Squat Workshop 101: The How and Why of the Squat

The How and What of the Squat

The squat is a basic, primal movement pattern that humans and our ancestors have been performing for millions of years through activities such as hunting, gathering, harvesting, cooking and eating.

Squats are the number one compound movement you can do to improve strength, athletic performance, reduce instances of injury, burn fat, increase flexibility and improve core strength. Phew. So let me get this straight, this one exercise does everything I’m looking for at the gym?! Yes!  

Squats are hard. Doing hard things, even when you don’t feel like it, trains the muscle between your ears: your mind. This builds discipline and mental fortitude which is crucial to get results in the gym. It also build discipline that transfers in other areas of your life. It helps you sticking to good nutrition habits, doing the work, and so on.

Lifting weights, in general, lowers cholesterol, improves glucose metabolism, improves insulin response and stimulates muscle-building hormones like human growth hormone (HGH). Squats are the best weight training exercise you can do because they work more muscles, over a longer range of motion and with more weight than any other exercise. It’s therefore the best exercise you can do in the gym. It’s the only one you should do if you only have time for one.

squat images

Left: Backsquat positioning Right: Front Squat positioning

Benefits of Squatting

  • Enhanced Core Strength
  • Typical squats are loaded from top to bottom, your core has to work double-time to prevent injury
  • Front Squats target midsection core strength
  • Increase Full Range of Motion and Flexibility
  • Deep squatting moves your body through a full range of motion which boosts flexibility
  • Deep squatting increases your range of motion in the entire hip complex which results in reduced back pain. Translation: squatting helps you get down on the floor and pick up the laundry basket, over and over, without straining your back.
  • Squatting reduces your chance of injury
  • By building the muscles surrounding your knees and hips, you’re less likely to sustain an injury in daily activity like climbing stairs, picking up the laundry basket, or running after a child or grandchild at the park.
  • Muscle strength and development
  • Squatting builds your glutes, hamstrings, and quad muscles – which are primary stabilizing muscles for movement.
  • Why is squatting better than using a leg curl or press machine?
  • Squatting uses every muscle, in unison, in your lower body. This helps build real world strength by using a functional movement to develop functional strength.
  • Still need more convincing?: A leg press or extension locks you into a fixed position, which takes away your body’s natural urge to stabilize itself. This can lead to imbalances between the right and left side of your body.
  • Squats are a full body workout
    • Workout programs that regularly include squats will result in stronger, leaner, toned legs including the glutes, hamstrings and quads.
  • Squats help you Burn Fat
  • You lose fat when your body burns more energy than you eat. Your muscles burn energy to lift weight. Squats burn more energy than any other exercise because they work more muscles and with heavier weights. Heavy Squats also increase your metabolism for hours post workout (EPOC). When you combine this with proper nutrition, Squats will help you burn fat.

But what about my knees, you ask..?

If you’re concerned about your knees, you’d be well-advised to refrain from other leg exercises, such as leg extensions and hack squats. Properly done squats impart far less knee strain than they do.

Leg extensions produce an intense shearing effect on the knees that breaks down knee cartilage. That’s particularly true if you flex your lower legs past the 90 degree angle at the start of the exercise or if you use too heavy a poundage. Leg extensions are an isolation exercise, also known as an “open-chain kinetic” exercise. Because of their biomechanics, they place more stress directly on the knee joints. In contrast, when you do squats, the weight is distributed among several strong muscle groups, including the thighs, hips and glutes, and not being imposed directly on the vulnerable knee joints. This is with the assumption that you do the exercise in good form. That includes not rounding your back; descending in a slow, controlled fashion and not just dropping down; and not bouncing at the bottom. Some trainers advise looking either straight ahead or up, since looking down tends to encourage your body to bend forward, which is tough on the lower back.

As for depth, that is perhaps the greatest controversy about the squat. Early squatting dissidents advised squatting only halfway down, to the point where the thighs are parallel to the floor. The idea was that parallel squats preserved the knees. On the other hand, only full squats fully activate the powerful gluteus maximus, or buttocks muscle, which greatly aids squatting power.

Types of Squats:

  • Front Squat, Back Squat
  • Advanced: Overhead squat
  • Modified Squatting: Goblet Squats, Goblet Squats to a box/bench, Bulgarian split squat, etc.

The front squat primarily develops the muscles of the low body including the; quadriceps, gastrocnemius, and the gluteus maximus. The front squat is by nature a more quadriceps dominant exercise than the back squat and requires more mid-line stabilization, and muscle activity in the hips, and spinal erectors.

