The air squat is a very important exercise and should be executed with great attention to detail. While it appears simple, it is the foundational movement for the barbell back, front, and overhead squat so, we must use every rep as an opportunity to practice perfect mechanics. Many people will take this movement for granted because it’s unweighted. This is a mistake.
To correctly perform the air squat we first will have the athlete stand in a fully upright position with “super-hero posture”. This position should look like a normal standing position but with feet slightly wider than normal. As a starting point we ask the athlete to place the middle of their heel directly underneath the center of the armpit. This is a universal starting point and not necessarily where the athlete will always position their feet. Differences in hip anatomy and mobility limitations may cause us to adjust this position slightly. Ultimately, we will work the feet towards the position that gives our athletes the greatest potential Range Of Motion. Generally, this is more narrow of a stance than most are accustomed to.
With a slight (5-15 degree) outward angle on the toes, we ask the athlete to grab the ground with their toes by pressing them through their shoes to the floor. Next, with weight balanced evenly over the foot, we want the athlete to apply a rotational force against the floor outward to externally rotate the femur in the ball-n-socket joint of the hip. This creates torque (rotational tension) initially and allows even more potential force (via stretch reflex) to build as we lower into the bottom position
“Super-hero posture” is one where the athlete stands tall, chest upright and shoulders pulled back slightly and floating over the rib cage. The spine has all vertebrae stacked evenly and exhibits a kyphotic (upper) and lordotic (lower) arch. The bottom of the rib cage is not exposed in most athletes when they are positioned neutrally. Over extension will cause the bottom edge of the ribs to be visible. Keep it tucked. Throughout the air squat range of motion the distance between the belly button and the sternum (center/bottom of breastbone) should remain the same
Even though the air squat is unloaded, it’s a good idea to practice breathing to support the position early on, prior to placing the demand of a barbell on our athletes. When squatting, begin your inhale as soon as you break at the hips and begin to travel down into the bottom position. Use a “diaphragmatic breathing” technique to expand the lungs while maintaining the distance between belly button and sternum. It is critical that you avoid over extension and train your body to use air pressure to stabilize your spinal position.
FULL EXECUTION OF REP
The athlete begins the rep in a standing position (rest position), lowers themselves to the end of their ROM (Range Of Motion), then returns to a standing position. For good measure and to assure full range of motion, we recommend squeezing the glute muscles at the top to fully extend the hip.
There are many common faults that can appear. These can be do to the athlete being untrained, ROM limitations, or muscular imbalances. We will test our athletes to determine the cause of the fault and address them through proven techniques for improving performance.
To have your Air Squat movement analyzed or to become more efficient in any bodyweight/gymnastics, barbell, kettlebell, or strongman exercise, contact me at Chad@TernionAthletics.com or click here