“There is simply no other exercise, and certainly no machine, that produces the level of central nervous system activity, improved balance and coordination, skeletal loading and bone density enhancement, muscular stimulation and growth, connective tissue stress and strength, psychological demand and toughness, and overall systemic conditioning than the correctly performed full squat” – Mark Rippetoe
Do you want to increase your squat? No one wants to be the guy who has a huge upper body and can bench 3+ wheels but can’t duplicate or even come close to his/her body weight on the squat. If this sounds like you DON’T PANIC! Maybe you’re just missing that one key cue to take your squat numbers through the roof! Over the next few weeks I will be writing an article a week on different cues that I’ve found to be helpful not only in my own training but for others as well.
Let’s start with tip #1: The Body follows the eyes “Head Placement”
Have you ever heard this saying before? Maybe you’ve heard it on the playing field growing up playing sports. Maybe you heard it when you were a young kid trying to learn how to run for the first time. Well this is just as important to think about when lifting weights, particularly when you’re squatting. Often times I see the squatter focusing on a plethora of cues, involving knee positioning, breathing, the walkout but the placement of the head/eyes are overlooked. Where you’re looking is just as important if not even more so than the others. Often times this is teller of whether or not the lifter will successfully complete the lift, and more so do so safely.
How can your head/eye placement make or break your squat you ask?
Envision this. You are under the bar about to squat something heavy, (the weight doesn’t matter, but for the sake of this let’s pretend it does) you unrack the bar, walk it out and begin to start your descent. On your way down your head/eyes are looking straight down at the floor in front of you (not a neutral spine alignment)(see picture above). Now you’ve hit your desired depth, you begin to stand up with the weight only to have that weight start to fold you in half as your center of gravity/barbell carries you forward, your chest caves down right where you’re looking at and ultimately you fail the lift or complete the lift but in an unsafe manner. Now there could be numerous reasons as to why the lift wasn’t completed, but a good spot to start especially if you know the lifter is strong enough is with his/her head/eye placement. You see if you are set up with the bar and you are looking down your body will more often than not naturally follow the eyes resulting in you tracking forward with that weight on your back.
Now you wait 5-10 minutes cue your lifter to change the positioning of their head/eyes, (I teach to envision yourself on a stage of a sold out audience, you want to be looking out just over each one of their heads. This will keep you in a proper neutral spine alignment and best position to execute the lift) and do everything else the same way. They hit the lift safely and now learned what could have been causing them issues in their squats.
- Keep head and eyes in a neutral position from the time you unrack the bar till the time you rack the bar.
- Make sure your “logo” on your chest can be seen. Avoid caving that chest downward. If this occurs re check your head/eye positioning
- Squat BIG weight SAFELY!
Zach Kotecki, NSCA-CPT, TSAC-F, USAW-1