In this blog I have tried to break the squat down into areas that I assess/look at when I am looking at the squat with the aim to help you understand its complexity along with helping you understand how to develop both your clients and your own technique.
Foot biomechanics are already complex in day to day tasks before you start putting heavy dynamic load through them. So before I go through dynamics of what I look at with the squat il go over the basics for those that aren’t already aware.
In a normal walking gait after heel strike and you put load through the mid portion of your foot, your arch (regardless of normal height) is maintained until toe off. Flat footed individuals have a lower arch and vice versa for high arched individuals however the importance is that the individual maintains their arch throughout their gait. This is shown below.
With very mobile and unsupported/weak feet in the mid stance phase or when a heavy load is directed through the mid foot, you over pronate your midfoot and abduct at your calcaneus (Heel bone).
So when watching someone’s squat technique keep an eye on their feet to see if they roll in, in particular at the bottom of the squat. If this is the case, this will alter all lower limb biomechanics.
Along with this, you need to watch where the individual is loading through their foot through-out the lift. The load needs to be directed through their mid foot on the descent and mid to hind foot on the ascent.
The ways in which you can help:
- heel raise
- check tib-talus has FROM
- widening stance
- rotate hips and feet out
- internal rotate feet
- arch supports and/or tape
- posterior tibialis training
- Talus neutral training
- Review hip and knee range
- Thoracic mobility
- Bar position
2) The Ankle:
For weightlifting squat you need about 35 degrees of dorsiflexion. For powerlifting style squat you only require normal dorsiflexion range of about 20 degrees.
The best way to test this is using the forward lunge test and your looking for about 11cm depending on anatomy.
As shown below, this looks at your soleus length more than your gastroc length.
For optimum squatting you want to prevent any heavy load at end range DF and this is where utilising Olympic weightlifting shoes are effective in keeping DF restricted. Limited to about 10-15 degrees DF. This will put your gastroc and soleus in their mid range which will help with the drive.
When watching them ascend from the squat (regadless of style) make sure they intiate plantar flexion with hip extension as they drive up and quickly reduce their DF.
Ways in which you can help:
- increase gastroc and soleus length
- mobilise tib-talus joint
- Assess and clear impingment
- Talus taping
- Raised heel
- Changing style of squat
3) The Knee:
For weightlifting you need full range of knee flexion, where as for the powerlifting style you only need 100-120 degree flexion. You need full knee flexion range with hip flexion.
Keep the knees in a neutral position throughout the lift. Make sure there is no knee valgus.
Knee valgus can be due to weak glutes, femoral or acetabular anteverted hips with a narrow stance, over pronated feet, quad dominant.
For weightlifting squat technique be aware of increased pressure through patella femoral joint and patella tendon. For powerlifting squat the majority of the load goes through the tib-fem joint.
Q angle= 14 degrees in men and 17 in women. Larger Q angles mean you’ll have to externally rotate more at hip but may increase tibial rotation so be careful.
Subjects with a larger Q-angle, however, had a significantly greater pelvic width to femoral length ratios compared to subjects with a small Q-angle.
Ways in which you can help:
- increase glute medius
- check natural hip/femur position
- Assess Q angle
- Check for over pronated feet
- Widen or narrow stance
- Rotate feet out
- Assess hip and ankle ROM and increase if needs be
- Be aware of there hip position at full depth and make sure they are not posteriorly pelvic tilting
Natural hip and femur position is key to working out which style of squat is more suited.
Anteverted femurs and acetabulums suit a powerlifting style squat more due to femoral-acetablar position at end range flexion. If you have a client with anteverted hips and do a weightlifting style squat you will have significant posterior pelvic tilt at mid to end range flexion.
Neutral to extraverted hips suit both styles but will have more hip flexion range with a powerlifting style squat which may impact spinal position.
Most hip position will decide your foot position whether you have them out turned or squared off.
You’ll know if this is an area you have to assess by looking at their ability to get to depth and when they start to posterior pelvic tilt. If they posterior pelvic tilt at about 50-70 degrees theres a good chance they have anteverted hips.
The Craigs test is best to assess this, although this is a test for femoral anteversion and the only way to assess acetabulum anteversion will be via an x-ray. The crags test is shown below.
5) The Spine:
Make sure your client can maintain their fixed spinal position throughout the entire lift. They need good lumbar and thoracic mobility and particularly into extension.
Watch for posterior pelvic tilt at the bottom of the squat (weak hip flexors, anteverted hips). Loss of lordosis will put your erector spinae in a disadvantaged position and will cause you to raise your hips before your back to enable you to utilize your spine extensors putting you at high risk of injury.
Maintain upper cervical spine (neck) flexion/chin tuck. If they extend in their upper cervical at bottom this will cause upper thoracic flexion which will cause the weight to deviate anteriorly and can cause the bar to roll up their neck. This is shown below with full depth squat upper cervical extension and the bar rolling up his neck.
Ways in which you can help:
- look at thoracic and lumbar mobility and in particular extension
- look at lat and pec lengh and stregnth
- assess hamstring length and strength
- look at hip position (anteverted vs retroverted)
- change stance
- look at hip mobility.
- Look at your client ability to hip hinge.
Hope this helps and shows the complexity of the squat. As you can see any issues are usually multifactorial so experience is the key and having a overall view from the side, anterior and posterior is ideal. Any questions leave a reply below.