Coaching Gym Movement Patterns
How to Perform the Squat
WHY IS THE SQUAT IMPORTANT?
The squat is one of our primary quad dominant exercises we use with our athletes, with prime movers including the quads and glutes. The degree of quad loading is very dependent on a) the squat variation you're using, and b) the depth you're squatting too. Generally, more upright squat patterns (i.e. goblet squats, front squats) tend to be more quad dominant, whereas less upright squat patterns (i.e. box squat, low bar back squat) tend to be more glute dominant. We generally prefer to use the squat as a tool for developing quad/knee strength, and use our hinging patterns as a glute dominant pattern. Additionally the type of squat variation will also dictate what accessory muscles are being used, with upright squat patterns typically recruiting more anterior core, whereas less upright squat patterns typically recruit more posterior core. Training a squat pattern transfers to sport-specific movements where knee dominant vertical force production is important such as jumping and landing, decelerating, and accelerating.
KEY TECHNICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF A SUCCESSFUL SQUAT:
- Predominantly vertical hip movement (up and down), with slight posterior-anterior movement
- To encourage a more knee/quad dominant loading pattern
- Neutral spine
- To ensure even distribution of load throughout the thorax
- Forward and backward knee movement, with knees tracking over toes
- To ensure a quad dominant pattern with hip/knee stabilisers engaged effectively
MOST COMMON SQUAT EXERCISE VARIATIONS:
- Goblet squat
- Front squat
- Back squat
COMMON TECHNICAL ISSUES IN THE SQUAT AND HOW TO FIX THEM:
Valgus/collapse of knees
- Due either to in issue co-ordinating the squat pattern (common), or due to a lack of strength in hip stabilisers with the specific squat pattern being used (less common)
- If it's a coordination issue, we need to give them different attentional focuses to draw their attention to this issue. Common technique is to use a light resistance band around their knees to give them a tactile stimulus to push against. Note that this wouldn't work if the problem was due to a lack of strength, as you would have now just made the movement harder!
- Additionally, slowing the movement down and spending more time in the challenging position may allow the athlete more time to "figure this out".
Lack of depth or falling forward
- Usually due to shifting of weight onto forefoot rather than keeping it balanced between forefoot and midfoot. This can be due to a range of factors including a lack of post-ant movement of hips, hesitancy pushing through rearfoot/heel, lack of ankle or hip mobility, lack of varus knee/hip movement, and/or an unwillingness to bend forward at the hips and load the back
- Can be difficult to identify what specific reason is restricting depth, hence often we try several different "fixes" to identify the issue
- Firstly, start by cuing the athlete as appropriate. May need to cue to "sit back", or "push through heels", or "slight forward lean", or "push knees out". Very context dependent though, hence consider what the athlete in front of you is doing!
- If cues fail, then try using constraints or external foci to assist. A chair/box can be useful to encourage the athlete to "sit back". Small plates or similar placed under the athlete's heels will assist with ankle mobility issues. A band around the knees will assist with driving the knees out into a varus position
- Manipulating how the movement is loaded will also assist with weight shifting. Loading anteriorly (i.e. front squat or goblet squat) will force the athlete to keep their torso vertical, and therefore shift their weight forward slightly, whereas loading posteriorly (i.e. back squat) will allow the opposite.