I recently wrote a blog on the importance of the air squat. Its reach permeates all of CrossFit. Bottom line? If you can’t squat, you probably aren’t the best at CrossFit. Not to worry. With a little hard work anyone can improve their air squat form/technique. But what exactly is it we’re looking for in an air squat? Most of you are well aware of the top 4 items because we go over them at the earliest of stages at CrossFit Kinnick, On-ramp and Fast Track. If you’ve forgotten already (sigh) here’s a quick refresher course.
- Heels – keep your weight back in your heels
- Knees – keep your knees as wide as possible
- Chest up – chest up as much as possible in order to maintain proper lumbar curve
- Full depth – hip crease below the knees at the bottom
If you were uncertain before I listed them, many of you might be yelling “Oh! Duh, I know that stuff!” at the computer screen right about now. Sometimes these things become second nature to us so much so that we forget how to verbalize the individual steps. It’s always a good idea to commit these steps, and the steps to each movement, to memory. The more you understand what it is you’re actually doing, the better the athlete you’ll be.
Sadly, there is a step to the air squat that is far too often forgotten. This is crazy unfortunate because this specific step has a huge impact on other, more complex, movements like kettlebell swings, snatches, and cleans. Its absence from coaching is all too prevalent in CrossFit gyms worldwide. So what is it? ((Drum roll))
- The butt squeeze – AKA full extension
True power is derived from violent and full hip extension. Because the term “extension” can be confusing to some, the phrase “butt squeeze” has been introduced as a simpler alternative. Everyone knows how to squeeze their butts. If you squeeze at the top of the squat, there is no way you don’t achieve full hip extension. This can be a tricky thing to do when performing lots of air squats at high speeds (“Cindy” comes to mind), but the benefits of repeated hip extension far outweigh the disappointment of slightly slower WOD times.
There seems to me to be a direct correlation between performing a butt squeeze during an air squat and using the hips properly during a clean, snatch, or kb swing. That is to say, if you don’t squeeze and open the hips on an air squat, you’ll likely do the same when hip extension truly matters…during heavy, powerful movements. Remember, the hips are the strongest tools we have. So…
- You must use them if you are looking to pick up heavy loads to shoulder height and above.
- If you aren’t opening your hips all the way, you aren’t using them.
- You can only open them all the way if you are squeezing your butt.
This is easier said than done of course. Some people tend to be so quad dominant that they are, at first, incapable of squeezing/activating the butt. If you sit in a chair a ton for work I’m talking directly to you. This is where incorporating the butt squeeze into something as simple as the air squat comes in handy though. Learn to wake your butt up so that you can take full advantage of its power. How do you know if you are at full extension at the top of an air squat, you say? It’s simple. Stand as tall as you possibly can while at the top and squeeze like you’ve never squeezed before.
It’s a fairly subtle difference, but it means the world to glute activation and, ultimately, hip extension. We can’t expect to be masters of olympic weightlifting if we can’t perform the simplest of hip extension movements. I know the air squat isn’t always the sexiest movement out there, but please, at the very least, for the sake of your weightlifting, wake those glutes up and unleash your hips’ full potential. Open them at every opportunity possible. You might even get that butt you always dreamt of. So squeeze it!