Saturday, August 24, 2013

Squats Part 3: Air Squats and Goblet Squats

This is the Third Part of a series on Squats, the earlier posts can be found here: 

Squats Part I
Squats Part 2 General Mechanics

Any feedback or questions would be greatly appreciated.

If you take nothing else from the previous posts, remember 
Squats are a basic primal human movements.  Squats won't hurt your knees, but how you do them can.

Air Squat

This is simply an unweighted squat.  All of the  principles discussed in general mechanics apply with the back remaining relatively vertical.  Arms are often swung forward during the downward movement to help provide a counter balance.

The air squat develops the hamstrings, thighs, adductors, abductors, hips and glutes, while engaging your core. It builds size and strength in the legs and posterior chain, helps develop the core and the muscles that support the back.

Air Squats are no joke and can be done for reps for cardio vascular, metabolic and stamina work.  The classic and very demanding Crossfit(TM) workout "Murph" (named after Micheal Murphy who was a United States Navy SEAL lieutenant, killed in the War in Afghanistan and the first person to be awarded the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor) includes 300 air squats.

Getting Started

A Beautiful Air Squat
Stance: Heels under hips, slightly beyond shoulder width. Toes slightly out (see previous discussion of toes out v. toes straight and external rotation).

  • Keep your chest high, back vertical to slightly angled forward, (NOT ROUNDED FORWARD) adjusting at the hips for balance.  Vertical is relative to the back squat which will have more angle. 
  • Neck and head in line with your spine
  • Move your hips back
  • Squat down until hip crease is below knee crease, ass close to Ass to Grass as possible.
  • Return to standing with your hips fully extended.


Progressing to a full air squat 
Box Squat
Chair Squat

Progressing beyond the air squat

Hands on your head
Hands held vertically over your head - this seemingly simple change adds a great deal of core stabilization to the work and tend to be much more difficult than standard air squats.
Pipe or dowel on shoulders or overhead to begin the progression to barbell work.

Even though this is a simple movement, when done for reps, multiple reps, say 10-20 over multiple sets it can become quite metabolically/ aerobically grueling.  Don't underestimate them and air squats are a great place to start, and a great way to perfect your technique.

Goblet Squat

Often this is the next progression from the air squat.  Typically done with a kettlebell, however kettlebells are by no means required and a proper goblet squat can be achieved with a standard dumbbell.  This is typically the first weighted squat progression I teach trainees who are new to squatting and are perfect when the 35 lb trainer bar or the 45 lb Oly bar are too heavy.

Goblet Squat with dumbell.  Knees
could be farther out here.
This is simply a Front Squat variation, with the load travelling in a straight line slot over the back 1/3 of the shoelaces. The kettlebell is held as close to the mid line of the body and the back tends toward vertical.

Hold the dumbbell vertically or if using a kettlebell grasp it by the horns and if holding a goblet to your chest, hence the name Goblet squat.

Start with the dumbbell or kettlebell held right up against you chest.

Feet about shoulder width apart or a little more if you have the mobility.

Feet should be slightly turned out 15-30 degrees.
See: The controversy with respect to foot position.  While having read many articles I still recommend feet turned out.  Until adequate depth and external rotation(to be covered in detail in a future post) can be developed with a feet straight approach use the feet out approach.  The key is KNEES OUT(Externally rotated) don not allow you knees to cave inwardly.

Kettlebell Goblet Squat
Good knees out position.
Keep the dumbbell or kettle in an imaginary line over the back 2/3 of your shoelaces.

As you start down lower your torso through your hips.  Don't bend forward.

Lower completely or as far as your mobility will allow. Think "Ass to Grass".

At the bottom of the squat let you elbows fall inside your knees and use them to push your knees out.  This is one special aspect of the squat, you can work on opening your hips by pushing your knees out with you elbows.  Next to back straight, knees out is the most important thing you can be thinking.

Don't feel like you have to hang our in the bottom position. Come down, hit bottom and come right back up.  You body has a stretch reflex (to be covered in detail in a future post) use it. It is also highly trainable and particularly important for jumping.

Goblet Squats are perfect for progressing to higher reps for cardio and lactate threshold training as well as basic strength.

Part 4 of this series will begin examining the back Squat and Contrast it to the other types of squats.

Upcoming Part 4 Back Squats

Recommended Resources:
Starting Strength 3rd ed.: Chapter 1 & 2, Mark Rippetoe
Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performanc
Anything by Dan John, he basically invented the Goblet Squat

Additional Related Reading
8 Reasons to Do This Misunderstood Exercise

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