Could This Be The Reason You’re Not Squatting ?

 

The Squat is one of the most fundamental, known and completed movements amongst gym goers wanting to put on muscle, get stronger and get leaner. The problem is the majority of those going to a gym aren’t squatting as well as they could be and therefore not getting the benefits they are hoping to in the first place.

 

Nail the squat movement and program it smartly and you can be sure you are going to get stronger, put on muscle through the legs and glutes and provide a stimulis to increase mobility.

 

As a coach concerned with programming for the individual all my clients have always performed a movement assessment in their initial consult. It is through this time and training at times at commercial gyms that I have seen the following very common movement faults when squatting:

 

  • Short of natural range of movement.
  • Valgus Knee movement (knees coming in).
  • Ankle Eversion (rolling in).
  • Lack of bracing.

 

I am going to focus on the first point in this article because it is the most common one.   First of all – why should we squat full depth, aka ass to grass?

 

The answer is, we actually shouldn’t all squat ass to grass as we have different biomechanical things happening that give us all different ranges of movement. We should however as a general rule all be working towards having the range to full squat (past 90 degrees at the knee). When we squat full range we activate more muscle fibres including more of our posterior where many people are quite weak. When we activate more fibres we can get stronger and change our body composition much more efficiently than smaller ranges of movement.

 

The problem is many people are lacking the mobility (strength in end ranges) or flexibility to squat to their genetic biomechanical range. There are different causes of this but there is a large majority of people we see that are lacking range in one area.

 

The area that is lacking is ankle and the movement is dorsiflexion. That simply means the knees don’t have the ability to travel very far forward while the heel stays down.   This can be due to tight calves, achilles problems or occasionally something on the structure side of things such as bone spurs. An easy way to check your range is to do the knee to wall test.   You should be aiming for 15cm or thereabouts to not have any limitations at the ankle when you squat. See the test below.

 

Keep heel down and measure furthest distance you can touch knee to wall.

 

If you want to double check that the ankle is in fact your source of not being able to squat well to depth here is a checklist you can follow:

 

  • Body Weight Squat with hands on the back of your head.
  • Squat with arms outstretched holding a light weight (5-10kg).
  • Body Weight Squat with heels elevated 2-4 cm.
  • Squat with heels elevated 2-4cm and now Hold a weight out in front of you.

 

If your squat depth got better as you worked through the above steps its very likely the problem is lack of dorsi flexion at the ankle. When we don’t have range at the ankle we either feel like we simply can’t get depth or that we’ll fall over backwards with the hands on the back of your head. This is because there is no counter balance going forwards that our knees normally provide and thus change our centre of balance.

 

By elevating the heel and holding a weight in front of us we are artificially changing our centre of balance by letting our knees travel forward more and by superficially changing the centre of mass by manipulation of holding a weight.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO NOW?

 

So you have done the tests and you know ankle range is limiting your squat depth. How we tackle the issue depends on your needs. If the squat looks good with heels elevated slightly and there are no other compensations occurring a common approach we may take is seen below:

 

  • The client holds long ankle stretches (seen below) before squatting and daily. The more time spent the better. Ankle range can be slow to improve.
  • The client does some soft tissue work daily and before they train. A trigger ball or a hard roller can work well for this.
  • The client squats with heels elevated until their range increases. Pauses in the bottom position can be a good variety to help improve the trouble area.

 

Ankle Stretch: Push knee as far forward with heel down and load with body weight.

Another variety of squat that doesn’t require as much dorsiflexion but still has many benefits is the box squat. This is a more hip dominant squat that focuses on pushing the hips back instead of simultaneously breaking at the hip and knee to initiate the squat. It is important to note the difference in muscle activation as you change your squat pattern.

 

When we elevate heels and knees are able to travel further forward you will activate the quadriceps more. When you are lacking range at the ankle and have a large angle at the hip and back you will activate the posterior versus the quads a lot more.

 

Just remember working towards a full squat can be massive for body composition improvements and for strength in end ranges. I hope the above tools get you in the game and moving in the right direction.

 

Please share and tag someone you know that might be saved from doing quarter squats!