USA Olympic Weightlifting Team, Kendrick Farris, front squat

USA Olympic Weightlifting Team, Kendrick Farris, front squat

Front Squat Basic Skill Review

  • Take time to find your starting position.
  • Find your natural foot stance with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart and your toes slightly out so your toes can follow the path of your knees.
  • Find your grip on the barbell slightly wider than shoulder width.
  • Receive the bar from the rack on the front of the shoulders and step back onto the platform.
  • Keep chest up and raise the elbows high.
  • Stabilize the midline taking in a deep breath.
  • Keep the feet flat on the ground pushing down through the heels.
  • Squat down until the thighs are below parallel.
  • Keep the chest up, back tight, and the elbows high when coming out the squat aggressively drive the elbows up to come out of the bottom pocket.

How To BackSquat

Setup: Bar is level with the shoulder, or just below. Face the bar. Grab it tight with a medium grip shoulder width apart. Put it on the shelf created on your upper back by dipping under the bar.

Raise your chest – open up to the wall in front of you.

Place your feet under your knees – under your shoulders—to lift, straighten your legs.

Step back one stride with your right foot and then your left. Keep feet shoulder width apart, toes facing forward with the potential for you to rotate them outwards no more than 30 degrees.

Take a big breath into your diaphragm. Brace your belly.

Squat: hinge at the hip – imagine spreading the floor in the area between your knees while moving your hips back – like sitting in a chair.

Keep your lower back neutral.

Squat Up. Then Squat back up. 

Keep your knees out and chest up. Lock your hips and knees at the top. Feel the contraction in your glutes. Then break at the hips, push your butt back to the wall behind you, spread the floor (push the area between your knees apart), and squat.

Breathe. Repeat.



Form Tips and Pointers:

How to Squat: Squat in the Power Rack for maximum safety. Set the horizontal safety pins so they can catch the bar if you fail to Squat it.

Happy Squatting!

29 Life Lessons

nice-quotes-thoughts-past-is-the-best-teacher-life-quotes-best-quotesToday marks my 29th birthday. The better part of my 20’s have been witness to my spiritual growth, but this past year marks monumental growth, and this post sums up 29 of my favorite and rewarding day-to-day habits if you want to cultivate a happier, healthier, you.

1. Be Kind With Yourself

Cut out the negative self talk and doubt. When you find it sneaking up on you, recognize it, find the source, apologize for the thoughts, and surrender it.

2. Have A Morning Ritual

Make tea while meditating on your intentions for the day. Do a 20 minute meditation first thing in the morning. Read an inspirational passage from a spiritual text. Spend 10 minutes in child’s pose and 10 minutes deep breathing. Whatever grounds you in peace, start your day this way, and set a clear intention for the day. And do it habitually

3. Journal

If you don’t journal, start. Reflect on your day: Were you kind and sincere in your interactions? Where there things that triggered you throughout the day that you want to do better with? How was your day? Free writing about things that are following you around and sticking in your head is extremely healthy and therapeutic. Some of the most amazing memories of my life are documented in my journals and reflecting on them years later has shown me my spiritual and personal growth, and encourages me to keep doing what I’m doing.

4. Dance

Dancing is one of the most pure ways to reconnect with our child-hood self and tap into infinite sources of love, laughter, and happiness. Do it often. Too embarrassed to dance in public? Don’t worry, dancing has the same effect when shared with noone but yourself in the privacy of your own home or fitness studio

5. Practice Yoga

It has transformed my spiritual journey and the relationship I have with myself and my ability to love and connect with others. It has changed my life, and I believe can to transform others lives as well.

6. Have An Evening Ritual

Just how we start the day with intention and ritual, so should we end. In the evening you can do the similar ritual you do in the morning; yoga poses, meditation, journal reflection on your day. In addition, in the evening before bed time, visualize and set an intention for yourself for the next day. Work hard to visualize how that day looks to you: abundant with productivity or full of peace and love, etc. Doing this at night increases the likelihood your next day will flourish into what you’ve visualized.

7. Anything Negative You Think Or Say About Another Person Is A Reflection Of Thoughts Towards Yourself

Recognize them. Work on them. Learn and release once you’ve learned.

8. Do Something You love Everyday

Better yet, make it into a career and turn your passions into your life purpose.

9. Be A Good Friend

Most of us are lucky to have one or two people in our lives who will be there through the nitty gritty, as well as the birthdays and fun. Nourish those friendships, we are oh-so-lucky to have people like this in our lives.

10. Manage Your Finances

This year I set up a monthly spending, savings, and expenses budget and managed it diligently. It resulted in increased savings, more awareness of where my  money was going, conscious spending, and I lost the fear and anxiety I have always held on to about money and scarcity. It doesn’t have to be fancy; I keep three running tabs in an envelope in my desk, Food, Gas, Personal- I know my budget for each per month and stick with it. My monthly expenses are factored into another set up. DO what works for you, but what matters is taking responsibility for your finances.

