Recently I had the opportunity to spend some time with Chad Vaughn, 2 time Olympian weight lifter and 8 time National Champion. www.crossfitcentex.com/vaughn-weightlifitng-seminars His teaching and approach is fresh, pragmatic and provided new insight to me. He taught about being “comfortable in the bottom.” I had never really thought about it the way he presented it, but if you’re ever going to be able to accept weight in a clean or snatch in the bottom, you have to develop comfort there. The problem with most athletes is that they don’t develop enough comfort in a relaxed bottom position. When they then come under load, they either can’t get there or get there without enough experience and movement training that they lose position and the lift is failed.
Finding comfort in the bottom of the squat means that you allow yourself to go as deep into the squat as your existing mobility and strength will allow. For many of you, that may not be very deep. The goal once in the bottom is to keep the weight in the mid-foot, chest as upright as possible and active back, yet while relaxing enough to get low. This dynamic to static stretch is also consistent with Thomas Kurz work in, “Stretching Scientifically.”
To promote a deeper receiving position for heavier loads during the snatch and the clean, you will have to be able to be comfortable with body weight, the bar, and progressively heavier loads. There is no better way to develop that position than to do it! That’s right, do it! Using dynamic stretching and static stretching under load, you can gradually sink into the maximum range of motion. This doesn’t happen immediately upon performing it. If you watch videos of proficient olympic weightlifters, you will see one common trait, they all sink to the bottom of maximum range of motion of the ankles, knees, and hips.
Here is a simple exercise you can start to work on becoming a bottom dweller. Using the acronym ARE, Awareness Reality, and Exaggerated. Start your work with a simple set of 1×5 air squats with a 5 sec pause at the bottom in the following 3 positions; feet flat on the floor in a bottom receiving position squat, toes elevated on 5 lbs plates, and heels elevated on 5 lbs plates. No object or load is used initially. Work on this and progress to PVC, then the bar, and light loads. Then incorporate squat training for 3×5 with a 5 sec pause at the bottom of the squat with 50-60% of your 1 RM and work up from there over the course of 30 days. Perform this 1-2x a week as an added training intervention. Use the load to develop mobility at the bottom, but transition the load so that it is promoting the position and not to heavy causing protective guarding. Don’t avoid working the bottom of the squat when sore or after a hard day of leg training. That doesn’t mean you need or have to go under load again, but getting back to the bottom position and restoring movement ROM will help you maintain what you have gained and improve.
Be a bottom dweller!