Integral Movement Series: The Squat
In this series, we'll be addressing some key movements that serve a very important purpose for becoming strong, functional and pain free. These movements act as functional cornerstones and provide us with the capacity to move efficiently, buffer ware and tear and drastically increase strength. Whether you're looking to eliminate your aches and pains or increase your strength, this series will shed some light on these movements and the many benefits of performing them on a regular basis.
Much like the deadlift, the squat provides an array of benefits when performed correctly. Mainly, it allows us to express full range of motion of the majority of our lower body while under load. Our hips and knees both experience full excursion when we perform this exercise. Here's why we love the squat.
It is very import to express proper load ordering when performing the squat. This means we must initiate the movement by breaking at our knees slightly before breaking at the hips. This sets the trajectory of our hips and allows us to descend straight into the bottom of our squat while maintaining our balance over our mid-foot.
RANGE OF MOTION
From our standing position to our bottom position, when we perform a true deep squat, our hips and knees undergo their full range of motion. When we're standing with the bar on our back, our hips and knees are both in full extension, as we descend into the bottom position these joints begin to experience flexion. By the time we're sitting in the bottom position of a deep squat, our hips and knees are now placed into full flexion, all while under load. This is very important as it allows us to improve the strength, congruency and overall integrity of these joints. We now know that hip mobility (and stability) has a direct impact on hip and low back health. The more we groove this pattern and integrate this full range of motion within the hips, the less our back is going to suffer while performing strenuous activities. It's also worth mentioning that our ankles undergo a fair amount of dorsi-flexion during deep squatting.
In order to maximize performance and prevent injury, the spine must always be in a neutral, braced position. This means that from the moment you un-rack the bar, to moment you re-rack the bar, there should be no deviation in your spinal mechanics. Proper squatting teaches us how to fill the diaphragm with air, brace the abdomen, retract the shoulder blades and tuck the chin. This is the most mechanically stable position for the spine while under load.
When we’re squatting, we need a method to maintain stability within the hips. This is why we create torque from the hips while we squat. This is that "knee out" position that we favor, all while screwing our feet outward into the ground. This creates stability within the hip capsule, which also leads to stability within the lumbar spine. It also torques our ACL into a stable position and opens up our foot and ankle into a stable position. This is important because this torsion can also be applied to our deadlifting, pressing or any movement that requires maximal stability within the hip and it's extremities.
If you're not incorporating squatting and squat variations into your programming, take the time to learn the movement safely and effectively. Perform them on a regular basis and always prioritize perfect execution. You'll thank yourself, we promise.
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