Squats are a full-body compound exercise which means they work across multiple joints and muscles including your hips, knees and ankles, as well as the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. More importantly, they are a great functional movement we do every day of our lives whether you are in the gym, or at home picking up your kids, or even getting up out of a chair. Practising this movement is a great thing to do at the gym, especially if you have been recently injured, as they help to ensure that you feel confident bending and squatting in everyday life.
Rather than talking about how to squat, I thought I would talk about what can go wrong with a squat (we see these commonly!)
- Foot position: Turn toes out or toes straight? There is no right answer to this question and ultimately you need to do what feels right. If you feel that you need to turn your toes out you may have some tightness around the hips. This may be due to muscular tightness around the hips and lower back, or it may be related to anatomical changes around the hip joint. You my just feel more comfortable with toes turned out due to structural changes such as tibial torsion (rotated tibia).
- Knee alignment- as you bend at the hips and knees at the same time, your knees should follow the alignment of the middle of the foot, and your weight should feel like it is more on the heel than the forefoot. A great thing to think about as you are coming down into the squat is splitting the floor underneath you. Knee alignment can be affected by the strength and ability to activate the glutes as well as ankle and calf flexibility.
- Butt wink- As you drop down into your squat, bending the hips and knees at the same time, your back and pelvis should aim to maintain their position throughout the movement. “Butt Wink” is the movement of your pelvis as you bend at the hips where it tips or winks to flatten out the back. People who are tight in the hip flexors and lumbar spine will struggle to maintain their “neutral” back position.
- Head Position- Resting the bar across the back of the shoulders can be troublesome especially if you are naturally rounded and tight across the shoulders and chest and may result in a forward head position. This will especially affect you if you sit at a desk all day, as we naturally round forward/slouch as fatigue of the day kicks in.
If you are finding that you are struggling with your squats, or simply bending at home you may want to check in with your Physio at Bend + Mend in Sydney’s CBD to assess your mobility and strength around your lumbar spine, hips, knees and ankles to narrow down why your body is overcompensating or not coping with taking the load.