by Kelsey Cognetta, ATC, CPT >> Request a Personal Training Session
There are many factors that go into properly performing a squat - weight distribution, activation, overall position... Consequently, each of these factors can negatively affect your squat and cause pain if they're faulty. Here are 3 common movement issues to be aware of while you squat, and some steps to address and fix them in order to prevent pain or compensation and to benefit more from your exercise.
Falling Too Far Forward While descending into a squat, we often see the chest collapse forward as depth increases. Ideally, we should maintain the position of the spine as we lower into the motion, and the chest and hips should rise together as we ascend. If you find yourself falling too far forward, it could be due to trunk instability. A tip to clean up this movement pattern is to add a weight to counterbalance the force of your trunk. If you're struggling to maintain an upright position, try this variation to improve your stability and squatting movement pattern: 1. Grab a 5-10 lb. weight (i.e. plate, dumbbell, medicine ball) and hold it at the center of your chest
2. Press the plate outward as you descend into the squat, maintaining an upright posture 3. Pull the weight back into your chest as you ascend from the squat
Putting The Weight Through Your Heels A cue commonly heard in the gym during a squat is to “put the weight through your heels.” While this may give you the feeling of driving force through your glutes, it shifts our center of mass backwards which can lead to an unstable position. When adding load to the squat, this only increases instability and can be a source for what we call an “energy leak” in the movement. Think of your feet the same way you'd think of the foundation of a home. Strength and stability at the base will provide optimal alignment of the joints stacked above them. We do this by creating a tripod position with the bottom of our feet: 1. While standing, pinpoint these 3 points of contact you will utilize to create your stable squat base:
Ball of your big toe
Ball of your little toe
Center of your heel
2. Create tension by actively trying to splay your toes
3. Maintain this foot position while ascending and descending in your squat
Knees-Only Squat Another common squatting movement pattern dysfunction is the knee-first motion. This occurs when you descend into a squat with the knees forward rather than utilizing motion at the hips. While the knees coming over the toes during a squat is a normal motion, moving only at the knees can cause pain, pressure and shearing at the knee joint. If you're experiencing that specific knee pain while you squat, try this for a simple fix: 1. Squat to a box! (Position the box at a height just above your knee level; adjust if needed) 2. Reach your butt back towards the box behind you as if you're taking a seat while allowing your knees to track right over the midline of your foot 3. Adjust the height of the box as needed for progression and regression of the exercise
Try to recognize your specific movement patterns during a squat. If you notice any of these common faults, make these simple adjustments and let us know how you improve!