05 Jan Are You Too Loose? Thoughts On When A Deep Squat Is Harmful
Are You Too Loose? Thoughts On When A Deep
Squat Is Harmful
What happens when you actually meet someone who can put some weight on his back and squat his scrawny little arse to the floor? Doesn’t exist right?
I thought anyone like this was a Godsend and good to be pushed in the weight room until I came across an athlete like this. Every set she did looked great to my inexperienced eye. She dropped her butt straight down keeping her trunk completely upright.
Things went great until she got hurt.
Chest Up or Proper Spinal Alignment
This athlete had been told to keep her chest up in squat by every coach she ever had. Problem was she took it as a command to drop vertically down and keep her trunk perpendicular with the ground.
Because of her misplaced focus, she had no arch in her lumbar spine (low back) at the bottom. So instead of stabilizing her spine and keeping herself tight, she relaxed at the bottom of the squat and put way too much unnecessary stress on her back.
After she got hurt and I developed a brain cell, I told her to focus on lifting her chest and sticking her butt out at the same time. This made her arch her lower back. I also told her that it’s ok to bend over a little as long as she kept lifting her chest, sticking her butt back and keeping the tension in her body .
Then I had her drop down to (just parallel) and then told her to come up.
She told me that she felt it a lot more in her legs and less in her back. I asked her if she normally felt the squat in her low back and she told me that her low back is always tight and achy after squatting.
I proceeded to feel like a crappy dumb meat head strength coach, but her squat improved and her back was saved.
Too Lax Means No Rebound
Granted, you don’t come across people like this often so why am I talking about it?
I don’t know, maybe I’m just bored.
It’s also something that isn’t discussed enough. Lifters and athletes like this are usually slimmer and have excessive joint and muscle laxity that allows them also to squat very deep and push their knees out wider than their toes. Because they’re not able to maintain adequate tightness on the descent, they cannot use the rebound out of the hole contributed by the hamstrings that other trainees experience.
While most people have too much hamstring tightness, a guy like this has too little hamstring tightness and cannot produce adequate tension on the way up from the squat because of it.
Tightness Isn’t All Bad
So the hamstrings muscles all originate from the ischial tuberosity of the pelvis (see picture below – refer to the right side of the picture on the bottom of the femur) and they insert to a couple of different spots on the tibia
If the low back is arched the pelvis tilts forward and the origin of the hamstrings tilts away from the knee. This pulls the hamstrings group taught and they reach their stretching limit at the bottom of the squat. When a lifter comes out of the hole, they are using that tightness developed at the bottom to “rebound” back up.
A lifter does need sufficient flexibility and mobility to accomplish this and a perfect full bodyweight squat is important. I previously discussed this in the perfect squat .
When an athlete with excessive laxity squats deep with an upright torso, he will have a next to impossible time keeping his lower back arched. When he squats like this, the origin of the hamstrings moves closer to the knee rather than away and the hamstrings are not pulled tight. This exposes the spine to more compressive loading than is healthy and then, once again, the squat is labeled bad.
Here’s my solution to all this. Stop being an idiot like I was and look at the mechanics of the lift and what position the spine is most suited to be loaded in. If you spot this, stop whoever it is at just below parallel and beat it in their head to raise their chest and stick they butt out. They will no doubt have a hard time with this at first because they have to learn to develop that tension in their hamstrings but it does come with time.
What are your favorite tips and cues for the squat? Let me know in the comments.
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