There is perhaps no other movement so fundamental to CrossFit as the air squat. If you want to do CrossFit, the air squat will be the first movement you learn and serve as a core component of many of the workouts of the day (WODs).
Why is the air squat so important to CrossFit?
The squat is a fundamental movement pattern which everybody should be able to execute. All of us squat every day. Every time you sit down in a chair, that’s a squat. Every time you get up from a chair, that’s a squat too.
In fact, the squat is one of the first movements we ever employ in our development as infants. Think about it, how do babies first learn how to stand? Once the hip and leg muscles become strong enough a baby will go from a sitting to a standing position – little Jonny’s first ever squat! If you ever observe infants playing you will notice that they squat with all the time to pick things up off the ground or rest and with perfect form – weight on the heels, knees tracking over the toes and back straight.
Go to any commercial gym and watch people squatting and you will be lucky to see anything approaching perfect form. This is probably why the squat has been given a bad rep in the past as a dangerous exercise. A proper squat is one of the safest, most natural movements the human body can perform. The type of movement which passes for a squat in the local gym on the other hand (weight forwards, rounded back, thighs not past parallel) is a perfect recipe for knee, hip and back problems.
As we get older most of us lose the requisite mobility in our hips, knees and ankles to be able to squat properly. The main culprit? The good old chair. Most of us, especially the office monkeys, spend the day sitting down. This leaves our glutes and hamstrings in a permanently short position which affects our flexibility.
If you ever go to Asia you will observe millions of people constantly showing off beautiful squat technique. The down position of the squat is used all the time while eating, relaxing and even going to the toilet!
So other than being a fundamental movement pattern, why do we need to squat? The squat is known as a compound movement as it exercises multiple muscles at the same time. The opposite of a compound movement is a unilateral movement which only exercises one muscle – think bicep curl. Not only will the squat work all of your leg muscles, it will test your core strength and your mobility and flexibility.
The squat can greatly improve athleticism and is a test of powerful hip extension, a key measure in the ability to run, throw and jump with impressive force. The squat is also a vital movement in keeping us healthy as the ability to simply sit down and stand up becomes more important as we get older. Last, but not least, the squat not only works strength, flexibility and mobility, but cardio vascular capacity. Crank out a set of 25 air squats and see if that gets your heart beating.
If you are looking for a safe, effective way to learn the air squat or more about CrossFit, come by and check out our on-ramp course. The first 3 sessions are free and without commitment.