Full Back Squats, heels elevated.

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This is a lovely example of the full back squat.  The full back squat is an essential part of a regular gym routine.  Working at it as hard as stability will allow kick starts the hormones in the body to increase the strength of the whole body, not just the legs.  Essential points of the back squat.

  • Must be done free and not in a Smith machine.  With good form, the bar travels straight up and down pretty much vertically.  Working in a Smith machine encourages leaning on the vertical rails instead of stabilising the weight properly.
  • Place the bar across the meaty part of the shoulders, being careful to avoid it pressing into the back of the neck.  If it is very uncomfortable, then the bar can be padded.  Charles Poliquin would growl that ‘you need to grow some upper traps!’
  • Bring your hands in as close to your neck as possible and drive your elbows forwards and under your wrists.  This helps to lock the upper back and shoulder girdle in position.
  • Unrack the weight and walk backwards a few steps to the heel raise.  It is wise to use a spotter if working with heavy weights or intending to push close to exhaustion.  Or work in a power/safety cage.
  • Take your feet to about shoulder width apart and slightly turn your toes out.
  • Hold the breath, draw the low abs inwards.
  • Bend ze knees and go all the way down, but not quite bottoming out if the weight is heavy.  This keeps vital tension in the ligaments around the knees.
  • Stand up again, exhaling strongly once the weight is moving upwards nicely.
  • Try to avoid tipping forwards as you drive up, or keep the forward tip as minimal as possible.  This is why the above video clip is impressive.
  • Keep your head in neutral.  Avoid the temptation to lift the chin.  However, when driving up, you can try looking up with the eyes only, which will help the body to extend.
  • The knees should be stable and not wobbling about.  If they are wobbling about, it is a sign of imbalance in the leg muscles, so try lightening the weight.  If they still look like a pair of old women having a chin wag, seek help.  Z health is the most powerful at really sorting out the issues; remedial massage helps.  Working through other knee strengthening exercises will help; getting very good at the cable split squat is a must before doing serious full squats.
  • Working with the heels lifted needs less ankle flexibility than with the feet flat on the floor. And so the back rounds out less at the bottom of the movement.
  • Working with the heels lifted places more emphasis on the quads, and particularly the VMO, the major knee stabilising muscle.  This is a tear shaped muscle on the inside and just above above the knee.
  • Knees need to be worked through a full range of movement.  Too much partial work destabilises them since the VMO is discouraged from working properly, especially if the squat is started with the hips moving backwards and then the movement is stopped only half way down – or higher.
  • A final word on the stated tempo or speed of movement.  Clearly a Poliquin influenced trainer here.  3-0-x-0 means lower for 3 seconds then explode up with no pause at the bottom; the exercise is repeated without pausing at the top either.  So written out it is 3 seconds down, 0 pause at the bottom, xplode up, 0 pause at the top. You will notice that the young man does not shoot up like a rocket – however, I can assure you he is telling his muscles to explode upwards and this encourages maximal recruitment of the strongest fibres.

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