Adults afraid of squatting with the bar: you and the rest of the world, don’t worry

To my dear friends just starting their journey


This is just a note to my many friends, and students’ clients who are afraid of squatting with the bar for the first time. I have some words for you:

  1. I understand you are frustrated and I am with you on your quest. I’m here if you need. It is ok to see the bar as a strange object and feel it doesn’t “fit” your back. Coaches have been discussing why it is that the first reaction to the squat by the adult is more intense than in other exercises, but, believe me: although we have no positive answer (just speculation), know that you are no exception.
  2. The bar is a long object (2.2m long or 7.2 feet). It is on your back. You can’t see it. The plates are away from the center of your mass in at least one foot. Until your Central Nervous System can “map” the “bar-lifter-system” and perform a number of neurological tasks that are not relevant to discuss here, it takes time. All I ask is a little patience.
  3. I’ll even give you a time frame for that: squat twice a week for a month. Empty bar and just enough weight for you to feel it. I can assure you that the fear will be gone.
  4. In the beginning, the movement looks ugly. You can fall into the trap of feeling not only frustrated, but a bit embarrassed, especially because there might be people around pretty proficient at squatting. Please don’t: your clumsy movements are a reason for me, as a lifter, to feel so proud of you that you will never know. Just go.
  5. One of the “early clumsiness” is, not knowing how to start the movement and where to place the bar. You feel it belong on your neck and that it will slip down your t-shirt if you set it lower: it won’t. There is something called “the line of gravity” that makes you tilt you body forward just enough for you to be perfectly balanced. Nature takes care of it. So don’t put the bar on your neck: trust your coach.
  6. The other “early clumsiness” comes from years of thinking that to get down means to bend your knees. Even the expressions with symbolic meaning “kneeling” bring that to mind. No: the squat starts with an “intention” (you focus your attention to that part) on your hips. As the hips initiate a slight flexion, everything will follow. Believe me.
  7. The third “early clumsiness” is the pure expression of fear: as you lower your body, fear takes over and you start bending your torso forward. You are afraid to “sit into the void”. In your mind, you will fall down. You won’t: squatting is hard wired into your brain. You always knew how to squat, since you first got up from the lying position as a baby. Having a bar on your back doesn’t change the ability of your body to squat, just like you do when you’re playing with a toddler.
  8. In time you will master the basic aspects of the technique and then you will be ready for a journey that has no end: perfecting it. Until we die, we are perfecting our lifts. And that is the beauty of it.

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