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JoeTraining series: You don’t know squat

By RealJock Staff

RealJock proudly presents this four-month series of weekly training clinics with Steve Lischin of Joe Training. Joe Training represents some of New York City’s most sought-after and respected personal trainers, including Lischin, a former competitive bodybuilder whose celebrity and professional athlete clientele come to him to build the strong, healthy, and beautiful bodies they need for their careers. Each week, Lischin gives us detailed description of one of the seminal exercises from his workout plans. You can browse through these exercises to learn proper form and technique, then incorporate them into your own workout routine. Be sure to keep your eye out for interesting variations on exercises you haven’t seen before, and learn about the pitfalls you need to avoid to prevent painful injury.

So you think you know squat? You don’t know squat like this. Trainer Steve Lischin gives RealJock a step-by-step approach that gives you the full benefits of this body-building basic.

“Many people are afraid of the squat,” Lischin said, “but it offers a huge benefit to the lower body when done correctly. If done incorrectly, it carries great risk. It’s important to take into account where your body is injury wise. Knee and lower back problems can be exacerbated by squats. There are a number of variations based on your fitness level and injuries. Go slowly and don’t start too heavy.”

The key to squat is to warm up the exercise thoroughly for maximum benefit, Lischin said.

Lower back
Transverse abdominus

1. Raise your core temperature before you begin with five minutes on the bike to get your synovial fluid flowing. “It’s important to lubricate your joints before starting this exercise,” Lischin said.

2. Stretch a little bit and get ready to work.

3. When we’re doing functional training, you want to activate a deep layer abdominal muscle called your transverse abdominus (TVA). You do this by pulling your belly button in towards your spine as though you are sucking in your stomach. This sets your core to take on a supporting role and support your lower back. This is a primary step in functional training. “More important than having a six-pack, the transverse abdominus muscles are deep layer core muscles that support your spine and strengthen your low back and core,” Lischin said.

4. With your feet slightly more than shoulder width apart, torso upright, head upright, look up, make sure your chest is up and slightly throw your butt back like you are going to sit in a chair. Posture is important to take the pressure off your low back and knees. Don’t drive your knees over your feet.

5. Squat is a big exercise that engages a lot of muscles, it’s important to get used to engaging these muscles without weight. You don’t want to activate the muscles in sequence before you start with weight. Take your arms and put them in front of you parallel to the floor, like you are in a sleepwalking position. Ironically, this is harder to balance without resistance. Keep your whole foot on the floor. Sit back on your heels, inhale (don’t hold your breath) and slowly descend until the middle of your thighs are parallel to the floor. Make sure that those muscles stay activated. Slowly exhale while rising to about a five percent bend in the knee. Don’t lock your knees.

6. Line your body up in the center of the squat bar. Without any weight on the bar, inhale and descend, exhale and ascend as above.

If you have trap or shoulder issues, use kettle bells or dumbbells to warm up the exercise.

Two hands on the handle of the kettle bell, let it dangle between your legs and squat.

Add a plyometric component to it by rising from your squat quickly, releasing the kettle bell from the handles and catching the kettle bell from the bottom. Holding the kettle bell from the bottom, on your way back down, catch the kettle bell from the handles. Repeat 10 to 15 times. You want to try to functionalize the exercises as much as you can, so they are applicable to real life and real life muscle use. This prevents injury outside of the gym.

• Don’t be too reliant on a weight belt as you lift heavier.
• Pay attention to your form before you add more weight.
• Increase your reps and sets before you increase your weight.
• Always have a spotter.
• If you are squatting by yourself, use a Smith Machine.

Representing New York City's most highly sought personal trainers, Joe Training provides individualized training, yoga, and nutrition counseling to people who want to maximize their physical and mental well-being. Whether its clients want to boost their current training or yoga practice, get in shape for a special occasion, gear up for a sports event, or start a new fitness program, Joe Training identifies the most suitable coaching expert to get them there. Learn more about Joe Training’s individualized counseling services at

Steve Lischin has over 20 years experience as a private personal fitness instructor and nutrition counselor. A former bodybuilding champion with a masters degree in nutrition and certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, Lischin’s clientele includes professional athletes and teams, as well as actors and celebrities gearing up for major motion pictures and events. In addition to providing expert personal training services to his clients, Lischin has created and managed several in-house personal training departments in major health clubs in New York and New Jersey, including World Gyms of NYC. He can be reached on the web through