EXERCISE BREAKDOWN: SKATER SQUAT
HOW TO DO IT
START ON ONE LEG – with the other knee held high.
INITIATE THE DECENT – with all your focus on squatting well with the standing leg. Initiate with a Hip Flexor pull, then as you descend, focus on shooting the bum backwards allow the torso to lean forwards and feel a s-t-r-e-t-c-h in the Hamstring and Glute as soon as possible. The better you get at this, the the better position you will be in at the bottom and the better job you’ll do of getting back up.
REACH YOUR HANDS FORWARD – To counter balance and encourage the correct feelings in the back of the leg.
LAND GENTLY – you should be working really hard to control it just before your knee hits the floor – or rather mat, pillow or other knee cushioning device of choice.
PAUSE — It’s not a ‘Dead Start’ if you don’t pause at the bottom. These stop you from using momentum and force you to use strength. It’s also handy for those who claim these are about balance. Take your time at the bottom, re-find your composure and then power back up once you’re no longer wobbling!
DRIVE BACK UP – If you managed to stay in position, simply lean forward, feel for a stretch in your working legs Glute and Hamstring muscles with your weight in your front heal. Then press your front heal into the floor (imagine your stamping), keep reaching forward, your eyes fixed in position down and across the room, and drive all the way up.
SHOW THE POSITION AT THE TOP — Don’t just be glad to be there, show the top position with style and intensity — it’s not a rest position. We want to feel a strong Glute Lock, to feel tension in the standing Quadriceps (front of thigh), we want to keep our Abs engaged and to stand tall with chest out.
HOW YOU (COULD) MESS IT UP
Lets get it straight, these are hard work and cause many reasonable athletes many difficulties. Make sure you use the right progression (laid out below).
There’s no shame in buggering these up at first, but let’s just try and know why so we can stay safe and keep getting better. Common ways you people mess em up:
YOU GOT NO BALANCE – A pretty tricky exercise this one if you have poor balance! A simple fix, use something to hold onto while you’re getting the hang of it. Just try to ensure it doesn’t effect the mechanics of the move. The better you get, the less you’ll need to hold on.
YOU KICK THE FLOOR…(so, you just can’t do it… yet) – This is half the point of this one. It takes a decent amount of strength and control to be able to come back up without tapping or kicking the floor with the back foot. If you can’t do it, you’re either making one of the mistakes below, or you’re just not strong enough, YET. Keep going, you’ll be mighty chuffed when you master it. I’ve had many clients who have taken months to achieve this on one leg, and even longer on the other. That’s because it’s damn hard to do from the floor, not because I’m a bad trainer (so I like to think!).
YOU CRASH DOWN – if you didn’t initiate the decent though the Hip Flexor, if you have no balance, or if you just lose focus and mess up, you may land too heavily. This is obviously no good, especially if you don’t have enough padding to land on.
To fix – Concentrate better; hold onto something if you need to; make sure you keep your weight forward and bum back on the way down; focus on hovering just off the mat before you touch it; and make sure you fully understand the mechanics… front knee stays in place, move at the hip, body hinges forwards.
YOU GOT NO TIMING – You should feel like you initiate the drive up with a lean forward, a reach from the hands, by pushing your bum back and driving through the front heal. It sounds a lot, but it’s not once you’ve processed it. If you get the mechanics wrong, you’ll have no where near the strength you should have.
YOUR KNEE AND HIP SLIDE FORWARD AS YOU INITIATE THE DRIVE UP – This often happens when people have a fundamental lack of understanding of what should be going on. Read the above very carefully and practice s l o w l y and mindfully.
YOUR KNEE CAVES IN – This is a very common problem with most compound leg strength moves, particularly squats. The fix is not simple. Not always anyway. If your knee caves and instead of staying in line with your hip and foot, it will make you weaker and put you at risk of injury.
The fix: The first part is the motor control. Make sure you’re aware of the problem, and consciously try and keep the knee out, particularly through the most difficult part of the move… usually the drive up.
The second part is to find the route of the problem. This often means you need to strengthen your Glutes in a whole load of ways, but also might mean getting an expert to check your mechanics.
YOU ROUND YOUR SPINE CONSISTENTLY – Ideally we want to do this with a ‘neutral spine’, with the lean forwards coming from a slight hinging at the hips. If we round the spine, we may struggle to get as much movement from the hips as we do with straighter spine. Use this exercise to practice keeping your spine still and moving from your hips.
That being said, unlike a loaded exercise (with a weight), as long as you have no back trouble, you don’t need to be as strict with these. Strive for ‘straight’ back, but don’t stress it if you round a bit while learning.
