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What I Learned From Dr. Stu McGill: Part 2

As I mentioned in my previous blog, to be an elite level athlete requires a vast number of different qualities. Again, not everyone can be an Olympic level athlete, but you can certainly maximize your own individual athletic abilities. Performing these movements can be detrimental to your physical health if you do not have the proper prerequisites. Now by all means, I am not bashing CrossFit or Olympic weightlifting in any sense. I train at a former CrossFit gym myself. What I’m saying is simply put, not everyone needs to or should be doing full snatches or ass-to-grass squats. I think a better alternative could be doing power snatches from blocks in order to give yourself an optimal starting position and limit spine flexion in the beginning of the movement as well as the catch. Or perhaps doing slight shallower box squats as opposed to full depth. Unless you are training for a competition such as powerlifting in which you absolutely have to get to a certain depth, I advise most of my patients to not worry too much about depth. It goes against every fiber of my former stubborn, meathead self, but at that same token, if you do not have the prerequisites to hit proper depth without sacrificing form and risk injury, should you be competing in that sport? It is not an easy question to answer, but it is something every individual needs to ask themselves realistically.



In college, I routinely hit heavy squats using just over twice my bodyweight to depth with what I thought was good form. Fast forward a few years to my first powerlifting competition in 2015, I had to drop out of the full meet because I could not, for the life of me, hit proper squat depth comfortably without putting my low back at risk, even under loads half my body weight. I could not for the life of my grasp why or how I could have lost my deep squat. I was extremely frustrated but made the wise decision to pull out of the squat and only perform bench press and deadlift. I, myself, am a pretty good example of the latter half of the statement above “The athlete choosing the sport”.


In college, I squatted with reckless abandon as I was young, strong, and resilient. I “thought” I had good technique, but in hindsight, I’m not too sure. Now that I am a few years older, not as young, not as strong, and definitely not as resilient, the deep squat isn’t so comfortable. For a while, I attributed it to previous injuries or not doing it as frequently, or whatever. Any reason as to why I couldn’t squat deep. Ultimately, I think the answer to my conundrum was I was choosing to squat but did not have the prerequisites to do so properly without sacrificing form and my own safety. The “sport” certainly did NOT choose me. Now I am still trying to improve my squat depth and would like to try and do a full meet eventually, but only once I’ve absolutely mastered the deep squat without question. If I can’t, then I won’t. But again, it’s a hard pill to swallow and accept the fact that I can’t, should that be the case. And I think it’s this self-reflection that people seem to struggle. Being able to admit to themselves “I can’t” or “I shouldn’t”.


So, in conclusion, the point of this blog and the previous one is that not everyone can or should do everything. It makes more sense to operate optimally within the confines of one’s own individual anatomical parameters. This does not equate to “I can’t therefore I won’t”. Rather, it loosely means “I can’t therefore I won’t do THAT, but I can do THIS instead”.


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