11. Say I Love You More

To those you love, and most importantly, to yourself. And mean it.

12. Do Cardio At Least 3 Times A Week

I love working out; yoga, weightlifting, basketball, rock climbing, hiking anything. But with my variety of activities, I sometimes forget to make time for cardio. I’ve promised to schedule it into my fitness routine at least 3 times a week for 20 minutes. Cardio is the best activity for cardiovascular health, combating Cardiovascular disease, obesity, and much more. Not to mention the heightened production of endorphins will make you happier.

13. Travel

On whatever budget you have, find a way to explore new places locally and not so local.

14. Get OutSide

For me, going for a long way in the morning or evening helps me to connect with myself on a deeper level. They say nature helps us connect with our original selves, so get outside more.

15. Drink Lemon Water Every Morning

Before you drink tea or coffee or whatever, have a glass of fresh lemon water. It kick starts digestive enzymes.

16. Eat Healthier

Make a goal to cut processed sugars and foods, go big and drop gluten and dairy, tpp. I’ve spent most of the year cleaning up my diet and surprise surprise, the cleaner it gets, the better I feel.

17. Watch Less TV

18. Hand Write Letters To Friends/Loved Ones

In the days of emails, texts, and disconnected communication, sometimes the best way to communicate is through your own written words. The person who receives your letters will feel your presence and connection!

19. Volunteer

Anywhere that interests you. Once a week or once a month. Giving back is priceless.

20. Stop And Smell The Flowers

Stop throughout your busy day to practice presence and appreciate the life that is happening in this very second. And if flowers are near by, give em a smell.

21. Listen To Audio Books

No time to read? That’s no longer an excuse. Pick up an app on your phone or tablet from your local public library and check out audio books. For Free.

22.  Connect With Your Child Self

I’ve always remained a kid at heart: Reconnect with yours. No matter how much we’ve grown-up or the level of our professional careers, reconnect with the youthful, playful child within. Researchers have reported on the benefits of “playfulness” in romantic relationships for ages. Do it with your loved ones, or on your own. Just play.

23. Set Specific Goals And Hold Yourself Accountable

What to start your own business? Lay out the steps to get your there; set specific-deadline driven goals and hold yourself accountable to meeting those deadlines. This can help you carry out fitness habits, developing a blog, etc.

24. Get Outside Your Comfort Zone

Do something that scares/exhilarates you.  And do it often. If you aren’t making mistakes/taking risks, you aren’t living. (Just try not to make ones that leave you layin on your face, though those are sure to happen at some point in your life, trust me)

25. Declutter Your Space

Clearing your space has a huge impact on your mental health. Feeling stressed or overwhelmed? Look around you; are your dishes overflowing? Stacks of old mail, books and magazines laying about?  Get rid of it. Clear out your space and increase the energy flow throughout your living space. If you haven’t used it in a year, throw it away or donate it.

26. Keep A Gratitude Journal

Researchers have discovered that people living a whole-hearted life experience joy by cultivating gratitude. I  keep a gratitude journal on my nightstand and write down 3 things a day which I’m grateful for.

27. Laugh

Laughter really is the best medicine. Fill your life with it, do it often.

28. Love

Fall in love with yourself. Fall in love again with your partner. Life is too short to not be loving yourself and someone else, so give it all you got!

29. Life Is Short. Live It Up

The things you’ve always said you wanted to do, the places you’ve said you’ve always wanted to travel, do it. Life is too short to not do what you want.

Ditch Breakfast: The Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting


A recent article on Mind. Body. Green. discussed the often debated topic “Breakfast: The Most Important Meal Of The Day??” Whoever came up with this was lying, and that is something hard for the public to stomach. In this article, the advantages of fasting, specifically Intermittent Fasting are briefly examined. As an athlete who uses Intermittent Fasting, this article provided me with a little more information then I already had, simply reassuring the often mixed debate on the eating window I should use post workout when I’ve trained fasted. Training fasted takes quiet some time getting used to, and I always have to train first thing in the morning, or very early after waking up, allowing me to break my fast post workout around 11 (as a woman, I leave my fasting window open for 10 hours to help stabilize hormone regulation). If I can’t get to the gym first thing in the morning, I’ll break my fast before I lift with something very light, such as a banana (for the carbs and sugar) with a greek yogurt (14 grams of protein and around 15 grams of carbs). Training fasted also encourages adequate coffee consumption; caffeine directly stimulates the muscles. But coffee is a fine line, of course, as you need to keep your muscles hydrated. Caffeine simply helps some of the hunger cravings which may arise, nothing any other stimulate doesn’t do, just practice moderation.

