The Squat

The squat is probably the most well-known exercise in the health and fitness industry. It is considered a compound movement of the lower limbs that requires not only strength but neuromuscular control and adequate joint mobility to perform correctly.

The squat is not just an integral component of our learned movement patterns; it is also performed in multiple sports and occupational tasks. We start squatting before we learn to walk and our bodies are made to move like this. It is also one of the most common movements we retrain here in the clinic!

So, what is the best squat technique?

Unfortunately – there isn’t just one technique, everyone is different and there is a range of different squat variations. However, there are a couple of common ways to squat at work, home and at the gym.

Squat at work vs
Squat whilst gardening

As shown in these two photos squatting down to pick up an object in a workplace versus a squat variation while gardening.  These two positions are quite different as they stress different structures of the body and serve a different purpose but are commonly used throughout the day.

 


To perform a great squat you need:

  • ankle, hip, and spinal control
  • good range of motion at the ankle hip and knee

A deficiency somewhere, such as weakness or tightness,  could cause incorrect loading sequence and poor movement patterns – leading to potential injury, pain or poor performance.


Squatting in different ways throughout the day is a normal, healthy part of life but certain aspects, such as repetitive movements, prolonged positions and movements, and load that the body can’t handle can lead to problems over time. If you are squatting as part of a gym routine there are other factors that need to be considered to accommodate the right squat technique.

These are variations of squatting with a barbell at the gym.

Top Tips for squatting in a gym setting:

Due to the mechanical requirements inherent to the task, it would be incorrect to squat as above during a back squat because the heels are lifting off the ground and there is an excessive bend of the low back.

Proper mechanics for a back squat in a gym setting involve:

  • the heels to keep flat on the ground,
  • knees to be slightly in front of toes (during a side on view) and in line with the 2nd toe (while looking straight on).
  • The hips and back should keep their normal curve and not deviate to one side or collapse through the trunk.
  • The head and neck again should be kept looking straight and not excessively bent or arched (this can be seen in the above picture).

The depth of the squat and feet width is dependent on the individual but usually going as low as typical chair height with the feet just wider than shoulder width is a good starting point.

In summary

  • Squats are a crucial part of our developed movement patterns (we are meant to squat!)
  • Different variations are performed throughout the day – one technique can’t be applied to all activities
  • Usually, squats require adequate ankle, knee, hip and spinal mobility as well as control and strength to perform well
  • Performing squats correctly is important to prevent injury, rehabilitate an injury and improve sporting performance

Written by Physiotherapist Timothy Cottman-Fields

 


What do you do if you can’t perform a great squat???

Here are our Top 3 Stretches to help optimise your squat!

Quads stretch for knee movement
Hip flexion stretch for hip movement
Soleus stretch for ankle movement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What if I still don’t have enough movement to perform my squat???

Squat Hacks

Here are a couple of squat ‘hacks’ if you don’t have adequate range of motion in your knees, ankles or hips to do a deep squat:

Place a rolled up towel or piece of foam under your heels if your ankles are stiff
If your knees are stiff you can pop a towel or pillow behind your knees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you have pain or problems during a squat this may warrant a visit to your physiotherapist – please contact our helpful team on (07) 47 240 768 for bookings and enquires.