How deep is your squat? Can you get off of the toilet without ripping the TP dispenser from the wall?

Happy Tuesday. 

My day started with Rooney munching on a balsam filled Christmas ornament, which, as those things go, was at least a mild improvement on his breath. The ornament didn't fair as well.  

Sigh. I guess it's possible his renewed interest in Christmas ornaments is a retaliation for the annual holiday photoshoot last night, where he was asked to don his new trapper hat.

 
 He got plenty of cookies and cheese for these shenanigans last night. 

He got plenty of cookies and cheese for these shenanigans last night. 

 

How deep is your squat?

The title is not a suggestion to re-write the BeeGees hit from the 70’s, though mad points for the five of you who got the reference. Instead I went with bathroom humor, because, fifth grade humor still makes me laugh.

The squat pattern is a part of virtually every assessment used by coaches and trainers, and with good reason. Squatting is a movement we use multiple times a day; getting out of bed, getting up from a chair, and yes, getting up from the toilet. I know, I know; I didn’t think we were going to talk about it either. Yet here we are. And this is why:

Recently, I listened to a podcast with Dr. Stuart McGill, a renowned specialist in lower back health, and he told a very compelling story about an elderly woman who was in danger of losing her independence. She lived alone, but her family was growing uncomfortable with her ability to stay on her own safely. And much of it came down to squatting. That's not the whole story. But that's a large piece of the story. 

Those movements I listed above? Those basic activities that most of us, myself included, take for granted, come down to having the core strength and balance to get up and down safely, sometimes without having anything to hold onto. And yet when you ask the average person to perform an overhead squat, the movement often looks something like this:

 
 

This isn't the worst squat on the planet, but it's lacking depth. If you're new to doing bodyweight squats and you're only getting down as far as I am in the video above, then you're not getting the most out of it. And unless you have a toilet for tall people and can pee from two feet away, this squat isn't going to truly help you develop the strength to squat to depth.

Coaching cue: You'll also notice that my knees are caving in (known as valgus) when you see me squatting from the front angle. I didn't have to work too hard to make this happen, I have pretty serious valgus on my left side. A coaching cue that can help clean that up is to screw your feet into the ground. Literally think of pushing and turning. 

Proper squat depth (with a caveat)

Without going too far down the rabbit hole of squatting patterns in this post, it's fair to say that you'll want to squat deeper than in the video above. But it's also fair to say that everyone's hip anatomy is vastly different, so some people may not be able to squat that low based on the way the head of their femur sits in their acetabulum (nuh-uh I did not just use anatomy terms. Whaaaaaaat??). Some folks might need to go to a wider stance, narrower stance, etc. But in the interest of keeping this post short (ish), we'll just concede that we need to squat deep enough to get out of bed.

 
 

How do you get from here to there? 

Assuming you're not talking about your life in a metaphoric sense, my first answer is to squat to a box or a bench. Just like any other exercises, there's a lot of ways to spin the monkey sideways, but below are two options. The TRX squat to box is especially helpful for folks with balance issues. The goal is to work your way up to depth, using the TRX less and less for support, until you can do the squat with no TRX. The second video is a dumbbell goblet squat to box. 

 
 

And now that I've had a minute, here is a the DB goblet squat to a box, or in this case a bench.