Other benefits I’ve experienced from Intermittent Fasting include higher and sustained natural energy levels, increased mental clarity and creativity, increased fat burning, and a greater exploration of my body-mind-food connection, among many other things. So if you’ve thought about IF, maybe now is the time to try it out! There are some more resources on IF on this blog to help you get started!

The debate on bcaa’s while training fasted is still out. Research shows you can get enough bcaa’s from protein. Read about it here. Where and what are some acceptable forms of bcaa rich protein? Here’s one source.

Strength And Development Phase Week 2 Training Highlights

Umurbek Bazarbayev - Snatch - 135kg

Umurbek Bazarbayev – Snatch – 135kg (Photo credit: Peter J Dean)

Back on the platform after nearly  a month of winter sickness which turned into a necessary break from olympic training. Training breaks can have their psychological perks as well as restorative physical benefits, but it also comes with a decrease in physical strength and fitness. I maintained a regular bodybuilding/HIIT training program for the month I took off, but I’ve still noticed a huge decrease in strength. All the better reason to hit the ground training hard now.

Fuel for your training: Try this Naked Summer Bean Salad full of fiber, protein, and carbs or this egg frittata recipe with prosciutto shells.

Week 2 Programming Strength and Power Development Phase


  • Power snatch + 2 Snatch- 70% x 2 sets, 75% x 3 sets
  • Jerk off blocks- 75% x 3 x 5
  • Clean pull- 93% x 5 x 5
  • Back squat- 65% x 6, 70% x 6, 75% x 6, 80% x 5 x 2
  • Core


  • Power clean + 2 clean -70% x 2 sets, 75% x 3 sets
  • Snatch hi-pull- 73% x 5 x 3, 78 % x 5 x 2
  • Snatch balance- 65% x 3 x 2, 70 % x 3, 75% x 3 x 2
  • Push press- 78% x 5 x 5
  • Core


  • Muscle snatch- 65% x 5, 70% x 4, 75% x 3 x 2
  • 3-position clean (floor, knee, mid-thigh)- 70% x 2 sets, 75% x 3 sets
  • Snatch DL- 100% x 7 x 2, 100% x 5 x 3
  • Front Squat- 65% x 6, 70% x 5, 75% x 5, 80% x 3 x 2


  • Rest- Optional light cardio day
  • Stretching/Soft Tissue


  • 3 position snatch (floor, knee, and mid-thigh)- 70% x 3 x 2, 75% x 3 x 3
  • Snatch pull- 93% x 5 x 5
  • Snatch push press- 75% x 5 x 5
  • Back squat- 65% x 5, 70% x 5, 75% x 4, 80% x 3 x 2


  • Snatch- 70% x 3, 75% x 2, 80% x 1, 85% x 1, 80% x 1, 75% x 1
  • Clean and Jerk-70% x 3, 75% x 2, 80% x 1, 85% x 1, 80% x 1, 75% x 1
  • Clean Shrug- 110% x 6 x 5
  • RDL- 68% (of clean) x 8 x 5

Stone and Barbell Training Facility. Family, it is so good to be back.

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PR in life translates to PR’s in the gym

3 weeks of personal ups and downs translated to three weeks of hitting my body against an unforgiving bar.

Clouds break and the sun peaks through lifting the burdens which had been placed on my body.

With the lightness in my soul came quickness in my body.

Had I known that 45kgs was 99 pounds I’d have gone for 1 more kilo. Always more. always more. When what is now and what we’ve done is always more than enough.


Stone and Barbell bro-training day


Ladies ladies, (and gentlemen)

Deadlift RDL complexes should be worked into your leg training if you’re looking to tighten, tone, define everything from the waist down. These make a great addition for any leg program, targeting gluts and hammy’s.

4 sets of 5 @ 3 times a week.

These are great full body lifts while focusing on the gluts, hammys, and a bit of the lower back.

It’s a great complex for Olympic lifters to work on their setup and the transference of weight from the balls of your feet to the heels during the first pull.
Stopping my lifts to have some ‘bro’ time meant nothing went up afterwards..Some days it’s good to go off the routine, off the ‘schedule’ of your training simply to have some fun with your friends in the adult playground.
What is bro time? Bro time at Stone is when we take some time to do vanity training, like bicep curls. My bro time was working on my ass.
What are you training today?



The Olympian and The Artist

An inspiring video for any artist or athlete.

When my world of weightlifting collides with my work as an art historian. And when my life collides with my work as a weightlifter.

Weightlifting is art.
Writing is art.
Creating is art.

Life is art.