Who doesn’t love the surge of post-workout testosterone, the tissue hypertrophy, the fat burning, and the overall increase in strength from this single exercise? I mean, Schwarzenegger sure loved squatting…
As if we didn’t have enough reasons to do it already, here’s one more reason to squat…
Squats Can Immediately Display Any Muscle Imbalances You Have.
Let me explain why.
As a compound exercise, the squat requires movement in three sets of joints: the hips, the knees, and the ankles. It also requires stabilization of the torso. Those are plenty of muscles that work to make your body squat, and that’s why it has so much impact as an exercise; it allows for many muscle groups to work simultaneously while the body is placed under a heavy load (e.g., a barbell). Essentially, any muscle located between your feet and your torso contributes to this movement.
Now, if there were any dysfunction (e.g., instability or immobility) in the muscles or joints involved with squatting, the movement will not execute properly. Basically, your squat technique will look like crap. Certain muscles over power their antagonists, other muscles are super tight, etc. You get the picture.
The squat is essentially a balancing act. To maintain a squat, your center of mass (either the barbell or your body) must be directly above the middle of your feet the entire time while you lower your butt to the ground.
If instability or immobilities prevent any of the necessary steps (moving at each of the three joints and stabilizing the torso) from occuring while you squat, you will be “out of balance”. Thus, you will fall, or worse, your body will contort itself somehow to prevent you from falling over. Now, that is why your squats suck!
Time for an analogy. The importance of functional body movement for your squats is as crucial as strong structural support for a building. It’s pretty easy to guess what happens when a building’s structural support goes wayside…
In summary, you simply CANNOT SQUAT CORRECTLY if you have any muscular imbalance or restricted movement.
However, that is the beauty of the situation.
There are different examples of “bad squats”. Each type has its own cause. By dertermine out which “pattern” you exhibit, you can figure out what you need to stretch, strengthen, and so on. It’s almost as if the squat is a diagnostic tool, pin-pointing what the underlying cause is in your body.
Now, we’ll use the squat test to determine what the hell is wrong with your body. Simply drop into a squat and either observe yourself in a mirror or record yourself on camera.
#1 – “Butt Tuck” or “Butt Wink”
Many lifters, both novice and advanced, struggle with keeping the back from rounding while squatting. The rounding typically occurs as the lifter reaches the bottom point of the squat. Flexing the spine under load can cause some serious damage.
#2 – “Over-Arched Back” or “Lordosis”
Notice in this picture that the spine is over-arched, or hyperextended. Many people confuse a deeply arched back with a neutral-posture back. They are, however, different. Just as flexing the spine is bad while holding a heavy barbell on your back, it’s just as bad to hyperextend the spine while under load.
#3 “Collapsing Knees”
Most lifters and coaches believe that all squat variations must at least break parallel, which means having the hips below the knees. The figure on the left is a squat going below parallel. The figure on the right is a squat going above parallel, with the hips way above the knees (AKA a half-squat).
Once you figure out which squat “patterns” you exhibit, check out this list of blog posts to help you understand some of these mobility- and imbalance-issues:
- Error #1, read my post of butt-wink.
- Error #2, read my post of lordosis and pelvic tilt.
- Error #3, read my post on gluteal insufficiency.
- Error#4, read the butt-wink post and my post on foot-and-ankle health.
Be sure to take time when you test yourself and experiment with different solutions, as modern living takes its toll on our bodies and creates these issues. Someone can easily have two or three of the technique issues mentioned above. I personally have had to deal with ALL FOUR issues and their causes, simultaneously, yet I had only two out of the four “error signs” listed above. That just goes to show you how messed up our bodies are.
If you think any of these issues are affecting you, I invite you to read the respective articles that discuss each issue in depth. If you’re interested in the advantages of different squat variations, check out my post on the three different squat variations. Comment below and tell me which “error signs” you can see in your squat. Happy squatting!