When coaching a member on how to get into the correct position for any movement, it is important for the member to understand that we give guidelines to what the form should look like and how to achieve that position. However, the bottom line is that every individual is built differently so what may work for one member may not work for the other. The coaches at FTF Fitness work with the individuals during their onramp session to help with their specific movement pattern and find what works best for them while starting out.
How to Squat Efficiently with Lower Risk of Injury: to easily remember what to asses, we start from the bottom and work our way up the body as we teach you how to squat.
1) Start with finding the right position for your squat stance. Since everyone has a different ratio of femur to tibia length and overall mobility in their hips, we have you start at the bottom of an air squat and ask for you to “get comfortable” and tell you to sit flat on your feet with your heels glued to the ground. This may be challenging for some who have poor hip mobility or ankle flexibility – this is where we cue the person to take a wider or more narrow stance with there feet depending on what the athlete is experiencing. For someone who can stay flat on their feet and sit down comfortably, there will be no need to adjust. Once you have found your stance that’s best functional for your body type, without moving your feet, stand up. This is the stance you will use when squatting!
2) Next, we focus on activating the glutes. By cueing the member to “press out” with the knees/legs, they are able to create more torque and fire off more of those muscle fibers within the glutes. Try squatting for a few reps practicing on “pressing out.” Essentially, the knees should be parallel with the direction your toes are pointing, and never caving inward.
3) Now with each rep, we want you to go all the way down just low enough to where your hip crease is below your knees. This will allow you to activate more of your hamstrings and it is actually a safer position for your knees to be in when squatting below parallel, contrary to popular belief. For that bottom position, try not to go too low where your legs and glutes are no longer being used and you’re just sitting; try to keep those muscle fibers firing throughout the movement. If a member is unable to squat that low, we recommend going as low as you can without deterring away from good form. At FTF, we want you to be able to move with good form before hitting a specific standard for the movement. For example, if a member is able to squat “below parallel” but his hip mobility causes him to come too far forward and his heels rise and the corrections we suggest do not fix the problem, we would have him perform a squat and stop him just before his heels come up until he has gotten better mobility. In addition, we would provide that member with modifications that would help him achieve a greater range of motion and some stretching techniques to assist in his progress over time.
4) Now what do we do with your upper body? Ideally, when squatting we want to be as upright as we can because the most efficient way to move your center of mass when squatting is straight up and down. But what if your chest tends to lean forward or shoulders and back become rounded? For these situations, we have them practice squatting with their arms straight up in the air. This helps the athlete establish a neutral spine rather than a rounded back and the chest stays more upright. Another drill we have you practice is to stand in front of a wall as close as you can and squat with your arms up without touching the wall; we call this “squat therapy” or “wall squats.” These techniques will teach the athlete to squeeze the lats, which for some, may have never had the body awareness to know what it feels like to contract those muscles while squatting, but this is crucial if the athlete wants to help prevent a back injury in the future, especially when they apply it to squatting with weights. For most, these drills don’t always fix the problem in one day, but by consistently practicing and being patient with the learning process they will see progress in their overall mobility and form.
5) Now that you have learned what to do while going down in a squat, it’s time to stand it up! As you come up from the bottom, continue to press out with your knees/legs, squeezing the glutes, and finish the squat by standing all the way up with your hips open and the knees fully extended.
How to perfect your pull-up:
1) Grip: There are a variety of grips you can have while performing a pull-up: wide, narrow, overhand, underhand/reverse, switch grip … What we typically practice in class is the neutral overhand grip where your hands are approximately shoulder width apart.
2) The first thing you want to be aware of before pulling up, is to make sure your body is in a “hollow” position. This means that your legs are straight, together, and slightly in front of your body. Your core is contracted and your shoulders are pressing down. When all of these are working together your body should resemble the shape of a banana!
3) As you begin to pull up, make sure the core is still contracting and legs remain slightly in front of you as this will prevent your back from arching and your body falling underneath the bar; your upper body should remain behind the bar
4) When getting the chin over the bar, we want to maintain a neutral spine, which includes all the way up to your neck! So keep your eyes straight ahead and try not to overreach the chin to get over the bar. We want to keep the neck in line with the spine at all times because not only will this help prevent injury, but it will also allow you to maintain strength in your pull.
5) Once you have gotten your chin over the bar, you can descend back down to the starting position, making sure to fully extend your elbows at the bottom.
6) It is important to note that at FTF, many of our new members are unable to perform a strict pull-up, so we show them drills that will help strengthen their lats and shoulders, such as a “negative” pull-up, where the athlete will jump up to the top of the bar using a box and then take a 3-5 second descend to fully extended elbows at the bottom. This negative contraction will help build the members muscles that are needed for a pull-up. A good rep scheme to start out with is 5 sets of 3; you don’t want to do too many at once when starting out because it does put a lot of stress on your muscles, so a proper progression is needed when attacking these.