Deep squatting is an important developmental movement pattern that builds the foundation for upright movement. When it comes to authentic and functional movement, squatting with with a rack under heavy load is questionable, as it removes many of the natural demands that once helped to shape our movement.
Squatting is a fundamental human movement pattern. When performed skillfully, it’s also a great whole body exercise. By definition, squatting is the lowering of your body towards the ground. As a small child this is how we learned to squat, not from the ground up. We stood up through stepping movements, then learned to get back down to the ground via squatting. And we are talking deep squatting. We learned to balance a huge, unstable weight (our head) and optimally align our joints and limbs to squat under balance. Ass to the grass. Returning to standing was easy, because we developed (through repetition) balance and motor control. It’s also worth noting that the function of squatting was to get lower to the ground in order to sit, or lift an object. Once an object was lifted, we would carry it from A to B. Nowhere in our early other development did we have a need to carry a heavy load on our shoulders.
The squat rack is like a set of training wheels on a bike – it takes away the need for your body to react and learn naturally. It removes the need to bend down and lift the weight. Combined with a sedentary lifestyle, the required range of motion to squat to the floor (in order to lift the weight) is reduced. Enter the squat rack – which now allows us to bypass the range of motion restriction, and load up our shoulders with unnecessarily heavy loads. In addition, fixed squat racks, like the Smith machine further remove the balance mechanisms in squatting, disconnecting us further from what’s natural. While squat racks may allow us to lift heavier, it comes at a cost – poor movement, less reflexive (natural) stabilisation and higher injury risk.
The only people who are required to lift heavy enough loads to warrant a squat rack are elite strength and power athletes, and we won’t find many of them in EVO.
At EVO, we suggest mastering the deep squat (body weight only). Then add load – but only if it increases your function in daily life. If so, then choose a front squat position, as this is more functional to our natural carrying position. The progression to the front squat is simple – use developmental principles and learn to deadlift, then learn to skilfully clean the barbell. This brings the bar to the front squat position efficiently. Strategise your workouts on developing good movement patterns around body weight squatting, and skilful lifting/carrying, and you will not only develop superior movement skill, but also great looking legs.
Do you already know our Exercise of the week: Kinesis Row?