Sunday, August 17, 2008

Beyond the Obvious Lower Half Squat Blah, Blah, Blah

Butt back.
Knees over ankles.
Back straight.
Weight compressing through the heels.

Check. And if you are one of our athletes, chances are you've heard this mantra once or twice. But let's take a second and look at the upper half of a couple of our athletes with solid squatting lower halves.

Remember, paying attention to set up details and less obvious upper body positioning and mechanics can set you up for better success in a heavy squat by taking potentially distracting elements off the table.

The first athlete is Katherine B. (aka. Diesel Kitty).
The bar is resting right above the spine of her scapulae. This is a good position. Some serious squatters will lower the bar further but DK's set up here is good one.
The bar is even on her shoulders and her grip is even on the bar. (Obvious right? Hold this thought when we check out the next athlete.)
Kitty has opted to grip the bar with a "closed grip". Rippetoe et al. suggest that holding the thumbs on the other side of the bar creates more relative supination of the forearm and subsequently more relative external rotation of the arm that further tightens up the upper back.
We coach the open grip espoused by Rip and the Gang, but here Kitty is managing good tension in her upper back with here relatively narrow hand grip. She probably likes this closed hand position better as it psychologically doesn't feel as if she is as locked into the bar as much should she need to step forward and bail.
Her head is up a little creating minor cervical extension and less of a neutral spine.
Her minor head up position does create opportunity to for her pelvis to rotate posteriorly (rounded low back) and triggers potential anterior knee translation on her ascent (both of which she doesn't do because she's badass).
Her back is straight and she looks solid.

Our second athlete is Catherine Gravelle. (aka. Gravelly-nice) Catherine is one of our stronger female athletes and also happens to be six feet tall.

Take a look at her upper body set up for a second and see what you notice before we talk about her below.

Take a look at her upper body set up for a second and see what you notice before we talk about her below.

Start with bar placement. Note how the bar rests a little higher on her shoulders. This is known as more of a high bar position. Note how the bar position appears to affect her neck. Catherine is strong enough to be able to squat with relatively straight up and down back so she is relatively unaffected. We'd still like to see the bar a little further down on her shoulders.

How about bar even-ness and grip symmetry? A little off right on both accounts right?

We love her open grip, tight upper back and, note also how her elbows are pointed at the ground. She has set up a pretty solid frame work through her upper body, and not surprisingly she handles the load well.

Your goal is to continue to develop your coaches eye for small details. Remember that what goes on upstairs is almost as important as what goes on at the knees and hips.

Coach kstar


Anonymous said...

For the record, I was kicking myself when I left on Saturday...back squat with a closed grip? Rookie mistake on my part-oops!

BTW, thanks for spotting me Kelly- I would have landed on my butt several times if it weren't for you! great to have you back! Hope the hammer gets to come home soon!


Olivia de Santis said...

Damn that's a great picture of Catherine. She has beautiful arms.

theresa said...

Nice post, Kelly. This helps a lot.

Ross Naughton said...

Can't see how Catherine's grip symmetry is off. What gives?? (Just drank a lot of gin, so.)