STRENGTH TRAINING ESSENTIALS: THE SQUAT

Steve Whelan l Engage Rehab Perform

 

The Squat as a movement is considered by many to be the epitome of strength.

Although this is the case, the difference between being able to squat and being able to squat well is considerable.

There is not one universal way to squat.  Everyone is different.

Not everyone will squat full depth, some will squat with a narrow stance, some wide and these can be due to mobility, skeletal/joint limitations or muscular weakness/imbalances.

One thing is for sure though, the only way to get good at squatting is by doing it!

Squat often and you will begin to find a position that works for you.

 

Target Actions:           Simultaneous Hip Extension & Knee Extension

Target Muscles:          Gluteals, Quadriceps

How To:                      Different for everybody. Get Comfortable!

  • Feet Shoulder Width Apart facing forward (often see slight turn out of feet)
  • Pressure through 3 Points on your foot; Big Toe, Outside, Heel
  • Active Trunk Position (neutral spine, braced trunk
  • NOTE: Chest Up will result in loss of this body position
  • Keeping your Active Trunk position, allow your knees to bend, and sit down with your hips (imagine you are going to sit down onto your heels)
  • NOTE: Do not ‘stick your hips out’
  • Control to YOUR end point (point at where you can maintain strong trunk position without rounding/excessively arching your lumbar spine), always ensuring your knees are tracking over your middle to outside toes
  • Stand back up and repeat

Common Issues:        

  • Applying the wrong cues

As mentioned above, cues such as ‘Chest Up’ (leads you to arch your low back rather than positioning yourself in a structurally sound neutral spine position), and ‘Sit Hips Back’ (leads you to ‘run out of room’ at the hip reducing squat depth and comfort, and potentially lead to low back rounding) should be avoided.  Neutral Spine, Sit Down not back!

  • Trying to push your depth past what your mobility allows

If you are struggling with depth there are a number of things that can cause that.  Common mobility limitations are Tight Ankles (limited dorsiflexion), and Tight Hip Flexors (causing anterior pelvic tilt).  Mobilise these structures, ensure you have your position right and try again!  If at any stage you round your low back or ‘butt wink’ you have gone too far!  Injuries can change this range, enquire to find out why!

  • Knees dropping in

When your knees ‘drop in’ towards each other during a squat it could be caused by a number of issues.  For the most part, it is either poor patterning, or muscular weakness.  You want to make sure your knees are tracking over your feet (approx. second toe!)

  • Not following the appropriate progressions

As a general rule of thumb (not taking into consideration your body type, limb lengths and comfort), I would recommend the following progression.

  1. Bodyweight Squat to Box (box helps control consistent depth)
  2. Bodyweight Squat
  3. Goblet Squat to Box (box helps control consistent depth)
  4. Goblet Squat
  5. Front Squat to Box (front squat position can be uncomfortable to many!)
  6. Front Squat
  7. Back Squat to Box (some people will have difficulty with mobility here!)
  8. Back Squat

This is a general progression though, you don’t need to front or back squat if you don’t want to.  You could Goblet Squat, or Kettlebell Squat and still achieve good strength progression!

If you want to become a good squatter, you will have to get comfortable being uncomfortable!  Control slowly on the way down and spend time in the bottom position with weight.  This will help you get used to the position and give you time to perfect the movement.

Earn the right to lift heavy or you WILL regret it!