Top tips to perfect your squat.

The back squat , sometimes referred to as the king of the lifts and rightly so. As an exercise it directly relates to many simple daily activities such as getting up from a chair , going up and down steps etc. Its also a great way to increase overall leg strength for sports performance and rehabilitation of lower limb injuries and back pain.

Everyone also seems to have an opinion on the squat from  how low you should go to how to squat to get the most out of it .

How low should you squat ?

King of the lifts : The squat

All squatters are different, therefore, all squatters will squat differently. So how low should you go and what are the determining factors ?

How low you can go is determined not by someone screaming at you to go lower its about mechanics and anatomy.

 

 

Subtle differences in our anatomy mean that we all have a “path of least resistance” for movement. By exploiting this path we can often negate unnecessary injury , never is this more true of the squat.

The three main areas of movement  restriction affecting squats are:

  • Hips
  • Low back
  • Ankles

To find your most efficient squatting path here are some simple mobility tests  for  these areas to help you determine how you should set up your squat.

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Hip range of motion and Squat depth.

Stuart McGill, of low back rehab fame, has discussed that there is an anthropological variation that affects the depth of a persons squat.

As he describes it the western European or “Celtic hip” is deeper and restricts range of flexion available thus restricting squat depth. The further east you travel through Europe and into Asia you tend to find hip sockets becoming shallower and allowing greater range of motion.

This not only determines squat depth but will also determine the best stance for you to squat in. A simple cue for your squat stance is to imagine you are about to jump up as high as you can. You will likely adopt the most natural squatting stance for you ! Then turn your toes slightly out wards.

Here is a simple test to determine your hip mobility for the squat.

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Low back Mobility and squat depth.

The ability to maintain a neutral spine while squatting allows for a more efficient path of movement. It also allows for optimal contribution of the core muscles  to maximize performance and minimize the risk of injury.

By changing the width of the stance and  hip rotation can affect the ability to maintain a neutral spine. For the deeper hip socketed amongst us that may mean a wider hip stance with the femurs more externally rotated.

To test your best stance position for your low back try this simple test.

The squat and ankle range of motion.

The most neglected and possibly simplest solution to maximising safe squat depth is ankle mobility. A reduction in ankle mobility can potentially increase the stresses going through the hips and spine by a factor of 10, ( fry et al 2003).

Ideally you want dorsiflexion to be greater than 10cm on the knee to wall test. Here is how to assess your ankle mobility.

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Make the squat fit you not the other way round

The squat is a great exercise for many aspects of joint and body health as well as building lower limb and core strength. The trick as always is make the exercise fit you not the other way round. Unless you are a competitive weightlifter then full range of motion may not be essential for you to get the benefits of squatting.

Squat technique and variations:

There are plenty of variations to try as well as finding your groove.

  1. Goblet Squat:
  2. Box Squat
  3. Heel raise Squat
  4. Front Squat
  5. Saftey Bar Squat
  6. Belt Squat

If you want to find your squat groove give us a call or book in with one of the team

Cheers

Dave

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