 

 

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Results with a Strong Decision

This week I wanted to change the tune and simply tell you about one of our members. The purpose of this is to simply show you what is possible. When we hear more positive stories we are more likely to take action.

Steve completed his initial consult the week prior to my gym The Wild Movement opening. I remember it being a little hard to tie him down for the initial consult and wondering how serious he was.

His initial consult after doing the screening that was necessary we got some bench mark numbers of his strength.

Initial Results

• Rounded Shoulders
• Right hip sitting higher than left
• Lumbar Flexion poor
• Hamstring Length 30 degrees short of ideal
• Trapbar Deadlift 1 RM 80kg
• Chin Up x 5 reps
• Bench Press 1 RM 60kg
• Back Squat 1 RM 67.5kg
• 79kg Body weight with a body fat of 23.9% (InBody Scan tested)

Steve hadn’t trained in 3-6 months due to a number of different personal factors. When we spoke initially he said he was ready to start looking after himself and feel good again.

Steve committed to an initial 4 week block of training that involved training 4 x per week. This is a big commitment for someone that hasn’t been doing any training but it was a strong decision. If we fast-forward 18 weeks we will see some amazing progress.

Current Results

• Posture neutral including hips not hiked. This is strength training correctly and also working with the amazing Athletica Physical Health.
• Fingers to floor Standing Pike (previously 20cm short)
• Trapbar Deadlift 1 RM 127.5kg
• Chin Up x 13 reps and 1 rep max of 29kg added to bodyweight
• Bench Press 1 RM 81kg
• Back Squat 85kg last testing Estimated 90kg Currently
• 79kg Body weight with a body fat of 15 %. That’s 4.5kg of muscle on And 5kg of fat down.
• Juggling 60 seconds (Couldn’t juggle previously)
• Kicking up to handstands in the open. Progress from never being upside down.

Steve’s commitment I believe has increased each time he has set goals and ticked them off. It is very powerful to see yourself improving. It builds mental resilience. Steve’s openness to really work on himself in all areas not just physical has really meant he has grown so much more than his physical results show. He borrows books from our library and is always looking to learn more about himself and what we are doing.

I am really excited to see where Steve can take his training and his life through the continued growth he has been experiencing.

What started out as a 4 week commitment of 16 days training has turned into 4 days every single week (sometimes 5) for the past 18 weeks. There has never been a session missed. This doesn’t mean he has not struggled on some days and weeks with feeling flat, having niggles or fighting colds but we have always worked around it to ensure there is long term progress.

As I always say consistency is king. Do the basics well over a long period of time and you will go far.

In Steve’s own words – ‘Train hard, train often, eat good food and sleep well!”

PS If you would like to transform your health, physical capacities and life then reach out to us with an email to [email protected] we would love to hear from you.

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Learnings from Mass and Strength Holiday

Last week a client and myself completed Strength and Mass Holiday. This is a program designed by famous German Strength Coach Wolfgang Unsoeld. The goal of the program is for the trainee to put on weight and strength quickly. The program is 10 sessions across five days. It is not for the faint hearted. If you need to put on some kilos of muscle and increase strength though then this could be your answer however.

I have completed intensive blocks of lifting before similar to this but this is the most comprehensively I have followed the nutrition protocol (as did my client) with a given program. The nutrition protocol is more food than most people are used to eating.

We started Monday morning as the plan suggested and finished Friday afternoon. The sessions were maximum of 60 minutes but with a lot of volume, especially considering all sets had long eccentrics to increase time under tension of the muscle.

Most days we both felt good, with the only exception Wednesday. During the second session I felt completely flogged and wasn’t too sure how I would bounce back for the next morning let alone get through the session on hand.

LEARNING

• Doing something that questions your mental and physical strength sometimes is a good thing. When you do it with another person it’s an even better experience.
• When you have a decent training age squats don’t tax you nearly as much as deadlifts. We did 58 sets pretty heavy sets across the week and there was very little muscle soreness from them.
• Eating enough for people that want to put on muscle aggressively should be just as hard as training. Eating 7 eggs or a bowl of rissoles at 430am was tough – but part of the process.
• When you are strength training effectively and progressively there is such a massive adaptation that the body wants to go through. If you don’t feed it there will be no positive effect.
• Being on a clock and aiming to keep our sessions under the hour meant more focused training and less time fluffing.

