Squats ‘n’ Fajitas
This article ties together perhaps two of the best things in life. Why not enjoy them both on the same day?!
Here’s what you can expect today…
After taking a break from squatting for a while, my body has let me know that it’s not only time to get back on the wagon but also never jump off again. Most weight lifters will tell you that’s an obvious answer.
Having now gathered an even bigger appreciation for the squat I’m going to talk about why you should squat, how you should squat, and the variety of awesome ways you can squat.
Lastly, I’ll give you a recipe for amazing chicken fajitas to feed your hunger after a great squat session while your metabolism is burning hot.
Just Squat Every Day
First a little backdrop; the squat has been a staple to my training diet for a number of years now. As my wife would tell you, finding jeans that fit around my legs is actually a really big pain in the ass. However, I suppose it’s par for the course. What am I supposed to do, stop squatting? Absolutely not!
However, against my own advice, that is exactly what I did. Why, or better yet, why not? I’ve never been afraid to try something new, go against the grain, but in this case I proved myself to be dead wrong.
Don’t stop squatting – ever.
Here’s what I noticed when I stopped:
- My legs got smaller
- My lower back started to ache – which never happens
- My metabolism slowed down
- Everything in general felt heavier
- And I felt sluggish like I’d lost the pep in my step
So while my jeans were fitting me much better, overall my body was more like WTF man!?
All it took was one heavy squat session to feel great again and here’s why I think I’ll never stop squatting again and why you shouldn’t either.
Pelvic Floor Control
I feel this is likely why my back was starting to ache more and more as time passed that I wasn’t squatting. Now it should be noted, I still performed goblet squats (with relatively very light weight as a warm-up), but I wasn’t performing barbell squats of any kind.
As the Postural Restoration Institute will tell you, pelvic floor strength is absolutely crucial to postural performance. It’s something as American’s we don’t have very much strength in.
The analogy I like to use with my clients is “closing the canister.” Picture your ribs as the top half and your pelvic floor as your bottom half. Most people have a canister that is wide open, spewing out strength and leaving them exposed to injury.
A closed “canister” is ideal; it yields strength, health, and power.
While my positional breathing exercises were helping to reset me daily, I wasn’t doing enough to “stick” my posture and sure-up my pelvis. I’ve rarely had this problem when I’ve squatted routinely.
My suggestion; perform the 90/90 hip lift and then some squats. Focusing on sensing the left heel and the right arch will help you create a better position in your pelvis and decrease your risk of injury.
Getting back to our roots
Simply put, this is what we, as humans, were meant to do. In fact there are millions of people outside the US that still squat daily. It’s a way of life. While people will argue that the hinge, the deadlift, is the most “functional pattern” I’d actually argue the squat is far more relatable.
How often do you see someone bend into a perfect hinge to pick something up? Never. While most people don’t squat to pick things up either, I will make the argument that squatting is how our bodies prefer to pick things up. Just look at a baby.
Squatting places the least amount of strain on the low back (compared to a hinge) and can be performed in a number of different variations. I’ll show you some shortly.
It’s really, really taxing on your body to squat heavy. And when you’re looking to change the composition of your body creating chaos inside your body is really the only thing that matters. That’s pretty much all you need to know.
Bodybuilders use the squat to build muscle and weight loss clients use the squat to lose weight. Both get results because of the metabolic disturbance it places inside the body. Win, Win, Win.
How Should You Squat?
There more ways to squat than you can shake a stick at. I prefer to stick to the basics and as always, get the best bang for my buck. Here are my favorite variations listed with why you may want to use them.
- Beginner – Goblet Squat
- Mobility needs – Prying Goblet Squat
- Complexes/Weight loss – Double KB Front Squat
- Muscle Growth – Barbell Back Squat
- Core Strength – Barbell Front Squat
Here are some coaching cues that can help no matter what variation you’re using:
- Find the right stance for you – play around with hip width, shoulder width, and slightly wider than shoulder width stances. There is no perfect stance when it comes to squatting. Every individual has unique biomechanics that makes his/her squat different. Simply train the one that’s best for you.
- Think of sitting “down and back” as you “pull” yourself into your squat. The down and back can be thought of as reaching back to grab a seat with your butt. The “pull” is important. Don’t just drop into a squat aimlessly, use your hip flexors and pull yourself down. This will help you gain more pelvic floor control and build a stronger squat as well
- “Hup” to get up. Making a “hup” sound will help engage your pelvic floor and give you more core control in the process.
- Don’t be afraid to use a box to set depth initially. You’d want to do this to avoid your lumbar spine from going into flexion during the end range of your squat. Unloaded this is not a problem; loaded presents a red flag and can cause injury. Use a box, step, or stacked plates to determine the appropriate height for your squat. Paused squats are great for developing strength and control at the bottom of your squat.
Clearly you can squat in a lot of different ways. My advice, find what works best for you and work at it with consistency. Don’t get blinded by the people doing fancy 1-legged variations on a Bosu Ball. You will be stronger if you stick the basics and do them really well.
Post workout Chicken Fajitas – you’ve earned it!
- 2lbs chicken breast
- 2 8oz cans diced tomatoes w/peppers
- 1 yellow, red, and orange pepper
- 1 large yellow onion
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp pepper
- 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1 tbsp honey
These were delicious! Here’s how to make them:
- Pour one can of tomatoes in the bottom of the slow cooker
- Layer half of the peppers and onions on the bottom and place chicken breasts on top
- Mix spices together in a small bowl and season chicken, flip sides and season some more
- Pour the second can of tomatoes over the chicken and layer with remaining peppers and onions. Use remaining seasoning to sprinkle over final layer of peppers and onions
- Cook on low for 6-8 hours
- Pour 1-2 ladles of the juice out of the slow cooker and throw away. Carefully remove the chicken and slice or shred
- Mix honey and lime in a small bowl and pour into slow cooker
- Add chicken and toss
- Serve and garnish with chopped cilantro
Planning is all a part of “winning the day.” Enjoy and