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It Doesn’t Mean Squat. Or Does IT?

The squat is a fundamental movement which is essential for physical activity, whether it be activities of daily living, exercise, or more complex/technical sporting activities.

Optimal squat patterns are critical for sport performance, injury risk reduction and to support lifelong physical activity.

By deconstructing the technical performance of the squat, this movement can be used as a dynamic screening assessment tool to identify functional deficits within the neuromusculoskeletal system which can provide a more accurate target for corrective therapies and exercise.

The back squat assess the Kinetic Chain for:

  1. Neuromuscular control
  2. Strength
  3. Stability
  4. Mobility

Ultimately, the squat tells you where the faulty movement lies within the body, which potential muscles and joints are involved and where to focus corrective strategies for the treatment of pain and injuries, prevention of future injuries and optimizing sports performance.

As an exercise, the back squat is is one of the most effective ways to enhance performance as  it necessitates the coordinated interaction of numerous muscle groups and strengthens the prime movers needed to support explosive athletic movements, such as jumping, running, and lifting.

In addition,  proficiency of the back squat translates to  everyday tasks, such as lifting and carrying heavy objects, which relates this exercise to improve quality of life.

The back squat exercise is performed in a standing position with the feet flat on the floor, the knees and hips in a neutral, extended anatomical position, and the spine in an upright position with preservation of its natural curves.

The squat movement begins with the descent phase as the hips, knees, and ankles flex. A common instruction is to descend until the top of the thigh is at least parallel with ground and the hip joint is at least level with or slightly below the knee joint.

Ascent is achieved primarily through triple extension of the hips, knees, and ankles, continuing until the individual has returned to the original extended, starting position.
Identification of Biomechanical Deficits During The Back Squat

The basic squat movement can highlight biomechanical deficits at the major KInetic Chain checkpoints that can help to explain the cause of  pain or recurrent injuries, predict future injuries and  possible ways to enhance performance,

These deficits  can be categorized as:

  1. Inefficient motor  coordination or recruitment
  2. Muscle weakness
  3. Strength asymmetry
  4. Joint instability (strength)
  5. Joint immobility
  6. Muscle tightness (mobility)

The Overhead Squat Assessment (Try this at home in front of a mirror or with a partner)

Positioning

  • Foot/Ankle– Shoes off. Feet Shoulder width apart and pointed straight ahead w/ neutral position at the ankle 
  • Knee– Straight ahead in line w/ 2nd and 3rd toes
  • Lumbo-Pelivic-Hip Complex– Neutral spine with abdominals drawn in
  • Shoulder and cervical spine– Neutral spine, center of shoulder in line with center of hip joint. Raise shoulders overhead. with elbows fully extended
  • Head– Neutral, center of ear in line with center of shoulder

 

Procedure

  • Squat to chair height
  • Repeat five times
  • View from the front, side and back

 

Common Compensation Patterns

Front view- Feet flatten or turn out; Knees move in or out

Side view– Low back arches; Low back rounds; Excessive forward lean; Arms fall forward

Back view- Feet flatten; Heels rise; Asymmetrical weight shift

 

These compensation patterns identify areas of:

  1. Overactive muscles
  2. Undeactive muscles
  3. Joint dysfunction
  4. Mobility problems
  5. Stability problems

 

Once the dysfunctional kink(s) in the Kinetic Chain are identified with the screen, isolated range of motion and manual muscle testing can hone in on the precise structures involved, thereby streamlining the most efficient corrective interventions.

 

Key Points

  • The squat assessment allows a professional to identify biomechanical deficits
  • Biomechanical deficits can cause pain and/or injuries, as well as impede performance
  • The squat effectively helps to target corrective strategies such as manual therapies and corrective exercises which can address these functional limitations and imbalances

 

How’s your Squat?

 

References

 

https://www.nsca.com/uploadedFiles/NSCA/Resources/PDF/Education/Articles/NSCA_Classics_PDFs/the_back_squat_a_proposed_assessment.pdf

 

Clark, M., & Lucett, S. (Eds.). (2010). NASM essentials of corrective exercise training. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

 

About the Author

Dr. Geoff Lecovin

Naturopathic Physician/Chiropractor/Acupuncturist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist/Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist/Certified Sports Nutritionist/

View all posts by Dr. Geoff Lecovin