Perfecting the squat correctly doesn't just happen overnight for most. It’s definitely an exercise with a movement pattern that requires some adjustments for each individual’s body shape and biomechanical design. Progression on the road to a perfect barbel back squat or even deadlift can be made simpler by introducing variations with increasing level of difficulty to ensure a novice lifter gradually builds the strength, balance and movement sequencing of limb extension.
I’m going to briefly discuss a technique I used recently to help correct the squat form of Hustle Harder Coaching’s nutritional adviser; Yasmin, so that we can shift the weight distribution to allow a better centre of gravity in her barbel squat. The importance of this is paramount as the foundation of weight distribution and axial alignment of the hips and spine is crucial in power generation and minimising risk of the weight causing pain in the lower back.
In the first sequence of images you'll notice Yasmin perform the barbell back squat to a good depth, with appropriate knee angle and slight positive shin angle with the weight still evenly distributed throughout her feet. The key error in this form is the hip flexion angle, which in turn leads to her chest dropping forward, bar weight is shifted forward in front of her toes (and in front of her centre of gravity). This puts her lower back in a compromised position, where the risk of injury greatly increases as weight goes up.
Excessive hip flexion during a squat can be caused by a number of potential problems. Here a few I have seen in my coaching experience:
Tight hip flexors i.e. Psoas Muscle
Not enough gluteal activation and squeeze at the top of the movement.
Anteriorly tilted pelvis (common in women with lordotic curvature in the lumbar spine)
fear of shifting weight onto the heels / mid foot as the individual feels they might fall back.
THE SOLUTION (1 Variation)
Here in the second sequence of images we can see that Yasmin has improved the slope of her back and the result is an upright torso. Squat depth is not as deep as in the first video, but that can improve over time with familiarisation of the movement pattern.
You may notice that the bar is also IN FRONT of her body, rather than on her upper back. This is known as a FRONT SQUAT with a slight variation in grip. For beginners performing the front squat, this can be challenging to create an adequate ‘shelf’ for the bar to sit on, and it can also be equally difficult for individuals using overhand grip if their wrist and elbow flexibility is limited.
Our solution - We used two small gym towels wrapped over the bar to accommodate for those who don't have adequate elbow or wrist flexibility.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
To ensure you don't get to a point in your training where your flexibility and mobility is limited, prevention is the best protection. So remember to stretch, and increase the mobility around joints in your body, particularly relating to the squat, the hip and lower back. - Stretch Psoas muscle
- Perform adduction and abduction movements around the hip regularly to increase gluteal activation, especially prior to performing squat or deadlift movements.
- strengthen core muscles (abdominals and obliques) to counter any presence of anteriorly tilted pelvis or lordotic spine curvature.
oh and always remember to get out there and..