Who Needs Air Squats?

When asked their favorite types of workouts, many CrossFitters answer, “something with cleans or snatches” or “anything with heavy lifting.”  I agree. These workouts are really fun. I feel much cooler lifting a heavy barbell than doing air squats! The problem is that many athletes fail to master the basics before progressing to these complex movements.  

Greg Glassman, CrossFit founder and CEO, built CrossFit on the concept of virtuosity – “performing the common uncommonly well.” He intended for his training program to enable participants to master the most common human movements.  The air squat is the most fundamental of these movements. Before chairs were invented, human beings were accustomed to holding the bottom of a squat. It amazes me how few CrossFitters can perform a PERFECT air squat – knees tracking the toes, chest up, weight in the heels, core tight, hips below parallel.  Shouldn’t these fit people be able to squat? Even more puzzling, how can someone overhead squat, snatch, or front squat without first perfecting the air squat?

The air squat is the foundation of many of the “cool” movements.  A few months ago, the Monthly Challenge was to accumulate 20 minutes at the bottom of an air squat.  I competed this challenge and noticed a huge improvement in my overhead squat performance. I had increased my lower body mobility and balance, high levels of which are required for a successful overhead squat.  

Athletes can be good at overhead squats, front squats, and snatches without having a perfect air squat, but they will never be great at these movements.  They will never reach full potential because there are holes in the foundation. It’s like building a house on a basement of cracked concrete. The basement can support a one-floor house, but what if I want to add a second or third floor?  The concrete will crumble under the additional weight. As I rejoice my overhead squat improvement, I am horrified at how it must have looked before I fixed the foundation.

Coaching an athlete to a perfect air squat truly excites me.  Primed for success, this athlete now has a solid base to build upon.  

Instead of going straight for the weights at open gym, practice basic bodyweight movements first – air squats, push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, hollow rocks.  Strive for perfect movement. Do this consistently and enjoy strides in weightlifting technique and load.


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By Jenny Corso
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