CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program and today’s WOD the 5 rep max Back Squat was all about strength. It becomes clearer and clearer that two of the priorities for healthy aging is maintaining muscle mass and strength through a functional range of motion. That’s what we were focused on with this WOD because it is so important to so many of our members. Dunbar Street in general has a slightly older demographic than you will find in other Vancouver CrossFit gyms. Most of us are over 40 and many of us are in our 50’s, 60’s and even 70’s!
For us strength is important. And so is safety. Group classes were given percentage parameters based on their recorded one rep maxes and using these guidelines many of us were able to post personal bests without putting ourselves at risk of injury!
We also used the time to emphasize a few select points of performance:
1) Bar Placement. Whether low bar or high bar we want the barbell positioned firmly below C7 so it is not against our vertebrae but resting on muscle. This helps us keep the load off our neck and prevent the chest from falling forward.
2) Foot Position. We emphasized placing the feet wider and turning the toes out to provide maximum room to lower the hips. With a narrow set up the knees have nowhere to go but forward placing most of the load in the quads and limiting the engagement of the glutes and hamstrings.
3) Pressing the back into the bar. The back squat is a full body lift not just a leg exercise. Often lifters focusing on their legs will press their hips up while the bar stays stationary resulting in a hunched over position which at heavier loads in untenable. By pressing your back into the bar you keep the load moving upward and prevent yourself from collapsing forward. The barbell should never roll over your head!
4) Bringing the hips through. Once again, this cue helps lifters remember to recruit their whole body not just the legs. Don’t just press away the floor but bring the hips through recruiting the glutes your most powerful hip extensors. You can tell who gets good glute engagement because their is a snap to their finish at the top of the back squat.
There are many other great coaching cues for improving back squat performance but we focused on these 4 yesterday.
Lifting heavy is great but form should always be the priority. Lifting should be precisely planned and executed not devolve into a macho bro-fest. If you are interested in the science of strength development and want to learn how to lift correctly and safely come visit us https://www.empowereverybody.com/get-started/