The Back Squat: Tips from Dr. Kyle

Advanced Squatting Technique

 

 

The back squat is one of the most popular and important exercises in the development of lower body strength. Maximal back squat performance shows strong correlations with improved athletic ability.

Although this is one of the most common exercises in strength and conditioning programs there is still variation in coaching styles for the classic back squat. Over the last decade there has been an ongoing debate over what techniques produce the best back squat.

So what does the evidence show?

First I must point out that techniques that work for some people may not work for everyone. Each individual has slight variations in the structure of their hips. Some people are born with more shallow hip joints while others present with a much deeper ball and socket structure.

Contrary to popular belief, the back squat does not produce excessive strain on the ACL. As squat depth and knee flexion increases, the force through the ACL increases as well. However, there is significantly less shearing force on the ACL during the squat as compared to open chain exercises such as knee extensions.

What about depth?

As knee flexion increases, so do the forces on the patella-femoral joint and tibio-femoral joint. Training in a progressive-overload fashion and allowing proper time for recovery will help avoid injury to the quadriceps tendon.

Deeper squats have been reported to result in greater jump performance in controlled trials. A combination of both deep and shallow squats (of greater intensity) demonstrated the greatest improvement in 1 rep max strength in a recent study.

Should the knees go beyond the toes?

Current research shows that when the knees pass beyond the toes while squatting there is an increase in anterior displacement of the tibia in relation to the femur. This may lead to a greater risk of sprain or strain in the knee. Research also showed that when the squat was restricted (knees did not pass beyond the toes) there was a noticeable increase in the shearing forces in the low back. Therefore it is not recommended to restrict the knees from going beyond the toes in and effort to reduce knee strain, as this will disproportionately increase the shearing forces in the lumbar spine.

What is the ideal trunk position?

Positioning of the trunk is directly related to the range of dorsiflexion in the ankle. When the range of motion in the ankle is restricted, the body tends to lean forward during the descent phase of the squat. When full range of motion is achieved in the ankles, the knees can shift forward and the torso remains more upright. Stretching and soft tissue therapy of the posterior calf muscles prior to squat training will therefore improve ankle mobility and prevent excessive forward lean.

Where should I be looking?

Downward gaze while squatting is associated with a greater forward lean. Maintaining a more upward gaze will keep the torso upright and prevent excessive shearing forces in the low back.

Last but not least: Foot position

Foot position will be slightly different for each lifter. A “natural” foot placement is recommended. This means roughly shoulder width apart with the toes pointing slightly outward. As mentioned before, everyone has different anatomical structure of the hips, ankles and knees. Foot placement will therefore be dependent on the natural rotation of the hips.

So what is the optimal back squat technique?

• Heels remain in contact with the floor
• Gaze forwards and upwards
• Natural stance width and foot positioning
• Full depth (115-125 degrees)
• Knees tracking over toes
• Chest up, relatively upright posture, neutral spine

As always, these are just recommendations and each individual should use precaution when beginning a new exercise. Please refer to a qualified strength and conditioning coach or a licensed health care professional for a complete movement assessment. Call 519-826-7973 or visit www.forwardhealth.ca to set up an appointment with Dr. Kyle today!

Visit https://www.facebook.com/drkylearam/ for video demonstrations and more!

Tips to Improve Your Running

Do you want to run farther? Run faster? Or simply run with greater ease? These tips are for you!

 

 

Cadence

• Try to run at a rate of 180steps/min. This will help decrease the force per stride on your knees, reduce risk of injury and minimize wear-and-tear on the joints.

Mid-foot Strike

• Leading foot should land under your center of mass. When you heel strike ahead of your center of mass it creates a backwards “braking force” that makes each stride less efficient and will slow you down.

Hip Stability

• The pelvis needs to be stable and hips should remain at the same level. If the hips are moving up and down with each stride, this may be an indication of glute weakness and poor muscular control.

Rotation

• Core should be stable and prevent rotation through the torso. Arms should swing straight back and forward and not side-to-side across the body.
TIP: your feet will follow the direction you swing your arms.

Bounce

• The force you generate should be propelling you forward and not upward. Reducing vertical oscillation will limit wasted energy.
TIP: less ground contact is optimal.

Hip Extension:

• Hips must be mobile enough to extend the leg back past your body. Proper glute activation will help extend the hip back and save the stress on your low back.

Try to incorporate one tip at a time into your daily or weekly run. If you have any questions on proper running technique feel free to email me at drkyle@forwardhealth.ca!

The Role of Physical Therapy Postpartum

Concerned about post-pregnancy recovery?

 

 

During and after pregnancy, many women experience abdominal muscle seperation caused by stretching and thinning of the inter-abdominal connective tissue. This condition is known as Diastasis recti and is characterized by a >2cm separation of the rectus abdominis muscles at the level of the umbilicus. Many women will describe that they are able to feel a 2-finger width separation in their central abdominal muscles.

What causes abdominal muscle separation?

The most obvious contributor to this condition is increased abdominal pressure due to a small human growing inside you. This is compounded by pregnancy related changes in hormones that increase ligament laxity throughout the body. Weak abdominal muscles and insufficient tension in the network of connective tissue will increase the risk for developing diastasis recti.

  • intra-abdominal pressure
  • hormonal changes
  • weak abdominal muscles
  • strained fascial tissue

How do you treat abdominal muscle separation?

Do not be alarmed! This condition is relatively common and usually resolves on it own. For some women, separation of the abdominal muscles can last for months and even years postpartum. In rare instances invasive medical procedures are required to resolve the condition. The good news is, physical therapy before and after pregnancy can greatly improve patient outcomes.

  • nothing
  • breathing exercises
  • physical therapy
  • pre-pregancy exercise

I will let you in on one important exercise that is easy to perform in the privacy of your own home. This exercise is known as belly breathing. While keeping the rib cage down, push the belly button out as you inhale. This is done by contracting the parachute-like muscle known as the diaphragm.  This muscle pulls the lungs down and allows them to expand. Feel free to pause for a moment at the peak of your inhale and notice the fullness of the lungs. Next, draw the belly button in towards the spine as you exhale. Place one hand on your chest and one on your stomach so you can feel your belly rise and fall with each breath.

As you continue to expand and contract your abdominal cavity you will start to exercise the inner muscular layers of the torso. By repeatedly activating these deep abdominal muscles the connective tissue will begin to retract and close the gap in the outer abdominal wall. As always these are only recommendation and a proper in-person assessment from a qualified health care professional should be completed before starting a physical rehabilitation program.