The squat is a simple movement, but requires complex interaction between multiple muscle groups to be performed correctly. A small imbalance in strength, control or movement in any area can have a flow on affect impacting other areas.
The squat is a both a great exercise but also a useful assessment tool to highlight areas that may be putting you at risk of injury or holding you back from performing to your potential. For example, your squat technique may indicate that you have poor control of your core muscles. This predisposes you to injury during squatting as well as any other lifting or weighted movements, as well as in sustained postures during your daily activities, work or sport.
While it is best to have your technique assessed by a physiotherapist, there are some common mistakes you can assess and begin to correct yourself. This blog will discuss the two most common dysfunctions seen by physiotherapists and how to begin to correct these dysfunctions to correct squat technique.
Assessing your own squat is difficult, so use a mirror or get someone to observe you completing the movement.
This is best observed from the front. You may find you shift your weight more to one side throughout the squat movement. This increases the risk of overload and injury due to the imbalance of movement.
Unequal weight bearing can result from a number of dysfunctions, but is commonly it is caused by:
Weakness – If the shift occurs early in the movement, this indicates that it is more likely to be caused by weakness in the hip stabilising muscles, the gluteals. This causes a shift to the stronger leg, as your body compensates for the weaker side.
You can start correcting this by completing single leg strengthening exercises. This will highlight the weakness as well as allow you to improve stability and strength. Single leg exercises isolate the weaker side to avoid the stronger side compensating.
Decreased range of motion – If the shift occurs towards the bottom of the movement, it is more likely to be a result of reduced range of motion of the joints in the lower limb. With stiffness in joints, the body shifts to the side with more flexibility or movement available to complete the squat.
This is commonly a reduced range in the ankle, but can also be the knee or hip. Reduced ankle range can be a result of joint stiffness, which needs physiotherapy treatment to be corrected. You can start decrease the effect of short calf muscles on the joint by completing calf stretches.
Incorrect Spinal Posture
The position of the spine is best observed from the side. Throughout the squat movement, the spine should stay in it’s neutral position, from your lower back up to your neck. Commonly the upper back curves and the shoulders hunch forward, also resulting in a forward curving of the lower back. This can lead to a number of issues, including back pain, shoulder injury and tension headaches.
Loss of a neutral spine can result from a number of dysfunctions, but is commonly it is caused by:
Upper back stiffness – A stiffness through the upper back joints results it difficulty getting to and holding an upright posture.
Complete upper back mobility exercises on a roller to ensure that your spine has good movement available.
Upper back weakness – Weakness in the muscles that control posture, the shoulder blades and upper back results in difficulty holding correct posture, especially once weight is added.
Complete ‘pulling’ exercises, such as rows to improve upper back strength and shoulder blade control.
Poor core control – The position of the lower back has a significant impact on the overall spinal position in a squat. A lack of control and stability of the core and trunk muscles translates to a lack of control through the rest of the body.
Core exercises, such as planks, will assist to improve activation and control of trunk stabilising muscles.
While some of these dysfunctions are easy to fix, others are harder to assess and correct. A thorough physiotherapy assessment will identify dysfunctions and provide treatment and exercises to correct them, preventing injuries in the future.
If you notice any of the above during your squats, have pain during squatting, or need advice on any of the above please do not hesitate to book an appointment.