It’s come up a couple of times in class over the past couple of weeks, so I’m reposting my first blog article– Squat Mechanics. Strengthen the lower back, stretch the hamstrings and hip adductors. Don’t worry about “good depth” until you are squatting correctly. Enjoy.
One of the things I’m very critical of in classes is keeping your back angle correct when performing any type of squatting move. It doesn’t just make you look good, there are actually anatomical reasons for it!
Consider the figures below. Figure 1 has a correct back angle, causing the hamstrings and hip adductors (red line) to tighten up between their origin (lower left corner of the green box) and insertion (behind the knee). This allows these muscles to fully engage in the squat, allowing more productive application of force and spreading load more evenly across the knee joint.
Figure 2 is experiencing what I call “butt wink,” the turning under of the pelvis at the bottom of the squat. This can clearly be seen by the angle of the green box around the pelvis. This position reduces the distance between the origin and insertion points of the hamstrings and adductors, taking load off of those muscles. You can see this by the difference in length between the blue line (length with improper back angle) and the red line. The result of unloading those posterior thigh muscles is that load must be shifted to the top of the legs, which reduces the number of muscles you can use to come out of the bottom of the squat and shifts more load to the front of the knee. It also keeps you from being able to use the stretch reflex of the hamstrings and adductors to be able to “bounce” out of the bottom of the squat, which will lead to faster fatigue when performing high volume squats and failed lifts when attempting heavy loads.
We stress the ability to squat below parallel, but many people will find that they do not have enough hamstring and hip adductor flexibility to get that low and still maintain a good back angle. Most of you should include that in your stretching goals. Until you get there, focus on eliminating the “butt wink,” as it will prevent you from truly increasing your squat depth, as well as keep you from using all of your thigh muscles efficiently. It may also overload connective tissue in your knee and lead to pain and injury.