, and it's a little lower than I go. I don't want to reduce this to an argument over semantics, but "rock bottom" really sounds like as deep as you can go.
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Old 02-28-2004, 12:27 PM   #4
Larry Lindenman
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I have to say the Tabata squats on the mpeg are not rock bottom, he sits back onto a 20 lb Dynamax ball! The Tabata squats are not prep work for learning to squat big, but a metabolic assault on your system. As with everything smooth is speed (good technique).
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Old 02-28-2004, 12:49 PM   #5
Alexander Karatis
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Final thought! If god wanted us to squat to 90 degrees he would have made the range of motion of our legs 90 degrees. I think it goes against 1000's of years of evolution to squat only to parallel. It's funny how all the body building press stresses full range of motion, yet when it comes to squats they scream if you are going below parallel.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Brian, it is a staple of the Crossfit philosophy to use a large, compound, functional movement to increase athleticism in this particular movement, but also to ALL other large, compound, functional movements.

It has been observed that training which utilizes this philosophy has tremendous carryover abilites to every single functional movement our bodies are capable of.

Case in point, rock bottom squats.

You mention them not being worth the risk, and that because as you said: "Olympic lifters are the only people I can think of that have to rocket out of that position".

If we are both after elite athleticism then surely you will agree that we'd both like to rocket out of any "resting" position.

Moreover, having mentioned carryover, I'm sure you'd also enjoy the insane jumping power of Olympic lifters. Jumping=Functional :happy:

You might have noticed chimps and monkeys "sitting" at the rock bottom position before propelling themselves at a tree. While I'm not suggesting you should act like one, I'd sure like to be able to keep up with them!

James'excellent post covered the evolution part 100% for me.
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Old 02-28-2004, 05:01 PM   #6
Paul "The Viking"
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Alexander,

Not only chimps and monkeys sit at rock bottom. People do too! Just not in the developed world where we have chairs. The possible exceptions are toddlers, who seem to love sitting in a squat position.

Brian,

I think that, if you accept that doing O-lifts improves athleticism and should be part of your workout routine, then you have to bring "rock bottom squats" along for the ride -- if only to help build up your knee joint and protect it against injury during the O-lifts. Of course, you don't have to do O-lifts - or you can go in between and do the "power" versions where you don't go into a full squat. But I have a feeling that they're likely to stay in the crossfit workouts!

On a side note, there was a gymnastics tournament on this afternoon that I watched with fascination. One of the things I thought about was about all the wrist wraps they wear. At first, I though, "wow, this intense of gymnastics must be hell on your wrists." Then, thinking about it more, I thought that what's probably true is that gymnasts have very strong and stable wrists which would only get hurt doing something so intense as gymnastics. Then I thought about this thread. Maybe O-lifters can hurt their knees doing rock bottom squats, or during a lift. But, they probably have very strong and stable knees for everything outside of the extremes of O-lifting!

-Paul
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Old 02-29-2004, 06:01 AM   #7
Justin Jacobsen
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Brian,

On your first argument, there is really no disagreement with Crossfit. It actually is just a matter of semantics. Coach has stated on numerous occasions "hams to calves" which is the same term that you use. I think that the consensus here has always been the "athletic squat" which is below parallel in accordance with your level of flexibility. I think "rock bottom" is just a term that is thrown around as interchangeable with these ideas.
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Old 02-29-2004, 09:13 AM   #8
James Taft
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Brian. After re-reading this post. I think that you are doing the right thing with your squats. Hams to calves is where I squat to because of the size of my legs. I guess I could go lower with time and as my flexibility improves, but I think you are getting the correct athletic benefit out of the exercise and that how you are squatting is in line with the CrossFit position on squatting. I guess this whole discussion really is a matter of semantics. Like I said, I think the term "Rock Bottom" is really a audio-visual que to get you to go as low as your experience and flexibility will allow. I didn't mean to sound preachy in my earlier post. Good luck with your training.

Jim
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Old 02-29-2004, 05:40 PM   #9
Brian Hand
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Thank you everyone for your replies. James_Taft, I don't think you sounded preachy. I have not spent enough time browsing the site to properly interpret "rock bottom," I appreciate the clarification!
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