Arguably the most foundational movement within any fitness or training program. Why? It’s simple. Mastering it boasts the most bang for your buck.
Firstly, it is a movement pattern essential to our DNA. Squatting (properly) is how we were designed to sit – chairs, couches, and toilets haven’t always existed. Squatting and standing is our way of getting up and down.
Secondly, it is a movement that can be used to improve your performance in every way. Proper squat mechanics translate into enhanced body control in a multitude of movements, keeping you injury-free and energy efficient.
Developing raw squat strength makes you more powerful and explosive and initiates one of the best hormonal responses you can get from working out. Working the squat and its variations is also one of the best full-body mobility tools there is.
- Air Squat
- Goblet Squat (Kettlebell, dumbbell, etc)
- Barbell Back Squat
- Front Squat
- Overhead Squat
Not surprisingly, it is also one of the most versatile movements you can program – from strength, to power, to stamina, to pure mobility, you can get it all from the squat.
Squat Form & Squat Points Of Performance
Not surprisingly, we believe in squatting correctly every single time. True mastery of the movement requires repeated practice and constant review of the technique. To that end, let’s just take a minute to review our 4 points of performance:
1. Entire foot in contact with the ground
2. Lumbar curve maintained
3. Knees track toes
4. Hips descending below parallel (hip joint below the knee joint).
Each and every time you or your students or athletes dive into squatting, make sure all of the above points are at the forefront of your mind. Get intimate with the details. The ability to dial in great technique day in and day out makes a world of difference. Improving squat form is the key to long-term health and wellness!
Tip Video! Jackie and Lindsay breakdown the 4 points of performance to any squat!
How To Improve Squat Form: Squat Therapy
Squat Therapy, or the overhead wall squat, is a relatively simple, yet dynamic training tool. At PLT4M, we use it for an array of different purposes. It can be used to dial in great squat positioning before a big below parallel day, assess current levels of mobility and track progress over time, or simply drill form during the development of new athletes.
Above all, though, we love these wall squats for their ability to act as a diagnostic tool. Starting at least a full foot or more away, have the athlete face a wall, and settle into a shoulder width stance, with toes slightly turned out. Then, have the athlete raise their arms directly overhead in full lockout position. From here, we will ask them to complete a slow and controlled squat rep, during which we can look for common faults.
Squat Therapy Test Video:
Though we treat it here as a “Test” – the key is to remember that our actual goal is to highlight progress and identify areas in which we can still improve. The actual distance you record is far less important than developing a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. We want you to understand how your body moves and give you the keys to meaningful improvement.
1. Do the arms unlock, or do the chest & shoulders drop toward the wall in a “hunched” position?
Take a look at the athlete’s shoulder and thoracic spine mobility. Many young athletes are incredibly immobile through their thoracic spine (section of the spine from the base of the neck to the bottom of the rib cage) from sitting in front of computers, hunching over cell phones, etc. We can reverse this chronic thoracic flexion through regular mobility and strength/activation work.
2. Does the athlete lose their natural lumbar curve – aka does the lower back round out?
This likely signifies a lack of core stability or the need for specific activation. We’re not talking “strength” here, or the active generation of force – we’re talking about the ability to resist movement. With so many crazy dynamic “core” exercises out there, we tend to forget that the primary purpose of our abs is to stabilize the trunk and keep the spine in a neutral position. A great way to shore up and activate the core is through isometric holds. Planks, glute bridges, asymmetrical DB carries, etc are all great options to turn on and improve that core stability.
3. Is the athlete unable to get the hips below parallel (bottom position)?
Lack of depth could be due to a number of different issues. First is basic strength – if an athlete is extremely “untrained” he or she may be unable to support their bodyweight through a full range of motion. Here we can scale depth with targets of decreasing height, progressing them to full depth over time, much like we would scale a push up or pull up. It could also be a product of supremely tight hip flexors – another wonderful byproduct of our sedentary/sitting/desk lifestyle. Frequently, the lack of depth actually arises due to a lack of ankle mobility, namely the total range of dorsiflexion. There are a number of easy tests and fixes for this issue that will help athletes achieve greater depth while maintaining an upright torso. We will be addressing those tests in future videos, but working calf/achilles flexibility is an excellent start for any athlete having trouble.
4. Are the knees caving in?
Valgus knee collapse is likely due to poor hip mobility or a lack of glute activation and can be a serious risk of injury (both in the gym and on the field). Soft tissue work (foam rolling and poses like the Pigeon stretch) coupled with targeted glute/hip activation (bridges, banded crab walks, etc), can help to open up that hip joint for proper external rotation. This will allow the knees to drive over the toes and maintain the natural hinge position of the knee joint.
5. Are the feet spinning out, actively rotating on the floor during the descent?
This is most likely the athlete’s body compensating for a lack of ankle mobility. If the knee cannot drive out over the toe, the ankle will rotate outwards in the path of least resistance. It is also possible that the athlete suffers from a lack of stabilization through the foot arch – cue them to drive the big toe into the ground as the squat. Lastly, the spin could also be caused by a lack of hip internal rotation, which we can fix with mobility drills like the Frog pose. By no means are these the only possible faults and fixes, but they should give you a great place to start with your athletes. Every athlete will follow a slightly different path to perfect form, and regularly diagnosing their movement patterns is a great way to help them along the way. Still having trouble with an athlete even after utilizing this drill and trying some fixes? Not sure what the problem is? Give us a shout, we’d be happy to consult!
Key Takeaways On Squat Therapy
When thinking about exercises to improve squat, consider adding in the widely popular squat therapy. While it may seem a simple addition to warm up, squat therapy can set the tone for a workout that will be grounded in excellent form and technique. Whether you are hitting a heavy weightlifting session or about to do a fun class workout that has squats, a little squat therapy goes a long way!
Does PLT4M have other exercises to improve squat form?
Yes, PLT4M has exercises and videos to help squat technique. From actual squat drills to other supplemental movements that will help the squat, PLT4M has you covered. On top of that, PLT4M has tons of other great content and weightlifting lesson plans for you!
Is Squat Therapy Crossfit?
No, squat therapy might have been popularized by the crossfit community, but this is a great movement for all individuals to use when looking to improve squat form. You don’t have to be a crossfit guru to add squat therapy into your routine!