Over the course of the next several weeks, we’re going to work w/ you on how to design a strength training routine that will produce results. While doing our programming at Complete Fitness Results, we’re primarily looking for two things.
First, can you properly perform the exercise we’re asking you to perform? This is where our Functional Movement Screen comes into play. We always take the time on the front end to ensure each routine is designed with your own unique characteristics in mind. Simply put, if you can’t squat properly, we’re not going to train the squat. We would work on building up the squat pattern before training it.
Second, we shoot for balance in each of our programs. For every pushing exercise, we need a pulling exercise. For every knee dominant exercise (an exercise that requires a lot of knee bend like a squat or a lunge), we ensure there is a hip dominant exercise (an exercise that requires a lot of bend at the hip with minimal bending at the knee, like a deadlift). Pushing, pulling, squatting, and deadlifting are all components of the programs we build, so over the few weeks we’re going to be breaking down each movement pattern, showing you the most common mistakes, possible corrective exercises to rebuild a pattern you struggle with, and provide you with a few progressions to add variety and depth to your training.
Today, we’re going to start with the squat:
The squat is one of our favorite leg exercises, so it’s going to be in just about each and every program we write. Like we said above, even if you can’t squat today, we’re going to find out why, fix the problem, and get you squatting pain free. Squats are part of our everyday life, so this pattern is a must in our books. For those of you that don’t know what a squat is, please refer to the progressions listed below. You’ll find several squat patterns and progressions to follow. If you do know what a squat it, let’s break down some of the common faults we see in the squat:
- Caving in with the knees – Having the knees cave in during the squat is not good. You can only imagine that this will lead to knee pain. If the knee is not stable while squatting, a lot can go wrong. Be sure to drive the knees out while squatting to prevent any knee cave.
- Too much arching in the low back (Lordosis) – During the squat, we traditionally see people stick their butt way out, drive their chest tall, and pretty much look at the ceiling. When you get into this position, your low back is going to pay the toll. We do like your butt to go back so your weight can go on your heels, but if you overdue it; you’re going to eventually hate squatting. Maintain a neutral spine throughout. If you have to drastically arch your low back to maintain an upright position, work on the corrective exercises shown below before you start to load the squat.
- Forward Lean – Another common fault we see A LOT is loss of posture, or forward lean during the squat. If your torso drops and loses its tall position during the squat, we probably have a core stability issue that needs to be addressed. Again, refer to the RNT squat below. This will force you into your fault and over exaggerate the error. Your body will start to learn to stay tall and prevent losing stability while squatting. If not, you’ll fall flat on your face. Since the body doesn’t want to do that, you’ll automatically use your core and start to stand tall. Give it a shot if this is one of your errors.
- Weight Shift Into One Side – If you’ve ever had knee pain, sprained an ankle, or had any injury or pain history with one of your legs, odds are you’re going to shift a little during your squat. The body doesn’t like pain at all. It will do everything it can to avoid it. So if you’ve ever had an injury, even if it was years and years ago, there’s a chance the body still has to compensate to “avoid the pain”. Even if it doesn’t hurt anymore, your body may have never gotten back to the “proper” movement. It’s still in prevent pain mode. So shifting to one side to avoid a bad knee or ankle is very common, even if you don’t think you currently have a bad knee or ankle. Use a mirror or have a partner look at your squat from behind to see if you’re shifting your weight to one side. If so, you should really address this issue before you start to load the squat pattern with weight.
Addressing the common faults is great, but it doesn’t really do us that much good unless we know what to do to fix the problem. We highly recommend getting a full movement screen done before trying to just randomly fix a pattern. Personally, the squat is the last thing we try to fix when it comes to correcting movement, but that’s a little deep for this article. If you really want to fix these issues fast, come in and check us out. We’ll have you squatting, deadlifting, and training hard in no time. However, if you want to try to fix things on your own, here are a couple of our favorite exercises that will fix a squat:
Sometimes, the squat may be limited due to ankle mobility. If your ankle doesn’t bend that much, it’s going to limit the depth and quality of your squat. The ankle is one of our go-to areas when we see a squatting dysfunction. If your ankles are a little stiff and lack mobility, give this one a shot.
The RNT squat is one of our favorite squat correctives for anyone with a stability issue. If your core isn’t firing the way it should, you may drop your chest while squatting. Using this band exercise, you can really start to fix the pattern in no time.
After the squat pattern starts to come together, we want to reinforce the proper squat pattern with some weight. Adding a load to a pattern teaches the body that it’s good, so ensure you’re squatting well before you add additional load. If not, you’ll just tell your body the poor mechanics are good, and that bad pattern will get engrained in your brain and you’ll be squatting poorly for a long-long time. Try out this three-exercise progression. We recommend starting with the first progression and getting really good at it before moving on. Try to add load as you go to challenge yourself and stick with each progression for a minimum of 2-4 weeks. Starting at the top, try adding each one of these into your workout regimen. They are sure to challenge you and enhance leg strength and definition.
Kettlebell Goblet Squat
Kettlebell Front Squat
Barbell Front Squat
Stay tuned for the next article in this series, the deadlift. Each article will progress through a specific movement pattern. By the end of this, we’ll cover each pattern needed to have a well balanced program, show you some ways to correct or enhance each pattern, give you 3-4 progressions of each, and finish with a FREE 6-Week program for you.