CrossIce Exercise of the Week: THE SQUAT

It is the most popular movement seen in gyms across the nation for hockey players: the famous Squat! An exercise that not a lot like doing and some avoid, yet crucial for hockey players to develop thigh, hip, and low back strength and power that will directly translate into their games. Furthermore, it is a movement that we often see athletes or anybody for that matter perform wrong. Executing the squat incorrectly will not give you your desired results, and worse, it could lead to a muscle imbalance, strained muscles, soreness in the wrong areas, or even worse injuries. So… what do you need to do to ensure that you are squatting correctly, and also how do you incorporate the Squat into your weekly training regime to see results? Continue reading to find out. 

Some of the most common mistakes that people do when squatting are the following:
A- squatting on their toes. This is the most frequent one. So many players get under the bar, and then get up on their toes. Although it may seem easier like this… PLEASE do not do it! Not only are you training the improper muscles, but you are also setting yourself up for long-term re-occuring injury or a muscle imbalance that is hard to fix. By squatting on the toes, you are over-training the quadriceps and putting more strain on the knee joints than needed. Long term, if your quads are more developed than your hamstrings- this could cause a forward pelvic tilt and ultimately, low back pain! When squatting, you should always be on your heels and be able to lift your toes slightly off the ground during all stages of the squat. 
B- they either go too low or not low enough. What depth should you stop at? 90 DEGREES! Any higher and you are not working the lower body enough, and the common saying “ass to grass”, meaning going as low as humanly possible- causes tremendous stress on the knees that could lead to knee joint damage. There is a reason baseball catchers’ knees are how they are! Down to 90 degrees while on your heels, when you get to 90 explode up!
C- Foot positioning. Feet should be shoulder width apart to ensure that all lateral parts of the lower body are worked correctly. If feet are too wide apart, the groin then is over worked and the outsides of the thighs are not being worked enough, and vice versa. Feet shoulder width apart, toes slightly pointed out. 
D- Back is hunched over. This is a result often times that there is too much weight on the bar. Remember, look like you lift a lot of weight and actually lift less weight while performing the exercise correctly, rather then lifting a lot and not looking strong. Back should be arched at all times during the movement- hunching the back could do serious damage and secondly, puts excessive work on the quads. 

How much should you do?

During the off-season, our players do Squats about twice a week. During the season, once a week. Every training program is different due to the large amounts of differences between players- but if it is your goal to add mass to your legs for strength- the 8-10 rep range is where you want to be with a couple minute break between sets.  If it is for power/endurance- then you want to get into the 12-15 rep range and lower your rest time between sets. 
They are hard for a reason- THEY WORK! If getting stronger and more powerful legs were easy, every player would do it. If your legs can be stronger to hold a low knee bend while on the ice for longer periods of times, while also being more explosive each stride- your speed will increase significantly. The secret to getting faster on the ice… 90% of the improvement happens in the gym! START SQUATTING!!

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