Do You Really Know How to Squat? Part 5: Assistance Work


This is Part 5 in a series on squatting by our very own Max Shippee. If you want to review, you can see the other parts here…Squatting Part 1: Feet, Squatting Part 2: Knees, Squatting Part 3: Hips, Squatting Part 4: Shoulders and Back.

SquatAssist1-176x300.jpg“I keep trying, but I can’t get down that low!”

“So much for your dance moves, huh?”


“Do you have a door at home?”


“Then we’re gonna help you get low!” ;)

Some of us are’t just beginners. We feel like we’re a little behind. Aheh…heh, heh.

Everyone’s a beginner at some point.

When I first opened my gym, I expected people who would immediately be able to push it really hard. What I learned very, very quickly, was people not only needed time to build intensity, but also many, many people had past injuries, or physical challenges they were facing.

As my initial clients filled our their first session paperwork, I learned of their mulitple shoulder dislocations, hip surgeries, tweaked backs, torn ligaments, and even medications. It turns out that we, collectively, are a pretty beat up bunch.

SquatAssist2AVert-346x1024.jpgSo, if you’re in this group of people who see a movement and think, “There’s no way,” you may be partially right. It may be that you’re not going to make the next Olympic team. That’s ok. We’re here to help you find what you CAN do, and move you forward in you quest for self betterment.

Door knob squats

Some of us need a lot of help with our squat. You want to make the transition into a more athletic you, but you need a little help. The good news is that it’s as close as the entry to your house.

Basically, if you’ve got a door, you’ve got help.

Stand facing the open edge of a door with your feet shoulder width apart. Grab each side of the door knobs with each respective hand. Get your weight way back and into your heels. Using the door for assistance, squat. Yup…that easy.

Use the door as much or as little as you need. Try to be really “good” about it though, and only use it when absolutely necessary. As you develop more strength, flexibility, and balance, you will be able to eventually do it without the door knob help. You will actually be able to be even MORE in the heel while having a very vertical spine, since you’ll be using the door for leverage. Just be careful that you’re still doing the work and not the door!

The closer you can stand to the edge of the door, the more vertical you will be forced to keep your spine straight (unless you like rubbing your nose & chin against your door). This is similar to Part 4: Shoulders and Hips from the last post.

Also, when doing this kind of squat, there is really no reason to not go as deep as possible into the squat. So get down there!

Sitting in a chair.

SquatAssist5AVert-292x1024.jpgSometimes, it’s the simplest things that make the biggest difference. You probably stand up and sit down a couple dozen times a day. Take a bit of notice and see how often you “crash” into your seat. And on the other end, how often you use your arms to help you stand. Chances are, when you get to your desk at work, when you sit, you essentially crash down into your chair, with no control over the descent of your body, and when you stand, you brace both hands on your desk (or the arms of your chair), and use them to help you stand. We want to get away from that, and be better about using the opportunity to recruit the legs to do the job.

How lightly can you sit down into your chair? How gently can you alight onto that cushion? Can you hover 1/4 inch from the chair for 2 seconds before allowing your self to sink gently down into it? No more crash landings! For the “advanced” level, you can even do this when sitting on your couch at home!

Never use your hands when you stand!

You have opportunities for more efficient movement all around you. The time that you spend rising and falling from your workstation could all be put to use to build better movement habits. Stop pushing on your desk, or the arms of your chair when you stand. Just lean forward ever so slightly, keep your knees out, your spine straight, and push through your heels! You could be squatting all day!

Whether it’s in your own door knob at home, or lowering your workplace chair to get a deeper squat as you land gently, you could be making yourself better every time you move. The trick is to always be conscious of it!

So go get it!