You & Your Squat!
Dr. Steven Scappaticci, B.Sc., CSCS, DC, FRCms
The squat! Some love it, while some don’t but we all know it. Regardless of your stance on the squat exercise, it is one of the most functional exercises a person can do. Some individuals train for specific sporting events or for weight loss, however how about just training for regular life?
Have you ever watched a toddler pick something up off the ground? Do they bend with straight legs? Do they ever have a hand on their back to help support them? NO! They squat down! This is a movement some take for granted, as many adults cannot properly move like this.
Squatting regularly will make a world of a difference when you’re 80 years old and trying to get up and down on the toilet!
Many variations exist when it comes to squatting. From the classic back squat, to the much more challenging overhead squat, there are various types to challenge your whole body. Some other common variations include: front-squats, goblet squats, cossack-squats, pistol squats…the list goes on and on.
How many of us actually squat with true perfect form? The answer is essentially zero, especially as our reps/sets & weights increase. A “good squat”, when it comes to “form”, consists of utilizing multiple joints within the whole lower body, as high up as the lower rib cage/abdominals to as low as the foot (obviously!). This can be something people lack as they are not mobile in one area of their body and they have to compensate by using surrounding joints.
In order to squat properly, one must have the proper “joint prerequisites” to do so. This means that adequate ankle dorsiflexion, knee flexion, hip flexion, lumbopelvic control…etc. are all required, and then some!
Starting with the basics, one must brace and control their spine. What this means is that things need to be held tight but allow for controlled motion. Ideally we would like our low-backs to be very stabile during the squat via our “core”.
At the same time we want to be able to control our spines during the motion. Often times people experience uncontrolled lumbopelvic motion at the bottom of their squat, and experience pelvic-tilting, often referred to as “butt-wink”. We also want to avoid any flaring of our ribcage or hyperlodosis of our lumbar spine.
The whole movement should be initiated by “sending the hips back”, a phrase said very often by coaches in gyms. This helps to keep the knees from sheering forward significantly, which is often a culprit of pain in the front (anterior aspect) of the knee. The hips are a significant (but not the only) contributor to achieving squat depth.
Sticking with the knees, it is important to keep the knees inline with the feet (which are usually turned out to help the hips move) or “out” and prevent them from caving inward. This will help to get those glutes nice and worked as well as prevent any pain on the inside (medial aspect) of the knee.
Continuing down the chain, we want our ankles to move well for us (via dorsiflexion) so we can get down into the squat and not have the whole movement relying on the knees and hips to get us lower.
Previously, we talked about the knees caving in as we squat, which can also happen due to foot arch collapse. It is important to have strong intrinsic foot musculature to help prevent arch collapse and potential injury.
It should be noted that there are a number of other factors that haven’t even been touched upon yet. Things like proper breathing technique and upper body joint prerequisites required for many of these squat variations, however these prerequisites vary for each type of squat (think shoulder flexion requirements for front squats vs. overhead squats) thus will not be described in detail here.
So after all of this, perhaps a more complex movement than you may have initially thought, we see that the squat is an intricate maneuver yet the key to keeping your lower body moving well. After all, when it comes to mobility…if you don’t use it, you DO lose it!
Interested in learning more? Perhaps you’d benefit from some mobility work? Get treated today! Call (905) 682-3447.
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