OUR RESULTS

We kept our data very simple. We both weighed in Monday Morning pre training and weighed in again 7 days later at the same time. My client’s weight started at 80.1kg and finished at 81.9kg. My weight started at 95.8kg and finished at 97.7kg. We both gained close to 2kg. Unfortunately we did not complete any skinfolds or scans to get a more accurate picture of fat versus lean mass. I will definitely do this next time. We are both very happy with the result on the scales and I know I definitely feel just as lean if not leaner than before.

From here I plan to go back to moderate volume and intensity training over the next month or so with my lifting and capitalise on some good strength gains. I will be opening up a few spots in the future to complete the program at The Wild Movement for motivated individuals. Keep an eye out for this.

Thanks for reading and I would love to hear any questions you have or you can check out the Ebook from Wolfgang Here.

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Why Movement By Itself is Not the Solution

Why Movement by it self is not the solution

The question of whether diet or exercise is more important comes up so often. The answer is short. Neither.

We are a living organism which means there are so many damn factors that determine our health and our performance.

I am a big believer that improving one’s overall health will completely improve one’s physical performance and one’s body composition. It has always seemed odd to me when so many factors are left out in a athletic field when trying to increase performance. Slowly this is catching on. What we preach at The Wild Movement is what I really believe can truly take anyone to optimised health and living.

If we only concentrate on training the positive effects of training are not long lasting. We need to create the right environment in our body for the adaptation we are hoping for to occur. The right environment needs the other three pillars of health.

Sleep, Stress and Food all need to be taken care of. Richard Gabriel (The Primal Way) recently did a workshop for our members on Stress and showed us that sleep should be the first and foremost concern. Without good sleep, stress hormones are higher, food choices are worst, food is digested not as well, and we either don’t train, train with less intensity or training simply causes more negative stress.

For too long our culture has looked at band aid solutions to health. It is time we start looking at the bigger underlying picture. Every person deserves good health which also means they are strong, able, fit and lean. If you do not tick these boxes maybe it’s time to start looking at your overall health through the four pillars of health (sleep, stress, food and physical movement) instead of just concentrating on one. They all work together, the body is dynamic.

At The Wild Movement we give you the tools through work shops by guest presenters and online education to ensure you can be slowly moving towards a greater picture of health. If you would like to start where we recommend, with sleep then please register your details on our home page and you can ensure your health is off to a good start.

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What is The Wild Movement

What is the WILD MOVEMENT ?

The Wild Movement is a holistic training space owned by myself – Luke Sharp and my partner Lauren Brown.

The name comes from our conversations across the years of how training has gone so far away from how we were designed to live and move that it is almost ironic. The fact that we have to go to a gym to try and get some of the benefits of movement that we would have got in everyday life only a hundred years ago is sad to me. We live in boxes, drive in a box to a box gym that has superficial lighting, machines and mirrors and then go to work and sit in our box and communicate via email on the box. We then go home via our box and watch the box while we eat out of a box. To us that just doesn’t sound like a prosperous life. Lauren and I have tried to live authentically how we want (not society) for the past five years since we met. The name The Wild Movement is about getting back to our origins of how we were desgined to live and move.

In our gym you won’t find any mirrors. You will find a feeling of nature, fun and peace. We have tried to make the space as organic and natural as possible. Training in this space reflects that.

I am a big believer in strength. A stronger person will die older. They will run faster, jump higher, have more protection against injuries and have more muscle mass to fat mass. Training at The Wild Movement reflects this. We use the barbell for the big lifts that carry over into so many massive benefits. We use our bodies through full ranges of movement that society has forgotten about. We develop physical skills to break through limiting beliefs. We push hard but also recover hard. We are about yin and yang. Where you take from one side you must give back to the other.

Our space is open for anyone that wants to create long lasting positive change in their life. This is not for people that want a quick fix but people that are open to being their best version of themselves physically and mentally. Health is wealth. I Look forward to seeing you soon.

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