Squatting is what we call a 'fundamental movement pattern', which we start performing from a very young age (i.e. as infants, see image below). It is a compound multi-joint, multi-muscle movement skill. It is no coincidence that it is consistently included in gym programmes. It can be utilised to improve one's capacities (e.g. strength, power or speed), enabling high levels of force expression during sports skills.
In strength & conditioning literature, an optimal technical model for squatting exists. This implies that there are better and more efficient ways of squatting. However, one must remember that as humans, variations in our anthropometrics exist (i.e. shallow or deep hip joints, different torso lengths and varied femur lengths), which will affect how we fit into this technical model.
If you're completely new to squatting (i.e. you have a low training age) or you've been squatting for years and you now have pain, then the following 5 Quick Tips are aimed at improving your squat. Try each one individually and if it improves your squat then great. If it doesn't, then move onto the next one and see if the next one helps. The following tips will definitely allow you to squat closer to the optimal technical model, but they will also help to identify any deficiencies that you need to work on.
(Infants start to master the squat between 10-20 months)
Work Through These 5 Quick Tips & Improve Your Squat Immediately!
#1 Upright Trunk!
The aim during the squat is to try and keep your trunk as upright as possible throughout
An increased forward lean (see image below) will mean increased forces acting on your lumbar spine (lower back)
Cues: Keep your trunk as upright as possible & look straight forwards (not down).
Sub-Optimal: An Increased forward trunk lean
Optimal: A more upright trunk position
#2 Hold a Weight Out in Front!
Balance is often the most important factor that needs addressed during a squat
If we can't keep our centre of mass over our base of support (i.e. our feet), then we'll feel like we're going to fall backwards (see image below)
Cue: Hold a 3-5kg dumbbell or kettlebell out on front of you (i.e. a goblet squat) whilst you squat. If this stops that feeling of falling backwards, then great
It might even help your trunk to stay more upright also (see #1 above)
Sub-Optimal: Forward trunk lean
Optimal: A more upright trunk position can be achieved by holding a kettlebell
#3 Raise Your Heels!
To be able to squat with your thighs parallel to the floor, we require our shin bone (i.e. our tibia) to have the ability to move forwards over a fixed foot
A lack of ankle mobility (i.e. dorsiflexion) can restrict this ability and therefore reduce the quality of your squat
It is common to observe a lack of ankle mobility in people with previous ankle sprains or lower limb fractures / surgery
The body will often compensate for a lack of ankle mobility, by failing to get into a deep squat position or by externally rotating the lower leg and/or pronating your foot
Cue: place a 1 inch object (gym plates work really well) under both heels
If this improves your squat and removes your compensations, then you may have an ankle mobility issue that needs addressing
#4 Widen Your Stance!
If you are having trouble getting your thighs parallel to the floor during a squat, whilst maintaining an upright trunk, then try this
Cue: Widen your stance. First point both feet to either 10-to-1 or 5-to-2 on a clock face. Secondly, widen your feet so that the inside of your ankles are in line with the outside of your shoulders
Widening your base of support and externally rotating your legs will allow the hips to access more internal rotation as you squat
KEY POINT: now that your feet are wider, you will need to consciously drive your knees out as you squat down, or else your knees with drop into what we call valgus (see image below)
Sub-Optimal: Notice the knees drifting inwards with this wider stance position, with a loss of the right foot arch also
Optimal: Drive the knees outwards and 'sit into the hole' as you squat
#5 Repeat, Repeat, Repeat!
If you're new to squatting, then you need to spend time practising the correct movement pattern so that it eventually becomes thoughtless. Remember that squatting is skill, so it can be developed just like learning the guitar
There are many squat variations (see images below) that you can practice
If you're in pain during or after squatting, then making the subtle adjustments mentioned above can definitely help. You may require a more in depth squat analysis however, which is why we perform a 1-hour Comprehensive Squat Video Analysis Sessions. See below for further details.
What To Expect During Your Squat Assessment
A Comprehensive Video Analysis of You Squatting
Live In-Session Feedback
Mobility Testing (Ankles, Knees, Hips, Shoulders & Spine)
Specific Exercise Prescription (sent via our easy to use app)
Post-Session Analysis (sent via email)
What Our Clients Say
"I recently underwent a Squat and Hip Hinge Analysis with Declan, a physio who previously helped me overcome my ankle/foot injury. For the analysis he used live video feedback to assess my squat, making subtle adjustments there and then, giving instance improvements. I'm now squatting in the gym with more confidence than before. If you want a better squat and to reduce your pain whilst squatting, then I highly recommend a squat video analysis.."
If you would like to know more about how to improve your squat technique or to help reduce your pain whilst squatting, then book in a 1-hour long consultation below. We video analyse your squat, find out where your deficiencies lie and provide cues and exercises to help you improve. You will see immediate improvements within the session.
Book online following the link below, or drop me an email at email@example.com for further information.
Reduce Your Pain & Improve Your Squat Today!