The Importance of the Air Squat

The Importance Of The Air Squat – from Coach Jared

“There is a compelling tendency among novices developing any skill or art, whether learning to play the violin, write poetry, or compete in gymnastics, to quickly move past the fundamentals and on to more elaborate, more sophisticated movements, skills, or techniques. This compulsion is the novice’s curse. The novice’s curse is manifested as excessive adornment, silly creativity, weak fundamentals and, ultimately, a marked lack of virtuosity and delayed mastery. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to be taught by the very best in any field you’ve likely been surprised at how simple, how fundamental, how basic the instruction was.”- Greg Glassman

Image from Crossfit.com

If any of you have taken any of my classes for the past couple of months you know, without question, at some point in the warm up you will be asked to sit in the bottom of a squat.  Inevitably one or two people every class will groan and say “ugh, why do we do this?” to which I lovingly respond “because you can’t”.  While I say this jokingly with a smile, it is the honest truth.  There is a saying in CrossFit that goes “the deficiency illustrates the need”, and what it means is simply if you can’t do something you should do that thing more.  So, if you can’t get into the bottom of a squat comfortably the best remedy is to continue trying to get into the bottom of a squat until it becomes comfortable.  There it is, at the most basic level that is why we do it.  There are several more reasons we do this though, so in no particular order here they are:

  • The squat is the most basic fundamental movement in the world.  It is in our DNA.  When we talk about functional movements this is always number one.  The squat is not only essential for a long healthy life but also the first (and maybe only) requirement for elite athleticism.  Keep in mind that this is how we were meant to sit and how most of the world still sits, not in chairs but in a squat.
  • Any strength and conditioning program worth anything will not only make you stronger but will also increase flexibility and strengthen your joints and connective tissues.  We see this in the air squat.  A sound air squat will keep the joints and tissues in the hips, knees, ankles, and back strong for as long as you live.
  • Everyone can benefit from it.  The most elite athletes in the gym and the newest on ramper in the gym will both benefit from spending time everyday to perfect their air squat.
  • It safeguards us against damage when we squat with weight.  There’s a reason they don’t build houses on quicksand people.  A shaky foundation leads to a shaky temple and it is our job as coaches to do everything we can to protect you from injury.
  • Did you miss your last PR back squat attempt?  Revisit your air squat!  Laziness learned by going through the motions in your air squats instead of really trying to do each and every one perfectly will quite literally turn different muscle groups on and off.  If you can do 25 air squats unbroken and you’re not tired at all, you’ve probably found a way to do them with very poor form.  The air squat uses almost every muscle in the body and if we are focused on performing them correctly they should be exhausting.  Your glutes may not be firing correctly because every time you do an air squat you just bounce out of the bottom mindlessly, this will mean failures in weighted attempts.
  • The neuroendocrine response from the squat is almost unmatched by any other movement.  So many large muscle groups are involved that the body literally floods with all those good hormones like HGH, dopamine, and serotonin. 
  • Last but not least, it brings us together.  This may seem like a stretch but bear with me here.  CrossFit is based on how the human body is supposed to move, the diet CrossFit recommends (paleo) is based on how we are supposed to eat, it is only fitting then that CrossFit’s defining characteristic (community) is built by coming together in a circle.  There is something primal in it.  This is how we are supposed to connect, not in front of a television or behind a computer screen but huddled in a circle cracking jokes and getting to know each other personally.

So there you have it.  Way more reasons than you ever wanted when you asked the question “why do we do this”.  If you want to get a little deeper into fixing your air squat read this article(http://journal.crossfit.com/2002/12/squat-clinic-by-greg-glassman.tpl).  You can also always ask a coach for mobility exercises to improve your squat.

-Coach Jared

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