If you frequent your gymnasium every now and again (hopefully more often than not) you may have worked on your legs. I sure hope you do cause these things have to carry us around for a good while yet.
But, so many people do not carry out leg work like deadlifts and squat or their variations due to some prior experience with pain. This does not mean deadlifting and squatting are bad for you, it just means you haven’t found the particular set-up for you.
What do I mean by set-up?
Most times you read about squatting or deadlifting you’ll read about generic foot and knee width or set up. Mostly it’ll say to place feet hip width apart or something like that.
However, it’s just a general statement. We are all special snowflakes and will all have quite different biomechanics.
In the video below I talk about how to find your own ideal knee width, foot width and then foot positioning. Did you know that both of your feet may be angled totally differently to achieve a comfortable squat?
Got any ideas? Agree? Disagree? Want further details or advice?
Whilst western society has evolved somewhat in some areas, it has definitely declined in others.
What’s declined? Specifically I’m referring to strength, agility, mobility and how we interact poorly with our environments compared to history and indeed, other cultures.
Posture in particular has slid downwards… like the chins of many an iPad addicted child!
Humans were never meant to sit for hours a day, were never meant to sit on a chair and where never meant to spend countless hours with a forward hanging head. We were made to move and when we were to rest, sitting in a deep squat is our design.
Now, whilst modern ‘progress’ has given us chairs to sit and rest, it isn’t the same. More clearly, it’s not the same physiologically. The evidence is clear. Knee, ankle, hip and back pain is rife today with an unbalanced number of people.
So what are the benefits of sitting in a Squat?
Improved Ankle mobility and stability
Improved Knee stability
Improved hip mobility and stability
Improved thoracic spine mobility
Improved intestinal health and bowel movements
Improved capacity to undertake everyday activities
Improved ability to get to the floor (and up again) as you age
This challenge is simple, yet may prove testing. The goal each day is to spend time in a deep, rested squat position. The time per day is be accumulated and not necessarily carried out in one set – unless you can. You can spend the time over as many efforts as you like.
By the end of the 28 days the goal is to accumulate a total of 30 minutes.
How to record
You can record your daily efforts either with a simple record sheet or use your smart phones Stopwatch. Every time you sit into a squat, start the timer and stop it when you stand. Just continue the timer per set.
Rules of the Squat Challenge
No REST days during the 28 days.
Per day your gaol is to ACCUMULATE the allocated time. Take as many sets as needed. Work harder some days and easier other days.
Foot width – around shoulder width apart. Find what works best for you to allow for maximal depth and relaxation.
Foot angle – don’t stress about dogmatic musts in terms of foot angle. Again, find what works best for you.
How deep should you squat? As deep as you can. If you do need support to gain some initial depth or even comfort, use a chair, a door frame or whatever is safe to hold onto to allow you to sit deep, deeper and deeperer!
No tension – The squat is a RESTED position. Don’t worry about keeping a flat, upright back or tight abs. Just sit and chill.
No pain. Don’t be silly and turn this into a pain enduring challenge. Do what you can do on any given set.
Can’t keep heals on the floor? Raise the heals a little. Use piece of wood, two small weights discs or even the toes of your shoes.
Footwear – best footwear is no footwear. Socks, sure. Shoes, try not to.
Share. Don’t be a selfish squatter – share with others the many wonders of squatting, this challenge and even get the family joining in when you do your squat sessions.
To start anything from a dietary change, a new job, buying a puppy or a taking on an exercise routine take a couple of things.
First off, a motivator to start that ‘something’. From the motivator spins off the why, the reason to take on that ‘something’.
Secondly, a plan of action steps follows suit.
After those two factors there are lots of wee things, fluff that messes up our heads, or let’s call them excuses or perceived stumbling blocks.
Today though, I’m not going to talk too much planning or motivation, those are topics I’ll leave for someone much smarter than me to talk about.
I am going to talk about starting a strength and exercise plan and the stuff that holds you back and options to get over it.
image from ‘thedailybrick.co.uk’
Unless Wonder Woman is holding you back, then you’ve really not got many reasons outside of health issues, that are genuinely going to stop you from making a start.
A list of excuses might look something like this: (feel free to pick one)
Don’t know what to do
Don’t want to join a gym
Kids take my energy and time
I’m busy at work, busy busy busy
I joined a gym but never go
I don’t like X exercise (replace X with any disliked exercise)
I don’t like getting warm and sweaty – sigh!
I don’t want to hurt myself
I’ve no stuff to use
The list could go on and in fact, I’d love to hear your excuses too. Reply in the comment box below – go on, have a moan.
I think that in a lot of cases, there is this perception that to exercise, you must do all this ‘stuff’ for a block of time that for many reasons, seems unreasonable.
