Any good exercise program should involve some type of assessment. Assessing yourself is the only way to determine how functional your movement is. So when is the last time you’ve taken a step back to really assess your movements? We’re not talking about the mirror selfie you posted to Instagram this afternoon, what we’re referring to is a good analysis of some of the basic movements that you’re performing in the gym on a weekly basis (some of them even under high loads and high repetitions).
There’s more ways to track your progress in the gym other than the number on the scale or the weight on your bar, or how fast you did a mile. Have you ever stopped to look at HOW you’re actually moving. One of our favorite ways to track our athletes progress is by assessing their movement faults and cleaning them up. Once we’re moving better, it makes losing or gaining weight that much easier, and it goes without saying that the weights on your bar will increase with more effective movement patterns that recruit the proper muscles.
Let’s take a second to talk about something we do every single day, hundreds of times a week without even thinking about it.... we squat! If your current workout program doesn’t incorporate squats in some way, we highly recommend you add them in immediately. Your body will thank you for it.
So what should a squat look like, and what does YOUR squat look like? Every body is different and we all move different in some way. At the end of the day, our squat should always include a few important factors before we start to add load to it.
First, your torso should remain upright and your spine must stay completely neutral throughout the movement. There are exceptions with the upright torso when it comes to the low bar back squat, but we won’t be discussing that in this post. The spine must remain neutral in order to add load to the movement and always avoid the “butt wink” (when your tailbone tucks under your hips, visualize a dog going number two).
Second, your knees must not collapse inward towards one another, and the same applies to your ankles. Your knees should remain out in line with your toes. Your toes should be able to point straight or turned out just slightly. Refer to the image below to see what valgus knees and collapsed ankles look like. You may also find that your feet will turn outward as you squat deeper, a sure sign of instability or tightness in your lower body.
Thirdly, your feet must maintain three points of contact with the floor. Big toe, little toe and heel must stay down as you squat. Your foot should maintain a solid arch as you splay your toes against the floor throughout the movement.
Take two minutes to try this very simple test and start assessing your squat today. Stand with your toes against a wall about shoulder width apart. Toes should be straight ahead or slightly turned out. Raise your arms straight overhead and keep them from touching the wall if possible and don’t bend your elbows. Nose should be almost touching the wall. Slowly try and squat as low as possible while maintaining the three elements we mentioned above. Refer to the picture below and take a video of yourself so you may assess your movement.
Did you find that your feet wanted to turn out or did turn it as you went down? Did your heels lift up and you found yourself on your toes? Were you unable to squat below parallel (hip crease below your knee)? Did you feel a lot of discomfort in your lower back or shoulders? Were you unable to squat very deep at all?
If you answered no to all of those questions and you were able to clear a full depth squat with ease, congratulations you passed the test! You possess the necessary ankle dorsiflexion, hip flexion, and thoracic stability to add some weight to that squat. As the load increases, be sure that all those points of performance remain intact. Then start to master all the forms of a squat including back squats, front squats, overhead squats and the infamous pistol squat.
If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, let one of our coaches help you uncover the reason why. Maybe it’s because you rolled your ankle years ago playing pick up basketball and your mobility in that ankle isn’t quite where it should be? Maybe you work at a desk for hours a day or have a long commute which leaves your hips knees and lower back tight and therefore difficult to move properly when you hit the gym? Whatever the case may be, we are here to help!
We hope you liked this article... keep your eyes open for the next blog... “How deep should you squat and why is it important to be able to deep squat” and “how’s your overhead press?”