Whether you’ve been squatting a lot of weight and sport a fashionable red face or are fairly new to the squat game – here are some stuff that will get you, and your clients, a better squat.
The instructions on how to squat are fairly clear:
- Feet shoulder width apart (there are variations), toes pointing out (15-30 degrees on both feet).
- Neutral back through the move (spine should be fairly upright – you want to avoid rounding or hyperextending)
- NO BUTT-WINK – read more about the butt-wink here
- Pull yourself down (hips move downwards, not backwards) and stay centered on your heels.
- Knees track on the lateral aspect of the feet.
- Stay on the bottom position for at least 1 second, bouncing out of a squat can tear ligaments in your knee.
- Drive back up by pressing the ground with your heels.
Some people, physically can’t squat – even if they have the best “coaching”, if it looks like something is wrong, something probably is.
However, not being able to squat – doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it:
While many of us are missing the movement foundations needed for squatting, there are increasingly growing methods to restore and improve the movement. It is important to understand compensations are inevitable if spinal alignment isn’t good, mobility in key areas is lacking or core activation, especially the anterior core, is problematic in bi-lateral patterns. That can all results in bad squats, pain and even injuries.
Here are a few key resources to help both coaches and trainees, restore and improve squatting mechanics safely:
1. If you can’t touch your toes (hip-hinge mechanics) then you have no business squatting or deadlifting. You should work on touching your toes first – and then proceed. You don’t have to be an experienced deadlifter to squat, but squatting demands lots of hips mobility. Work on your deadlift before you squat.
2. You need ankle mobility to do squats, if you can’t dorsiflex your ankle to at least 30 degrees (45 is optimal), you will compensate. I’d make it a habit to work 30 seconds of ankle mobility on someone that didn’t have a problem, to warm-up the ankle, let alone someone with missing mobility.I’ve put together a little resource to help you with ankle mobility for squatting.
3. A heel lift, excessive out turn of the foot or even shoes – are all compensatory mechanisms for lack of dorsiflexion. This is ok as a training wheel to coach the movement but you should NOT do heavy squats with a compensation.
The biggest mistake you can make is going to the leg press machine to “strengthen your legs” – especially, if you can’t squat. Strengthening a muscle in isolation, like any use of machines, is going to break movement and if you have a dysfunction, you will put strength on a dysfunctional movement. THIS IS WRONG. FULL STOP.
7. Valgus collapse – when you see this, you should know that knee pain / back pain and even an injury are not only possible, but likely. The good thing is that by using RNT, we can fix a good majority of problems. Here’s a quick video from the incredible Charlie Weingroff.
Please also note- Both quad dominance (point 6) and Valgus collapse (point 7) – are often symptomatic of an unstable anterior core. This could be manipulated by core activation and a simple brettzel.
8. Once you can squat, start building strength, alignment and symmetry,You can either do it by loading a goblet squat on one side, or going through progressions for a pistol squat.The main thing to remember is that symmetry counts. If you can do 10 on the left and 3 on the right – don’t progress until you can do an even number.
Drop it like it’s hot. Happy squatting!