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!

Dr. Phil Shares: 10 Essential Bodyweight Exercises

10 Essential Bodyweight Exercises

Bodyweight exercises are crucial to a well-rounded training routine because they’re versatile and can be done anywhere. They also teach you to control your body and help develop solid movement mechanics.

These 10 fundamental bodyweight exercises help you strengthen your joints, activate your core, target the correct muscles and sync all the muscles in your body appropriately.

1. SINGLE-LEG BOX SQUAT

The single-leg box squat strengthens your quads, improves your balance and builds powerful legs. By isolating each leg, single-leg squats also help correct leg-strength imbalances to lessen injury risk — for example, if you can do 8 reps on your right side and only 5 on your left, you’ll know to work on making the left leg stronger.

How to do it: Sit near the edge of a bench, then stand up facing away from that bench. Lift one leg and keep that leg up the entire time. Sit onto the bench and drive yourself up with the opposite leg. Once that gets easy, lower the height of the bench or elevate your feet. Then, add resistance by holding a pair of dumbbells in front of you or wearing a weighted vest.

2. SKATER SQUAT

This is a unique variation on the single-leg squat because it activates your hips and trains you to sit back on your heel to emphasize the glutes and hips.

How to do it: Start standing and lift one leg then bend it down behind you in a one-legged squat while trying to touch your bent knee onto the ground behind the standing leg. Lean your torso and reach your arms forward as you descend. If you can’t reach the ground with your knee, that’s fine — just go as low as you can.

3. HIP/THIGH EXTENSION

The hip/thigh extension helps to build strength in your all-important glutes.

How to do it: Lie on your back in a bridge position and bend one knee so that it makes a 90-degree angle to the floor and stick the opposite leg straight out — knees aligned. With your bent leg, squeeze your glute, push through your heel, push your hips up and keep your hips level as you rise. Keep your straight leg extended throughout the exercise and keep it inline with your torso.

4. PUSHUP

The pushup is one of the best upper-body exercises. It’s a must-do to strengthen your shoulders, target your chest and core and improve the health of your shoulder joint and girdle.

How to do it: Keep your elbows in as you descend, then at the top, when you think you’ve pushed all the way up, push just a little more and feel your shoulder blades roll around your ribcage.

5. PIKE PUSHUP

Use this pushup variation to target your shoulders and train your overhead-pressing muscles.

How to do it: Start in a pushup position and raise your hips until you have a straight line going from your hands to your hips. Keep your elbows in as you descend, drive yourself back up and keep your hips up the entire time.

6. INVERTED ROW

Most athletes benefit from doing more pulling exercises like the inverted row than pushing exercises like pushups. It helps develop a strong, wide back, healthy shoulders and good posture.

How to do it: Do these on a Smith machine, a power rack, a TRX suspension trainer or rings. As you row, focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together. At the bottom, sink your chest just a little to let those shoulder blades slide along your ribcage.

7. PLANK

Planks build your core and trains you to keep your torso stable against a variety of forces (essential for avoiding injuries). To do the exercise correctly, make sure to activate your core and spine and push through the floor to engage your shoulders.

How to do it: Instead of “bracing your core,” keep your ribcage down like you’re doing a mini-crunch and tuck your pelvis like you’re trying to round your lower-back — your core will turn on automatically. Then hold that position.

8. PULLUP

If you want to add “armor” on your frame and increase the size of your torso, go straight to the source with an essential bodyweight move that targets your lats, the largest muscle in your upper body.

Pullups also strengthen your grip, which carries over to many different exercises. At the top of a pullup, squeeze your shoulder blades and try to drive your chest to the bar, keeping your neck inline with your spine.

9. BEAR CRAWL

The crawl is a fundamental exercise that builds great movement patterns and targets the muscles deep inside your core. As a warmup, it’ll open your joints; as a finisher, it’ll improve your conditioning in a safe environment.

How to do it: Get on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips; keep your knees an inch above the ground. Crawl forward by taking a small step with your right arm and left leg at the same time and alternate. Keep your hips low and your head up.

10. HARD ROLL

The hard roll is an obscure exercise, but if you’re looking to improve movement and avoid pain, the hard roll is essential.

How to do it: Lie on your back with both arms overhead and both legs straight. Reach your right elbow to left knee as if you were pinching a ball in front of your chest. Now, turn your head toward your left armpit and use your head to “pull” the rest of your body until it falls onto the left side. Then, turn your head toward the right and pull your body back to the starting position. Do a few reps and then switch sides. Keep your arms and legs relaxed; it’s your core that should do all the work.

By Anthony J. Yeung

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @Forward Health Guelph