Quick Tips to Assess Your Squat

We use a squat based movement pattern in near enough every session. Their inclusion in some form in every warm up we perform highlights how functional and fundamental to effective training the squat movement is.

When we squat we see flexion at the hip, knee and ankle. This movement is performed in all of the major Olympic lifts, deadlifts and jumping so making sure this movement is dialled in is pretty important.

One of the most common impairments to this movement especially in more experienced lifters (not necessarily better) we tend to see is more anterior rotation of the pelvis meaning excessive strain is put on the lower back in order to avoid flexion or forward bending. This is often when load is added in order to counter flexion forward. It makes the lifter think they are getting lower but the movement really isn’t gaining depth through the lower body musculature. In fact the change in angle of the pelvis and forward lean of the individual is providing the extra “range.” This means there is more strain on the lower back.

So if this is the case try this challenge to help you clean up your squat. This is a good challenge to old and new trainees- aim to maintain balance while sitting all the way down to their heels while not leaning forward or coming on to the balls of your feet. Check the guy out on the right- if you look more like that than the guy on the left it may be wise to leave a bit of weight of the bar and work on your positioning.

If you fall forward it’s a good sign that your back extensors, hip flexors, quads and calves may be overactive and taking on a little too much work. Some people will remedy this by squatting with a wider stance to get lower- this is just hiding mobility issues by creating a stable wider base with less range to move through. Look where the centre of gravity is going (tip: forward). This will happen without load as you will find greater range of movement than the likely half range that you are squatting through loaded.

Why is this a negative? Well, allowing the abdominals and the other muscles around the pelvis such as the glutes to pick up the slack will result in less loading on the lower back and better force transfer. In turn not just in the squat movement but in rotational movements as well as the back and quads take the work on as opposed to the abdominals and glutes.

A good question to ask yourself is does squatting leave you with a sore lower back- if so consider dropping a bit of weight (your ego won’t suffer too much) and look to clean up your squat movement by balancing your programme and placing more emphasis on making your squat better by adjusting your strength leverages.

 

 

A bala

 

position of joint

muscular action

pressure/ breathing

 

 

 

 

 

The Deep Squat- Are They Bad For Your Knees?

I like questions to be answered by science. Not that I think that research always defines fact but more because it gives you a trend of evidence to base how you train in the gym. One of the questions that constantly appear in the realms of strength and conditioning is squat depth.

Gyms in Ware

The classic squat is a fundamental movement defined by near enough simultaneous flexion of the hip, knees and ankle. How this movement may look like varies dependent upon limb length and relative joint mobility. This exercise is fundamental to fat loss programmes, performance enhancement and is probably the most prominent body weight exercise taught to beginners looking to incorporate multi-joint exercises in to their fitness regimes.

Performing this movement until you can sit  almost to the floor is even with body weight representative of great mobility and strength. With extra  load though dumbbells or barbells the question remains that “Is this movement dangerous for the knees?”  and specifically”Are the pressures too great in the knee complex to warrant squatting to this depth” or indeed “ass to grass” to be a bit cruder.

deep-squat (1)

From a muscular activation perspective there is little extra effect on hamstring involvement from deep squatting and that if quad involvement is the primary goal then squatting deep may not give any extra reward. Where the benefits are seen is at the gluteus maximus, where there is increased muscular activation in the deep squat compared to a parallel squat. Therefore if you are targeting the hip musculature then this may be a technique that you could utilize.

The concerns around deep squating and knee pain relate to a basic study that suggested that deep squatting can cause laxity in knee ligaments including the anterior cruciate ligament. In turn though this has been refuted in studies that show improvement in knee stability and tighter joint capsules on the anterior draw test in deep squatters. Further studies have shown that ACL and PCL forces are reduced at full flexion whereas their greatest tension is found at parallel- the typical distance recommended for a safe squat. Interestingly the connective tissue, cartilage and meniscus are under increased tension in comparison to ligaments in the deep squat position. Obviously those who suffer from degenerative conditions around the knees at the cartilage, meniscus or patella may find that deep squats may not necessarily be beneficial when also looking to maintain healthy joints.

There is minimal evidence to suggest that squat depth is dangerous for those with healthy knees. It does suggest those that with chronic or acute knees issues may not benefit from deep squatting. As with any training programme the exercise needs to fit the person but those with healthy knees who want to maximise their glute development may find that deep squats are a worthwhile addition to their training programme.

Jump Squats…

As a follow on to traditional forms of weight training I quite like jump squats. Not to be confused with plyometric bounding the jump squat is a maximal jump under minimal load or just bodyweight.

Why do I think they are useful? Well to get full muscle recrutiment you need to either (i) move maximally quickly e.g. accelerate quickly or (ii) lift the heaviest weight as you can as quickly as possible.

It’s sort of highlights that high repetition training therefore will not have specific carryover to developing strength, it will in turn though enhance conditioning and can also enhance muscle mass. It’s also knocks on the head the value of super slow training in the concentric portion of the muscle movement.

Squats Continued… Box Squats

A further point of discussion is the merits of box squatting. Box squatting is as simple as it sounds, squat, sit down, stand up. However, the position and distribution of the loading is important as is your back position when seated. With spinal pressures increased in a seated position I am not one who recommends full loading- be it back squat or front squat with a full seat contact- for me it’s one of those points that I have not seen anyone hurt themselves but the fact that tension in the movement is lost during the seated portion of the movement I believe may not have an optimal carryover for function. I tend to teach a touch rather than a full sit as tension is maintained- this in turn though tends to take away from the aspect of the hip drive and being explosive as fatigue builds due to the continuous tension in the lower body.