The Squat is one of the nine foundation movements of the CrossFit. It requires Strength, Flexibility, Coordination and Balance and when developed it can improve Speed, Power and Agility. A perfect movement for any athlete to increased performance in their field and an essential movement for all humans that wish to move freely.
It is a movements we where born to do. A toddler will have a perfect squat, but most teenager will have lost their ability. In the CrossFit PreSchool class (ages 3-5) I have not had any child that needed coaching to improve their squat. But I have seen many kids as young as 6 who have lost the ability to squat due to a lack of flexibility, balance, coordination or strength. The reason for this I am not sure, possibly once kids are off to school they spend more time in a seated position and less time playing. Possibly it is due to a child’s growth, but I would imagine children in a third world county would not have the same problem, making this less likely. It all comes back to the saying “if you don’t use it you loos it” I have been very surprised how quickly children have lost it.
Why the Squat is so Important
It is the human bodies position of rest. The access to couches and chairs have taken away our need to rest in the squatting position. The chair, insures that we never take our joints through a full range of movement and our muscles have become short and weak.
It is the human bodies position of working close to the ground. Harvesting, cooking. gathering, cleaning, tiling, concreting or building the squat allows for a human to work with their hands, on tasks that is close to the ground.
It is a fundamental moment of life, for expelling waist. If we did not have toilets, we would squat. With toilets we are doing a scaled squat or a sit to stand.
MOVEMENT BREAK DOWN
The squat uses three major joints of the human body, the ankle through dorsiflexion, the knee through flexion and hip through flexion and external rotation. In the mainstream fitness world it would be considered a compound movement, meaning it uses multiple joints. For CrossFit’s it is our foundation.
Ankle dorsiflexion – As we reach the bottom of our squat the Ankle moves into dorsiflextion by the knee tracking forward. Ankle dorsiflexion is where the toes raise towards the knee like your pointing your toes in the air. In the squat the toes remain planted on the ground and the knee tracks forward closing the gap between the toe. Lack of dorsiflexion it due to tight calfs or Achilles tendons. This is common in people who wear shoes with a raised heal. Even a 1cm raise in the heal will course tightening of Achilles tendon.
Knee Flexion – As our hips descend down our knees bend, this is called knee flexion. In knee flexion our thigh muscles are lengthening under tension. If the thigh muscles are tight the knees may not go into full flexion. Tight thigh muscles can be coursed by spending too much time in a seated position.
Hip Flexion – To initiate the squat we send our hips back closing the gap between our thigh and our chest, this is hip flexion. The muscles of our but and back of legs are lengthening under tension. Not being able to go into full hip flexion can be due to tight hamstring muscles or gluets.
Hip External Rotation – If you where to turn your foot outwards like a duck, this is external rotation of the hip. In the squat our foot remains planted on the ground but we create stability in the hip joint by externally rotating our femur.
EXECUTING THE MOVEMENT
The break down may have made this movement sound complex, well it is complex, but you don’t have to worry about the complexities. Remember you where born to do it, its just been lost along the way. My job, for adults and kids, is to bring it back and make it better, for kids that are lucky enough to have started CrossFit at the age of 3 my job is to make sure they maintain their ability to squat until the day they die.
Points of Performance
- Feet Shoulder width apart
- Hips descend back
- Hips descend lower than knees
- Lumbar Curve maintained
- Heels down
- Knees in line with toes
- Complete at full hip and knee extension
This basic human movement of squatting gets lost over time, but can most definitely be restored. Some faults we may see are.
A – Not squatting below parallel
Most of the time this is due to body awareness and can be fixed by a cue. It can also be due to lack of flexibility, balance or strength and the depth of the squat will need to be developed over time.
B – Loss of lumbar curve
The most common course is the athlete is using their body as a counter weight, due to lack of mobility in the ankle, increasing mobility will help, along with squat therapy. My favorite fix is plate squats. This can also be due to body awareness and fixed with a cue.
C – Heels Lifting
Generally this is a flexibility problem, if the athlete has tight ankles and lacks mobility in Dorsiflexion, the heal will rise. Again this can also be due to body awareness.
D – Knees Caving In
In some cases this is a body awareness fault and can be fixed with a cue. In others it is a lack of strength in the muscles used to externally rotate at the hip. Reducing the weight and maintaining external rotation of hip before going heavy.
E – Not hitting full extension
This is an awareness fault and can be fixed with a few no reps 🙂
F – Multiple Faults
It is very common to see multiple faults in our new athletes. I then triage the athlete, correcting faults by priority.
DRILLS TO IMPROVE
1 – Spending time in your squat
Sometimes the best way to improve a movement is to spend more time in the position. Hold in the bottom of your squat, making sure it is at the depth that you can maintain all of the points of performance.
2 – Squat Therapy
This is best done with a coach to cue when you are moving out of position. Once you have been coached through it a few times, this is a great warm up before class.
3 – Plate Squats
They are a great movement for developing the squat. It will fix heals raising, loss of lumbar curve and allow you to go deeper into your squat. Over weeks of practice lowly reduce the weight while continuing to maintain all points of performance.
We should be all striving for or better squat. It will improve your every day life, your ability to move freely well into your golden years, it will improve your athletic performance and skill transfer to other movements.
“Squat like it is your job” – Kelly Starret