“Squats don’t hurt your knees; what you are doing hurts your knees.” – Dan John
Today we’re going to look at three common mishaps of squatting that I see on almost a daily basis. If you can, film yourself squatting (from the side and from the front) to see if any of these apply to you.
1. Not pushing the hips back enough.
Back that trunk up! I see this one probably the most. Folks will bend at their knees first, instead of their hips, and most of their weight shifts forward to the front of their feet and into their knees thus causing an “ouchie.” If this is you, pick up your big toes (until you learn how to keep your weight on your heels, then you can put them back down) and shove your hips back. I recommend putting a box behind you to give you a target to aim for. Pretend you’re pooping in the woods; how far back do you have to sit?
(this always initiates giggles out of my younger athletes… and some of my older ones too.) By sitting back in your hips, the glutes and hamstrings can take the brunt of the weight in the exercise (instead of the quads and knees) thus making the squat more stable, safer and stronger.
2. Knees collapsing in during the descent and/or ascent.
This is a sure fire way to cause pain in your knees and cause any nearby orthopedist to head to the nearest Porsche dealer.
Valgus collapse, the technical term for knees caving in, is an excellent way to negate the squatting power of the adductors, glutes and hamstrings and put a ton of stress on the ACLs (hence the excited orthopedist). While there can be many reasons for the valgus collapse (poor ankle/hip mobility, inhibited anterior abdominals and glutes… the list can go on for a bit) but I’ve found that a lot of athletes I work with just need to be cued to push their knees out as they sit/stand. A cue I use is, pretend you’re standing in mud up to your ankles and as you stand you want to shove yourself deeper into the mud. At the same time, try to push your feet apart in an attempt to “spread the floor.” You should feel the outsides of your butt turn on as you do this.
3. Dropping the chest and hunching over.
Many athletes’ chests will drop as they squat so they look like Quasimodo at the bottom. This puts a fair amount of stress of the lower back (not good).
How to fix this: pull your chest up to the ceiling and shove your shoulder blades into your back pockets. Theoretically, if I were coaching you, I should be able to read what your shirt says throughout the set.
These three tweaks will automatically make your squat rock solid. Get out there and squat!