WHAT IT SHOULD FEEL LIKE
It should feel like hard work!
You are fighting to stay tall and all the work is coming from a stretching and contracting front leg.
If you have the level just right, it will be hard work on the way down, the lower you are the harder it is. Then it will feel like you have to really work the front leg to grind back up. At the top, you should feel the standing leg contracting hard. The entire thigh stressed, pumped and burning.
THE SPINE OF IRON – On any squat based strength exercise, we want to hold our spine in its neutral position. What often happens, if people lack movement or motor control in the spine, is that we ‘buy’ movement by rounding the spine creating the illusion of being low enough. Naughty…. try imagining your spine is made of iron, unbendable, unbreakable, hold its shape and let the leg do it’s work.
STAMP THROUGH THE FLOOR – Imagine you’re about to stamp on someone you dislike, or for the less violent of you, stamp in order to break something that needs to be broken in order to make the world a better place…. This stamp is the same action as we need to generate power on the way up in a Skater Squat. We don’t actually lift our foot off the floor, but the same muscles are generating our movement on a squat as in a stamp.
MIND MUSCLE CONNECTION – The better you are at feeling Glute stretch at the bottom and contraction as we move, the better you’re going be at this.
THE LOWER YOU ARE, THE MORE YOU R – E – A – C – H – If you struggle with the mechanics, work on this tip. The closer you get to the floor, the more you concentrate on reaching your arms further down the room.
PUMP UP THE WORKING LEG – This works well when doing higher reps with god rhythm. Imagine with every rep, the working leg is getting more and more full of blood. This is half the goal of high-rep work, and this thought encourages you to embrace the difficulty of it and encourages constant pumping movement.
Easy: the stronger you are on these, the more range of motion or added weight you use.
The weaker, the higher you need your mat or knee cushioning thingy to be.
These go from squatting to a platform (or high mat), to squatting from a platform (so your feet feet are elevated on a step).
There aren’t lots of fancy progressions, it’s simply a case of finding the appropriate range of motion to match your strength and athleticism and then practicing until you can increase that range.
On the one hand, everything in this programme is chosen for a reason, so if there is no good reason for you to skip an exercise, I urge you to do it. But we all have our quirks and if your body won’t take to something, please remember that this programme is more about the philosophies underpinning it than the specifics.
My point: you are more likely to be able to do single-leg squats than many other leg exercises, but if you do need to switch for an alternate, I’d recommend (in order of mild preference):
Extra KB Swings / Deadlift work — go higher volume in the swings or add Deadlifts of some variety in if they suit your body better.
Two-Legged Squats — If you get on better with these.
Lunges — Only really if you just can’t get the hang of the squats.
Bike Sprints — If you really can’t get on with any leg strength moves, then I recommend experimenting with intervals on an exercise bike. The higher the resistance, the shorter the intervals, the better.
WHY DO IT
These are such a powerful exercise, — as are all squats done properly and against enough resistance — so it’s well worth putting in the time and making them the foundation of your programme.
IT’S A REAL COMPOUND LEG STRENGTH MOVE — this move works your entire legs and builds real, athletic strength particularly through your glutes, quads & hamstrings.
A FUN ‘LANDMARK EXERCISE’ — This is a great exercise to strive to master. Rather than just how many? Or how much weight? It’s a question of: can you do it or not? Once you can, you won’t want to lose it!
IT’S A RELEATIVELY SAFE MOVE — Deadlifts and Squats with heavy weights on a Barbell are often considered things you must do if you want great legs.
However, this is not the case. Unless your a well coached and well functioning athlete, you probably can’t do these well, and that puts you at a higher risk of injury.
The Skater Squat gives you similar benefits, but with a shorter learning curve and greatly reduced risk of injury. That’s why we use single-leg strength work so often.
THERE ARE NO BARRIERS — You might need a mat, or a step, or weight, but you don’t have to use anything. That makes these waaay more convenient than most other tough leg moves, and that matters.
YOU’LL BUILD A GREAT BUTT — because those muscles are going to have to adapt!
YOU’LL MASER THE SKATER SQUAT PROGRESSION LADDER — do that and you’ll have great legs and be very proud of yourself.
WE DO THIS ‘DEAD START’ STYLE FOR TWO MAIN REASONS — Firstly, it allows us to get the maximum strength challenge from a leg exercise without having to use weights. Secondly, it provides a great contrast to the Constant Tension style Skater Squat we do in Month 2.
WE ALL NEED TO TRAIN OUR LEGS — They are part of our body just as much as our arms, let’s not pretend otherwise.