For some reason, in the past 48 hours I’ve had 3 different
articles come across my desk about the squat.
Two were from fairly well respected coaches in their
related fields and the third was a forum topic.
Guess it’s time to talk about it again – but probably from a
different vantage point than we’re all used to.
I know that a lot of us can’t squat WELL.
Sure, we can do some light goblet squats, and maybe some
prying, and then we move on –
On to whatever it is we’re good at.
For many of us, we go on to swings, because again, we’re
really good at them and more importantly to us, we can do
a lot of them.
So, it feels really good to be able to do that “lot”.
And because of that, you may be – not saying you are, cause
I certainly wouldn’t want to cast the first stone – you MAY BE
only doing the things that you’re really good at and ignoring
what you need to work on – or should be working.
Maybe like the squat.
The truth is, you were born to squat, not necessarily swing.
I know, I know, heresy!
Seriously though, the squat is engrained into your nervous
system and is part of the developmental sequence that we
are all supposed to get through to stand and walk upright.
Case in point:
From about 18 months old my son squatted all the time.
It was one of his favorite positions and he hung out there for
what seemed like hours. Seriously, though, it was probably
only 10 minutes max at the time.
(No wonder he has such big legs!)
We are meant to squat and be able to squat.
It’s all the sitting we’ve been doing that has eroded our the
reflexes that enable us to maintain our squat pattern.
(That’s why just training the pattern and pieces of the pattern
like ankle mobility won’t necessarily fully restore and more
importantly, maintain / retain the pattern.)
Sure, some of us have some pretty high mileage on these
frames and may not be able to squat due to surgeries and
what have you.
I’m not buying it.
Because it’s a HARD-WIRED pattern in your brain.
So you should be able to do it, unless of course you are
missing your knees or have other fused body parts.
Then that’s a different story altogether – you’re off the hook.
But for the rest of us – we should really seek to recapture
our squat and squatting ability, not because it’s good for
us from a health perspective, but it’ll also help our performance.
(As an aside: I’ve had 2 busted hips, a dislocated kneecap,
and I have congenitally deformed knees. But none of that
has or ever will stop me. If I can do this, you can too.)
For example – want to make you swings or snatches feel
almost instantly stronger? In other words, get more reps and/or
use heavier weights?
Then see what happens to them when you spend some
time on your squat.
(I’m not going to go into full detail into WHY that is at this
point – you’ll just have to trust me on this – I’ve experimented
with it a lot.)
So here’s how you do it:
1. Make sure you’re reflexive stability / reflexive strength is
Use Original Strength to help you do this.
Spend a lot of time especially on the neck nods, rolling,
2. Work on re-establishing an effortless bodyweight only
Start off with using the goblet squat. Pry yourself into it and
then see if you can translate that newfound mobility into
a bodyweight squat.
Practice that a lot.
And now for the “tough” part:
3. Use squat variations that build you up instead of tear you
What do I mean by that?
Some squat variations just tear you down – literally tear
your body apart.
The Back Squat – or the traditional barbell squat where
the weight is carried across the shoulders and upper back
is one of them.
If you’re going to do this, it’s my ever so humble opinion that
you better be tied together extremely well – firing on all
cylinders – and that you should be able to hang out in a
bodyweight squat comfortably, for as long as you want
with very little effort and minimal, if any fatigue.
So that rules out most of the people I know.
If you’re going to use a barbell, start with the Zercher and then
progress with to the Front Squat.
But since most of us use kettlebells, why not just spend
the lion’s share of your time with a pair of kettlebells?
I think they are far and away the best way to squat for the
non-competitive, non-powerlifting athlete.
– They load your upper body limbs independently from each
other, something a bar cannot do.
This is critical for those of us who have muscular imbalances,
especially from side-to-side, because the arms can now move
independently from one another, alleviating stress on the
– The body literally “absorbs” the KBs – making them part of
the body, and therefore “easier” (HA!) to lift.
They are somewhat reminiscent of Zercher Squats
– Because they almost become part of the body, it’s easier
to keep your balance and sit between your legs – something
that is incredibly hard, and darn near virtually impossible for
[most] to do with a bar on your back.
– And here’s something that virtually no one ever discusses
about the double KB FSQ (except Pavel) - a pair of KBs in
the rack compresses your ribcage, and therefore makes
breathing a challenge, which means –
Your working all your breathing muscles, and actually
training them to be stronger – which is one of the sneakiest
unknown ways to get stronger.
Stronger breath = Stronger body.
As far as actual cues and how to set up the double KB
FSQ – I recommend you use the sequence found in “Kettlebell
It’ll not only give you a stronger squat, but also a stronger
press, push press, and jerk.
(Ok, and also swing, clean, and snatch. Yes, it’s THAT powerful.
And really, it’s the power of having your squat pattern fully
intact that really makes these significant changes in your
And then, once you really own that double KB Front Squat –
by “own” I mean be comfortable doing sets of 10 with a pause
with 60-70% of your bodyweight – then move on over to the
barbell if you wish and apply what you learned from the KBs.
The bottom line is really this:
If you want a stronger body, work on your squat. It’s a natural
movement that you’re designed to be able to do effortlessly
and at will.
If you can’t, you have a “strength hole” that will show up
somewhere in your future, and not in a good way either.