wshaffer (wshaffer) wrote,

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I've learned squat!

I started working with a new personal trainer, Nikki, a couple of weeks ago. Before we started training, Nikki sent me an email asking me what my training goals were. In the past, I think I've been a bit unfocused in describing my goals to trainers. "Well, I want to get stronger. And prevent injury. And get better at running. And get more flexible. And get better at rock climbing. And, you know, just be generally healthy." And all of that's true, but the fact is, I only get one hour a week with my trainer, and not all of those goals are things I really need their help with. I'm currently getting enough physical activity to cover the "generally healthy" part of the equation; I'm not currently injured and I seem (knock on wood) to be doing a good enough job of paying attention to my body to keep little tweaks and imbalances from turning into serious injuries; and although I'm nobody's idea of a great runner, I'm progressing enough to keep me happy.

So, I wrote back to Nikki and said: My goal is strength. I like lifting heavy things. I've been working on increasing my deadlift, and I've also been working towards being able to do a full pushup.

Nikki's email response began with a "hearts-in-the-eyes" emoji. She loves teaching the big barbell lifts. This was the beginning of a beautiful client-trainer relationship.

The real breakthrough, however, has been with my lifting nemesis, the barbell back squat. To quickly recap, my squat depth is not great. I've mostly attributed this to wonky knees, because my knees hurt when I try to go to low. My previous trainer, Tim, regressed me back to goblet squats and TRX squats, so I haven't done a barbell back squat in ages.

In my first session with Nikki, we did the back squat. The first piece of good news is that all that work I did with Tim definitely resulted in some improvement. Nikki pronounced my squat depth, "Not too bad." (It still wouldn't pass in a powerlifting meet.)

The second thing that Nikki picked up on right away is that I've got some hip mobility issues in the squat. She had me do some light sumo deadlifts in between squat sets, and my depth instantly improved.

I've also been watching a lot of video of the IWF World Weightlifting championships. Now, if you've ever watched weightlifting, you know that it involves a lot of deep squats. I was watching one lifter with her butt practically down to the floor and her legs out to the sides, and I thought, "Huh, what if when I squat I just tried to get my femurs out of my way and sink down between them?"

And I tried it, and...I'm still can't quite get to parallel, but I'm a heck of a lot closer. Close enough that for the first time in a long time, I think I might be able to get to parallel with enough strength and flexibility work.

I feel like I finally understand all those squat cues that trainers use like, "Knees out," and "Rip apart the floor with your feet," and so on. The thing is, they're not just about what you do with your knees or your feet, they're about what you do with your hips, too.

So, yeah, apparently I've been trying to squat wrong for years. And my knees may not be as much of a problem as I thought. (My knees are still definitely a bit of a problem, because whenever I happen to be on a high dose of NSAIDs, my squat depth gets better. But it looks like I might have been trying to compensate with my knees for lack of movement in the hips.)

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Tags: picking up heavy objects, squatz, training

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