The squat is one of our fundamental movement patterns that we incorporate into not only our workouts, but every day life as well. However, there is this preconceived notion that performing squats are bad for the knees, especially if it happens to go beyond 90 degrees or past parallel. Then faces melt and minds get blown.
How many times do you squat in a given day? In and out of chairs, on and off the toilet, maybe sitting to pick something off the floor. And not once was the thought: “oh I shouldn’t do this, it’s gonna hurt my knees.” Countless times I’ve heard the following phrase: “I can’t squat because of my knees.” And then I die a little inside because I just don’t believe that to be true. It’s just a matter of finding the positioning and the right variation that will make you successful.
There are numerous factors that can go into the squat, from tense muscles, to structural issues, to just not having the necessary motor plan to actually do it. Some people have no idea how to actually do the movement, so learning could be the very first step. In that case the videos and exercises that follow will provide tremendous benefit.
Regress to Progress
Mastering these regressions in order to progress can develop the movement pattern so that we can move onto different loading strategies in the future. If your squat looks like one of those wacky inflatable guys outside car dealerships, or a new born giraffe, then you’re going to get all the benefits out of these.
*Fair warning, the videos ahead provide a lot of man legging action*
A good looking squat requires a good deal of mobility at the ankle, so by setting ourselves up in a quadruped position we already place the ankle in an optimal position at the ankle. The rock-back allows us to see if there are any major breakdowns in the movement, from the ankles, on up through the core.
In the video, you can see that I keep a neutral spine throughout the rocking. If something went a little wonky there, we might work on say our core stability. But this is a safe place to start building your squat up as you avoid some of the hip & knee issues when vertically loaded. The quadruped position also allows you to get an idea of how deep into a squat you’ll actually be able to go.
Once you control the rockback, try elevating the knees and repeat the drill. All of the sudden you find yourself squatting, without ya know, squatting.
After learning our squat pattern without having to deal with the likes of gravity, we can move towards a supported squat. Using a bar or a TRX, we can support some of our bodyweight and make it easier to get into the squat position. In this video, I use the bar as a support to get into the bottom position I feel most comfortable in, then let go and stand up. This manages the control issues many have with the squat, that decent portion. But then gets many of the benefits of the ascent phase.
Our last regression actually puts some weight in our hands, but provides a counterbalance so that our hips get behind us. One of the common faults is the knees lead the movement. What we want to see is the hips driving the squat for the most part. As you press the plate out, your body has no choice but to stick the hips out.
This also ensures that your chest stays up and you maintain an upright position, instead of folding like a beach chair.
Squatting doesn’t have to be with a barbell as most typically imagine. There are exercises that can help you build a stronger, pain free squat pattern. You just have to practice them.