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The Skill of Squatting

The past seven days made a good week at 212, as there are now 4 young athletes squatting 405 or more. We must always keep perspective and acknowledge a 405 squat is not particularly strong, but for a young athlete it is a nice marker. Former NFL linebacker Bill Romanowski tells the story in his book of when early in his playing career he finally had committed himself to the squat to improve his sluggish 40 time, and eventually squatted 405.  He excitedly called his coach, track coaching legend Remy Korchemny, to share the good news. Korchemny replied, "Congratulations, now you can squat what my female sprinters do". Nevertheless, 405 is a nice accomplishment for a young athlete.

Squatting is essential for improved sprint speed (Hoff and Helgerud, 2002), jumping ability (Schoenfeld 2010), and is considered to be one of the best exercises for increased muscle mass. For an exercise that is potentially so beneficial to athletes, you would think more trainers would take it seriously. The problem is most fail to realize squatting is a skill, the same as hitting a baseball or shooting a free throw. It must be practiced often, and practiced CORRECTLY. One of the young men now squatting 405+ came to 212 last year. It was the typical high school story: his strength and conditioning exposure was the large, one size fits all group training of his sport, and commercial gym trips with his friends. He proudly told us he squatted 315 his last team workout. However, in a scenario that is all too common, we found he could not even execute a correct body weight squat. He was unable to come remotely close to parallel without his lower back rounding into flexion. Our next question was do you have lower back pain; he replied, "yes, how'd you know?" Instead of this problem being corrected, the weight had continued to have been piled on, leaving the young man performing a "squat" which was doing little more for him than hurting his back, and certainly not helping his athletic goals. The good news is with technique corrections, mobility work, and programming individual to him, we were able to correct the problems, and he has gone from body weight his first day, to now 420. 

Most parents are wise enough to entrust the development of sport skill to a specialized coach, i.e. a hitting instructor, a pitching coach, etc. Yet many have no problem letting their child weightlift, a potentially harmful activity, without instruction.  Not only does the young athlete not make as much progress as they could, but they heap abuse on their body for now and in the future. At 212 we know success is not about some pristine facility, or some secret program. It's about hard work, and small groups working with excellent trainers that can teach them individually the SKILL of weightraining.

Semper Fidelis,

Adam Fenske


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