Position: A standing position with the feet from 12 to 18 inches apart, the toes pointing outwards slightly and the barbell held on the shoulders in back of the neck.
Action: From this position, the knees are bent until the body is lowered to a full squat position, but the heels are not permitted to leave the floor. The erect position is then regained by the effort of the hips and legs.
To keep the heels down, it is necessary to lean slightly forward as the knees are bent. If the heel cords are short or if the ankles are stiff it will be necessary to bend very far forward. This extreme position necessary to keep the heels on the floor and reach a good knee bend position places much effort on the lower back rather than on the hips and legs where it should be.
Usually with practice and attention to resisting the accented forward inclination of the trunk, the heel cords will stretch enough to permit good position. In the low position, the back will not be perpendicular to the floor, but will be inclined forward to some extent. The low back should be kept flat, not rounded. Some individuals can go into a very low knee bend and in doing so, will round the lower back considerably. Such a person should go only as far down as he can and still keep the lower back flat. Many can keep the lower back flat in a quite low position and others will be able to keep the back in good position only by going just low enough for the top of the thighs to be parallel to the floor. In either case, the exerciser should not go so low that the low back is rounded and is subjected to much of the effort. During the entire movement the back should be kept as flat and straight as possible.
In some cases it will be found that it is not possible to keep the heels on the floor and do an adequate knee bend. When we find this condition, the heels should be blocked up with a couple of books, a piece of board such as a 2 x 4, a couple of the plates, or shoes with heels. As soon as the heels are raised, there is no need for so much stretch in the heel cords and it is easy to keep good position. Even though it be necessary to start the motion with the heels blocked up, practice will give more flexibility to the ankles and the motion can be performed later without the heel supports.
Breathing: Exhale as the knees are bent and the body is lowered into the full squat position and inhale as the erect position is regained.
Starting Resistance: Most women will find 15 lbs. on the shoulders adequate and most men can begin with 35 lbs. on the shoulders.
Progression: Begin the movement with 10 counts, adding 2 counts each week until 20 have been performed for three periods, then add 5 lbs. to the bar and begin again at 10 counts.
Goal: Girls and women should work up to a resistance of 40 to 50 lbs. on the shoulders.
Boys and men should work up to 100 lbs. or more on the shoulders for 20 counts.
Results: This is a simple direct exercise for the large muscles of the hips and legs. It will build great strength in those muscles, but because the muscle mass involved is large, strong demands are made on the cardiovascular respiratory systems with the higher repetition from 15 to 20. By concentrating on the high counts (sometimes up to 30), and using a substantial resistance, all the demand desirable can be made on the cardiovascular respiratory systems and under perfect control. This has been a “key” exercise for individuals who have been very thin. The effort of the large muscle groups has a strong effect on the improvement of the appetite and the assimilation of nutrition for the tissues.
Comments: There are other exercises that have the same effect upon the improvement of the body, but this one is the easiest to perform for most people. Its demand of effort is under complete control and can be increased in proportion to the ability of the individual to respond to it.
Considerable effort is required at the higher counts with resistance, but the results are very gratifying. This movement should form part of every exercise program for all who can perform the movement. It is of particular value for the growing child.