The squat is a staple exercise for strength and conditioning, general fitness, and therapeutic exercise programs. Many coaches prescribe this exercise to achieve a specific goal and therefore, it is recommended to assess the individual to achieve an optimal squat based on physical limitations and the desired outcome.
When it comes to optimal performance, there are some critical topics that must be addressed when analyzing the squat movement.
A primary goal of any practitioner is to ensure the safety and well being of the individual the squat is prescribed.
Many still question the risks and rewards of a full depth squat so let’s take a deeper dive into this! One of the most common, yet outdated coaching cues is to squat while not allowing your knees to travel past your toes. If your only purpose is to reduce strain on the knee joint without considering the consequences;
it has been found to reduce joint torque by about 22%.
However, this reduction in knee torque is replaced by an unproportional and drastic increase in hip torque resulting in a significant increase in shear forces of the lumbar spine.Therefore, adopting a more vertical torso, while squatting and allowing the knees to move freely past the toes is recommended.
This recommendation is under the assumption that the knees are physically able to freely move in that direction. Ankle mobility plays a key role in squat mechanics and those who lack the ability to dorsiflex (move knee over toe while keeping the heel on the ground) will then adopt a squat with greater torso lean and therefore transfer more force to the lumbar spine.
Join us next month to learn more about ankle mobility and the squat!
Comfort P, McMahon JJ, Suchomel TJ. Optimizing squat technique—revisited. Strength & Conditioning Journal. 2018 Dec 1;40(6):68-74.