We’re often misled as to what quantifies a quality squat.
You see countless individuals in a gym loading the bar with just enough weight to make the bar bend and performing their said number of reps and sets, moving from point A to B, this often being no real range at all, all the while grunting and straining with every ounce of strength they possess. The squat may look horribly painful, but hey it was impressive weight!
Or other gym frequenters drew into group classes performing countless repetitions for long durations until pain and exhaustion set in with limited to zero focus on depth or tempo. Using the same weight since they started the class 3 years ago.
So who will progress their squats, and why or how will they judge this improvement?
All jokes aside, it’s important to remember any form of exercise should be encouraged, and we all have to start somewhere. With a population encountering an increasing obesity epidemic, making any kind of attempt to train should be applauded! That being said, attempting to better oneself each and every time you set foot in the gym is a guaranteed way to experience progress!
The ability to squat and squat well does not just happen for everyone. For some it takes years and countless sessions practising and perfecting it. First, the individual must critique their technique through the keen eye of a good personal trainer, or ask a friend to film it then watch it back and criticize until perfect.
Once faults have been established it is important to then focus on strengthening them. Whether this occurs through a weakness or poor mobility it needs be addressed. Sometimes through simply adding small changes to your program, or in some cases, a step back to focus on and target a significant issue as you may not be ready to squat.
A mistake made by most trainees is assuming that big complicated movements are just a simple natural progression. Assuming that once you have been in the gym a few times, you are now qualified to perform these movements as well as give advice. You need to earn it!
Some common indicators of poor biomechanics/weaknesses when squatting are as follows:
- Hips sit back with whilst the torso is driven forward.
- Often a limitation affecting a lot of females is the knees collapsing in when descending or ascending.
- Limited forward movement at the ankle joint.
- Lower back tucks at bottom of the movement and back is rounded.
This is merely a few of a handful of biomechanical observations limiting squatting capabilities. Identifying issues like these is something that we often do during our initial structural balance assessments at PPT, and will often do as part of our new small group Modified Strongman sessions.
Proper depth in a front squat
So what can you do to improve your squat?? Firstly you can seek the aid of a quality personal trainer, or a few things you could try yourself.
Before squatting achieve a basic level of strength and balance. In order to perform optimally, you require a sound level of structural balance. Try adding various types split squats and step-ups to your program before squatting.
Squat with a full ROM (range of motion), hamstrings to calves.
If you are unable to perform a squat with a full ROM you need to identify why. Sometimes its as simple as slightly raising the heels with a weight plate and seeing if this improves your squat. If it does you need simply stretch your calves!
Start small and slowly build.
Once you have mastered the ability to squat well does not mean you have mastered the ability to add 10kg to your squat every week! Record your results, plan your progression and make it slow and deliberate. Progression will happen naturally, but not if you sacrifice quality for quantity. This will lead to imbalances and weaknesses stalling your results and bringing you back to square one.
Good luck & Train hard
By Former PPT Personal Trainer, Mark Jordan