Now, if you’re an athlete (and by athlete I mean someone who’s job is to exercise for sport and not a gym attendee who trains a few times a week) your motivator is to perform at your best to win, support your team and chase your dreams. This is fine. I’ve been there, got lots of T-shirts and made huge sacrifices to chase it.
In the case of career exercising, a lot of those excuses listed above apply to other life stuff outside of exercising but, if your career is an office based occupation, services, health care, looking after family etc, then yes, time and energy is your currency.
There are exercise police that dictate that you must exercise for 1 hour a day 3-4 days a week. If your goal is to exercise reasonably frequently for health and general strength and fitness, maybe some weight loss, then the rules are flexible. You do what you can when you can.
An ideal exercise plan should include a few components to tick the boxes.
For strength we should include the short list now made popular by coach Dan John. This comprises of the 6 pillars that include the Squat, Hip Hinge, Push, Pull, Abdominal Bracing and a loaded Carry.
For general health longevity we can include the simplest of activities, like walking. Sure, if our bodies allow for it, we can get all sexy and do some intervals and high explosive exercises, but to be honest, when exercising at this point is already pushing the likelihood buttons, let’s not risk injuries or further obstacles.
Let’s look at that list of 6 pillars again. Just six exercises. Only 6 exercises. I might say just 6 but you may be thinking (as a beginner looking for excuses not to exercise) “Wow, I’ve to do six things!”
In an ideal world where time wasn’t a major trading currency, completing these six, for multiple sets in a training session wouldn’t be a problem but that’s not us in this.
So, let’s just do ONE.
Yep, there is nothing wrong with doing just one thing per day in an exercise routine. If you were to spend 10 mins a day doing just one thing to improve your life and health, after a week you’ll have acquired 70 mins of dedicated and focussed exercise. Not bad hey?
Now this isn’t just pure fancy, it’s a strategy that I have given to clients over the years that works wonders for starting out, sustaining, time-limited periods or for putting in little blocks of practice time for new skills. You see, exercising is a skill. When you practice a movement, your skill levels increases and the body will adapt.
My current situation is my prime motivator to share this with you today. I am spending a month visiting family over seas for a wedding, catching up, showing my daughter the wonders of my homeland and eating all the foods I grew up with.
I still want to exercise but time, space, weather and equipment is my currency.
What I am planning per day is a rotation of mobility (keeping loose and pain free) and strength training. One day I complete a 10 min routine of mobility moves and the other day I focus on one strength movement for up to 10 minutes.
Today I squat.
ONE thing is my focus today, a squat movement. I’ve not got any kettlebells, bars or anything else, so I shall take a variation of a squat and I’ll play with that over a short period of time. So, to cover one of those excuses, “I don’t like X exercise”, there are a multitude of variations for each of those 6 pillars we should include every week. The little word cloud above shows a selection of leg exercises that I can use and in fact, today the Lego squat, a new favourite of mine is on the menu.
Here’s a demo from the archives: This one includes a combination
Tomorrow we’ve a wedding, so my plan is to complete a mobility routine early in the day, 10 minutes again. The following day I’ll probably do a short routine to include again, one movement, like a rowing (pulling) motion of pushing.
Whilst it could be easy to just go, “ah sure, I’m on holidays, I can rest”, I know I’ll feel better for keeping up a minimal plan so when time becomes more available in the future, I’ll have a good foundation from which to build up.
My Goal for my exercising is to increase health and strength longevity. I’m not looking to set world records, I want to add life to my years without falling apart too young. My goal therefor, is to keep the goal the goal. If all I have to do is move well and often, than 10 mins a day sure ticks a box.
10 minutes a day of focussed exercise equals 60 hours a year of focussed exercise!
Not bad hey?
If you want to make a start to adding life to your years and maybe are not too sure how and where to start, get in touch. Whether you are near or far, I can surely help you.
Recently I have started a new venture towards a big goal, for me anyway.
Up until a few years ago squatting to me meant a barbell pulled onto my back and pushing upwards of 200kg on a session. These days I’m focussing on a different strength squat, that of the double kettlebell front squat. Whilst my aim of a double 40kg front squat is way below my 200kg back squat, it is a totally different strength that is required to hold onto two large bells on the front on ones shoulders.
I have a 16-20 week progressive plan that aims to get me to this goal from my current level. If you would like to peruse the plan, just ask. You may see identify any flaws or cautions that I’ve missed or overlooked!
Anyway, todays simple session commences with the usual Original Strength prep followed by some work with the Turkish Get Up to load me up a little whilst opening up my hips. I do like to use a chalk and cheese approach when I’m squatting to ensure I am well mobilised and activated.
The main Squat routine is a basic 1-5 ladder with double 24s followed at this stage with double 28s for 4 rounds of a 1 and 2 rep ladder.
The aim of the session at this stage is to get used to maintaining form over short rep sets before slowing increasing the reps with ladders to 5 reps. Once I can comfortably 5 rep the 28s I move up the 32s.