There are only 2 things that come to mind for most athletes when I tell them it’s time to squat… It’s either welcomed with open arms or absolute disgust.
Once you throw together the posterior chain, core and shoulder girdle into one consistent and braced movement; you generally have some unhappy campers across the board even if they are the hardest of the hard. Most of the time, however, the squat is the worst because of just that… All of the odds and ends that make up your foundations to the movement. How do we fix this? It’s pretty simple…
Strengthen the core.
Build on the basics.
….every damn day.
Range of motion through the posterior chain is first and foremost the end all-be for a beginner in the squat. What do we do the best day-in and day out? Sit… We are racked up on our ass almost half the time we are even at the gym, let alone at work or at home. Sitting shortens ROM and weakens every chain of the human body, so our main focus first is to open that range of motion for work through some flow-style dynamic stretches.
First we get the body warm through 5-10 minutes of light cardio…
Warm supple tissues respond well to stretching. Find a mat or solid surface and start on all fours. Most of you familiar with yoga will know these positions as Pigeon and Down-Dog. To start:
- Plant palms to the floor.
- Push your head through your locked arms and pike up your hips in the air like a bad Miley Cyrus video.
- Keep your spine straight, as well as your legs, creating a triangle from heels to hip and hip to palms.
- From here, “flow” one leg forward, knee to the chest and then interiorly rotate the lower leg at the hip placing your foot around your opposite hand.
- Rest your bodyweight down to open the glute and IT band. You should also feel a stretch throughout the hipflexor/quad on the outstretched leg behind you.
- Repeat back to down-dog, then pigeon with the opposite leg.
Now that we are nice and warm from our dynamic stretches, we want to move on to some myofascial release work. Hard foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and other trigger point/myo equipment would be suggested.
“Fascial tissue is basically a sheath around your muscle… unmoving and tough.”
This tissue tends to stick or lose its ability to “glide” with your ROM when overly static, inflamed or injured. With that in mind, suggesting you are recovered and uninjured…, this sticking limits range of motion causing issues with mobility under load making your squat depth questionable or possibly dangerous (Did you make sure you aren’t injured already?)
“Work through multiple slow passes with a well-graded roller, around 20-30 passes along the Quad, Hamstring, T-Spine and Glute”.
Lastly, strength in ROM is also key to maintaining a proper execution of a squat whether it is weighted, body-weight or what have you. In many cases, poor squatting under the bar can be caused from lack of “practice”.
“Tempo work (timed movement in the eccentric and concentric portions of the movement) helps develop body awareness and range of motion within a movement.”
In a good deal of cases the squat breaks down from the athlete not being aware of glute activation, spinal alignment, footing and knee traction. Using a tempo squat and well-placed bands, an athlete can help correct and locate weaknesses for their squat.
Set yourself or your athlete up in squat position, ready to go. With a 3 second eccentric and concentric count, execute your squat working to depth, maintaining full ROM. I find the hardest to first teach a lifter is abduction of the hip and tracking of the knee. To correct this:
- Place a band around the athletes low thigh right above the knee. This should be tight enough to stretch when preparing to squat.
- During the squat, the athlete should push the knees out to track with the toes, engaging proper glute and ham activation.
- Another way to band an athlete is to have them hold a stretched band straight out while maintaining thoracic spine activation. These 2 places are where most squats are won and lost through weakness or lack of activation.
Being as all assistance should include proper core work, use these small tools with anyone from beginner lifters to elites with bad habits. Bad habits limit progression and could mean a meet PR. Get squattin’!
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The information provided in this article, as well as this web-site blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice for any condition. Always consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. By reading this disclaimer, you hereby agree and understand that the information provided in this column is not medical advice and relying upon it shall be done at your sole risk.