Finding Your Squat Stance


The squat was a fundamental human movement pattern before it became an exercise.


We are designed to squat.


As infants we had to squat before we could stand. It was part of our developmental movement sequence. If we got it wrong, we would fall down and have to try again until we got it right. Unfortunately, many of us lose our ability to squat, this is particularly common in western civilisations.


Health, Strength, and Performance


Building strength by practicing the fundamental human movement patterns improves our performance in life and sports.


Many elite athletes aim to get stronger in the squat pattern, as this has a tremendous cross-over to performance in many sports. But most of us do not need to squat heavy with a barbell on our back.



Barbell Back Squat

Even so it is still important to improve or maintain the squat pattern and to develop strength by squatting - that is if you value your movement, health, performance, or just being more resilient.


A great way to do this is with the Goblet Squat.



Goblet Squat


Your stance and the width of your feet will make or break your squat.


Squatting too wide

Squatting too wide, trying to increase depth this way, stresses the hip joint and creates impingement issues and over time this can result in labral tears and hip replacement surgeries.



Squatting too wide

Squatting too Narrow

A narrow stance squat is incredibly challenging to most people and the lower back tends to round as depth is increased.



Squatting too narrow

Find your squat stance


Experiment with Assisted Squats and then lightweight Goblet Squats, with various foot positions.


You can also regress this movement to Box Squats at an appropriate depth – having a box may help you build confidence with a little bit of security and support below you.


1. First start with a very narrow stance and then try a wide stance, pay attention to how your

stance changes the depth and the alignment of the movement pattern.


2. After you have tried the narrow and wide stances:

  • Place your heels directly under the centre of your shoulder joints.

  • The toes are turned out slightly so that the knees will track the toes during the squat.

  • Squat down as low as you can go. Do not move into or through pain.


Note how far you can go while maintaining a neutral spine, how well your knees tracked your toes, and how the stance felt. Most people will find that this placement will maximise squat depth, knee alignment, and the ability to maintain a neutral spine.


Experiment to find your optimal stance.



To help find your optimal stance use the Vertical Jump Method

With this method do 3 vertical jumps.

Then look down at where your feet land - this is roughly where most people should be when squatting.


The angle of your feet to your hips.

Most of us require some external rotation of the feet (feet turned out) to achieve maximal depth and proper spinal alignment.


As long as the knees track your toes throughout the movement, a turnout of less than 30° is generally accepted for safety and performance for most people.


Note the feet and all toes remain planted to the ground throughout the squat pattern.


Knees track the toes Excessive turnout of feet - feet

collapse inwards – knees collapse

inwards


Pronation and Supination


Pronation is when the feet collapse inwards. A common reason for pronation is excessive external rotation.


Check that the turnout of your feet is less than 30° and only squat as deep as you can while still maintaining the correct foot position.


Supination is when the feet roll towards the outside edges. Supination while squatting can cause undue loading of the lateral structures and tissues of the leg.


Excessive supination causes the big toe to lift off the floor and the knees to bow out away from each other, this results in instability in the movement pattern and compromises knee safety and strength.


If there is a problem with pronation or supination do not let it go unchecked.


Ankle and foot mobility, stability and strength are a common limitation in squat depth. Rocking is a great reset for the squat movement pattern and for mobilising and strengthening the ankles.


You can read more about Rocking Reset - ankle and foot mobility here.


Goblet, Assisted and Box Squats

Squat standards


1. Keep a neutral spine and neck.

2. Your knees always track your toes.

3. Your heels and toes remain planted to the ground.

4. Make sure to inhale to go down and exhale on the way up.

5. Stay tight at the bottom, and do not bounce to start the ascent.

6. Your hips and shoulders must ascend at the same time.

7. Your hips and knees should extend fully at the top of the movement.


The Goblet Squat


The Goblet squat is a great way to pattern the movement, develop strength and for opening the hips.


This is because the position of the load acts as a counterbalance and therefore builds confidence and allows for a deeper squat.


How

1. Hold a kettlebell (or dumbbell) with both hands at the front of your chest.

2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and feet turned slightly outwards.

3. Make a big chest and pull your shoulders back and down.

4. Sniff in a air through your nose and stay tight.

5. Drive your knees out to track your feet, actively pulling yourself back and down.

6. Go as deep as you safely can go while maintaining a neutral spine.

7. Keep most of the weight through your heels, but also keep your big toes and heels down.

8. Pause for a moment at the bottom making sure you stay tight and tall.

9. Stand up by breathing out and driving through the ground with your feet.

10. Glutes and quads are fully contracted at the top of the movement.


The Assisted Squat


How

1. Hold on to a sturdy object with straight arms – Door frame, door-nob, pole.

2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and feet turned slightly outwards.

3. Make a big chest and pull your shoulders back and down.

4. Sniff in a breath through your nose and stay tight.

5. Drive your knees out to track your feet, actively pulling yourself back and down.

6. Go as deep as you safely can go while maintaining a neutral spine.

7. Keep most of the weight through your heels, but also keep your big toes and heels down.

8. Pause for a moment at the bottom making sure you stay tight and tall.

9. Stand up by breathing out and driving through the ground with your feet.

10. Glutes and quads are fully contracted at the top of the movement.



The Box Squat


How

1. Stand with a sturdy platform behind you.

2. The platform height should be an inch or two below our knees.

Initially, you can start with a taller box.

3. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and feet turned slightly outwards.

4. Make a big chest and pull your shoulders back and down.

5. Sniff in a breath through your nose and stay tight.

6. Drive your knees out to track your feet, actively pulling yourself back and down.

7. Go down and touch the box softly while maintaining a neutral spine.

8. Keep most of the weight through your heels, but also keep your big toes and heels down.

9. Stand up by breathing out and driving through the ground with your feet.

10. Glutes and quads are fully contracted at the top movement.



Make movement enjoyable and a sustainable part of everyday life.



Disclaimer: Please recognise that it is your responsibility to work directly with your health care provider before, during, and after seeking fitness and/or nutrition consultation. Any information provided is not to be followed without prior approval of your doctor. If you choose to use this information without such approval, you agree to accept full responsibility for your decision.


PS: Want help becoming the healthiest version of you?

You can view nutrition programmes here or send me an email with any questions about a personalised movement programme.


Colin Dent is an Exercise Specialist, Personal Fitness Trainer and Sports Conditioning Coach, OriginalStrength Pro Level 2 Coach and a Hardstyle Kettlebell Certified (HKC) Instructor.

He provides fully personalised strength & movement programmes online.



#movement #rocking #squatpattern #vitality

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