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Squat Clinic by Greg Glassman - CrossFit Journal

Squat Clinic

By Greg Glassman

In Basics, Classic, Coaching, CrossFit, Exercises, Reference

December 01, 2002

PDF Article

The Squat Clinic, by Coach Greg Glassman, is a comprehensive guide to our most foundational movement. Photographs outline 23 points of performance for a sound squat, common faults and cues to correct them.

Why squat? The squat is a vital, natural, and functional component of your being. In the bottom position, the squat is nature’s intended sitting posture. Only in the industrialized world do we find the need for chairs, couches, benches, and stools. This comes at a loss of functionality that contributes immensely to decrepitude.

On the athletic front, the squat is the quintessential hip extension exercise, and hip extension is the foundation of all good human movement. Powerful, controlled hip extension is necessary and nearly sufficient for elite athleticism. “Necessary” in that without powerful, controlled hip extension you are not functioning anywhere near your potential. “Sufficient” in the sense that everyone we’ve met with the capacity to explosively open the hip could also run, jump, throw, and punch with impressive force. Secondarily, but no less important, the squat is among those exercises eliciting a potent neuroendocrine response. This benefit is ample reason for an exercise’s inclusion in your regimen.

Weak glutes and hamstrings are among the causes of bad squats. So are poor engagement, weak control, or lack of awareness of the glutes and hamstrings.

Useful therapies for weak, underdeveloped and/or poorly executed squats are outlined as well. Box squats, squat therapy and the use of external objects (for spatial orientation) are helpful tools to get deconditioned and/or misinformed athletes squatting correctly

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26 Comments on “Squat Clinic”


Ned Ferguson wrote …

Hi. I'm 46, will be 47 in December. What should I do if one of my knees pops with every rep (as I hit the bottom position)? There is little or no pain, but it is annoying as crap and audible to anyone standing near me. Is this something I can work through, or is it indicative of a more serious problem?


wrote …

Someone once told me that joints pop due to change in pressure, like when cracking your knuckles. That said, I'm not a doctor and wouldn't take my own advice on your knees. Have you logged into the forum and checked out the advice offered there? You'll get lots of anecdotal advice and practical information.
Hope you find something there. Squatting has made my knees and hips strong and injury-proof, which is great becuase they were at one point frequently getting injured running and attempting bodybuilding routines.
Best of luck,


David Siscoe wrote …

Hi Ned,

Like John said, IF this is a real concern to you, you may want to seek further advice from a sports medicine professional. I doubt I would speak to just any doctor.

Concerns aside, the cracking you hear in the knuckles is typically caused from a fluid in the joint rapidly shifting around from sudden movement or pressure. That fluid is called synovial fluid. There is no danger of arthritis or joint problems occurring as a result of "popping" your knuckles.

The "popping" of the knee joint on the other hand is more typical of the ligaments adjusting around the joint when movement occurs. Imagine a tight elastic over the joint slightly slipping as you bend the joint. Like the elastic, the ligament "snaps" into place...cause the sound you and all the people around you hear :-)

If there is no pain associated with the popping sound it is not likely a bad thing. As your strength and flexibility improves, the "popping" will occur less and less.

I hope this helps,

David Siscoe


Ned Ferguson wrote …

Thanks a lot. That gives me some insight.


wrote …

I'm 67 and have been doing jump rope 50 at a time while doing 250 reps in one workout, and my knees have really been aching. Any ideas or thoughts, I travel a lot for business and running and walking are not an option.


wrote …


I would recommend taking a break from the jump rope and focus on developing a good squat (if you don't already have one). Squatting would be a great warm up before jumping rope as well as a strengthening exercise (plus, if you forget your rope at home, you can always just do some tabata squats in the hotel room).


wrote …

My knees pop every once on awhile, and it's always a *surprise*, but you know every squat I do, weighted or not, causes no pain, just a few pops here and there. I'd say as long as it doesn't hurt, don't worry about it. But also be aware of pain associated with the pops/clicks. I've worked through mine (I'm 46 years old), but I do know that some people have joint problems that need to be attended to. For me, the knee clicks/pops are simply small glitches in my system and they go away during my CF. If they didn't, I'd simply modify to work around the painful parts.

Thus far, with click and pops, I'm going ass-out.


wrote …

I am 52 and I have one TKR (total knee replacement) and one partial. My squat is getting lower each day but it is very, very hard. I am wondering if there are precautions, beyond the painfully obvious, that I should know about. Oh, when I say "painfully", I don't mean like before the TKR. It just takes time to get use to the new parts and work them into their new role. I just want to make sure that there isn't something I should do to protect them. Thanks.



wrote …

I became a crossfitter two years ago and have developed patella tendonitis in both knees. It has really put a damper on my ability to jump rope, box jump, and is very frustrating. Any thoughts on what I could be doing wrong to cause the development of this tendonitis after never having knee problems. I am 51 years old, very active and don't want to slow down.


Luke Terry wrote …

For the Ladies & Gentlemen with knee issues: much of the popping and pain syndromes you have described are consistent with patellar tracking issues and overall muscle imbalance between the medial and lateral aspects of the quad, and between the anterior and posterior chain.

The short answer is, keep crossfitting, and make sure you STRETCH after every session.

A more detailed answer is that often the medial portion of the quad, called the vastus medialis obliquus or VMO, is often weak from a postural imbalance that comes from the feet but affects the entire kinetic chain.

Specific exercises in addition to your crossfit workout can help. I advise anyone experiencing knee pain to visit a sports & rehab oriented and preferably crossfit-literate chiropractor, physical therapist, acupuncturist, or orthopedist. These practitioners can assess the overall muscle balance & prescribe the right exercises. In addition, acupuncture has well-documented pain modulating effects and can help keep you in the game while you continue to become more fit and achieve better overall muscle balance.




wrote …

Good Evening,
I'm 40 years old and start cross fit next Saturday. I am terrified. My husband has been doing cross fit and loves it. I on the other hand, am not as fit as he is. I can’t even do squat or pull-ups. I HOPE and pray during orientation that someone will teach me the basic and me feeling like I’m not in basic training again. Wish me luck :)


wrote …

Dear Leslie,
I am 47 years old and went to the ceritification 1 class. I never did crossfit before. I went to support a friend and to learn something new! Boy, was I in for a surprise! Have your husband teach you the squat and practice every day. The squat is the most important to know. You will grow and experience new things you thought you couldn't do. Crossfit is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Each day I'm learning something new and it's keeping me out of the box. Enjoy, be brave, and good luck.


CrossFit Akron wrote …

I have trouble believing the comment "Most of the world’s inhabitants sit not on chairs but in a squat. Meals, ceremonies, conversation, gatherings, and defecation are all performed bereft of chairs or seats." The top three populated countries of the world are China, India, and the USA. These three countries alone account for almost 1/2 of the world's population and they are industrialized nations that sit on chairs and toilets.


replied to comment from CrossFit Akron

Regarding the use of toilets, I have extended family from the Middle East, and my daughter has visited Turkey a couple times. They tell me that the toilets consist of a porcelain ring in the floor, and the people have to squat down over it to use it. They also tell me that their legs get sore and stay sore when they visit there until they get in shape for that type of bathroom.


wrote …

how do we explain that inside rolling knees is weakness of adductors??


wrote …

i have been doing crossfit for 2 yrs. recently,i am noticing that squating in wods just sets my legs on fire to the
point i have to pause early in the wod.and most recently,going from the rower to the box jumps in "kelly" gave
me tore up shins because i kept missing the legs felt like jello.i typically have a 20 in tabata on squats,but that went down to
17 a few weeks ago,and my legs are just burning up very quickly. the fact that i dont take in enough food,or water
is obviously part of the blame,but that consistently is the case.assuming they are deconditioned,what is the best way
to build up the legs? im not sure what a box squat is...or even squat therapy? we have done neither in our gym.
thanks :)


wrote …

I have a different problem than most in my squatting. I have very flexible hamstrings, but I am very quad dominant (and they tend to be really tight). I also have a hard time, but starting to get better, in pushing my knees out a lot more. What are some drills or anything I can do to improve my activation of hamstrings and glutes more?


wrote …

Just started CrossFit and I have a weak squat. I've been trying to work on it, but my hip flexors are killing me. What should I do?


replied to comment from Vanessa Reyes

VR - what comes to mind for me is to do bottom holds. Make sure your hip crease is below your knee caps, which will activate your posterior chain.

my .02


replied to comment from Matthew Singleton

MS - check this out:

Your question is answered starting at about 2:20


wrote …

So I've got one - one of my clients loses her balance backwards when trying to go too low.

Going to try targeting a med ball, couch stretching, and a couple other tricks.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


wrote …

Should have said "sufficiently low."


Jacob Nadav wrote …

Just wrote quite an extensive article about the functional mechanics of a squat:

I think the main take away is that:
a. look at movement (don't think weak, think inhibited)
b. Check ankle mobility in dorsiflexion, thoracic extension and lumbar flexion before making any assumptions.
c. Assume people who sit a lot are going to have an anterior weight shift, and teach the squatting foundation with a weight on the front.

Hope that helps.


replied to comment from Ned Ferguson

Hey Ned!

I have suffered from a similar problem. It got so severe that I almost cut squatting from my workout regiment. I looked into it and found that the problem lied in my form. There are certain mistakes people make that can cause extreme knee pain and injury.

I'd invite you to check out my website .

I'm confident I can solve your problem or at least point you in the right direction!



Dionizio Neto wrote …

Great article!


wrote …

I've found that when my joints make a popping sound, it's not necessarily a bad thing. I regularly visit the doctors at Fulk Chiropractic in Kansas City to keep my joints in top shape during workouts.
The key is to make sure your joints are bending and moving correctly. Through regular chiropractic care, I've gotten relief from ankle and knee injuries.
Even if you don't live in the Kansas City area, their website has a lot of helpful into about staying healthy while working out and playing sports:

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