Squats Part #3

A great comment was made that I made a mistake and simply said that squats were one of the worst moves I have seen. It is an old habit of many years in the weight room of automatically assuming this meant the typical barbell squat. There are several squats that I am a big fan of but none of them have you placing weight on your shoulders.

So in the last post I started to explain how the anatomically correct position versus the actual position your client is in,  should be one of your many clues as to what the potential negative side effects of your chosen exercise may be. So we use the postural photographs as one good clue. Another component we use is some diagnostic exercise moves. We are looking for certain abilities or inabilities that our clients have in their overall muscular efficiency.

Examples of moves we use are Active Bridges (shoulder bridge, tricep bridge), Cats and Dogs and quite a few others. With these moves we are looking for a clients current ability to get flexion and extension of the spine, both lumbar and thoracic. We want to see if they are able to rotate the spine evenly in both directions, can they achieve full flexion and extension in the pelvis, and are they able to load bear evenly onto both sides of the pelvis. These are just a few examples of the many different diagnostics we like to use.

This is in stark contrast to what I used to do about a decade ago when I would take a resting heart rate, blood pressure, body composition, sit and reach test, grip strength test, lung capacity and a few other silly ones I do not even remember. At the time this was thought to be a pretty thorough system and was a primary practice for the Gold’s Gym certification we went through. I look back on it now and realize I actually learned things about my clients that were of little to know help in building a program that would truly be designed to impact their muscular system in a way to give them maximum results.

Once you have a really good understanding of what your clients true muscular efficiency is you can start making some decisions on what exercises to do or not to do. Lets use the pictures from the last post again. I will get some new ones that are a little more complete but I forgot to get some from the office today. Sorry. So here are two of the pictures again so you can see them.

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Looking at these 3 pictures I will keep this short and just point out a few things. First on the 2 pictures that show the side views notice the extreme anterior tilt (forward rotation) in the pelvis that is creating some serious lordosis(curvature of lumbar spine) in both athletes. Now keep in mind this represents their neutral position, far from the anatomically correct position. This is where the issue comes in for a move like barbell squats. here are just 2 examples of people with an imbalance that is causing poor alignment in the body but to be honest 99% of the thousands of clients I have worked with have some form of imbalance when we start.

If this is the person you re working with you know just form the postural photographs that they lack the ability to accept weight correctly onto their hips so now when you go to doing a barbell squat you have a major problem. I don’t care if you are the greatest barbell squat educator in the world. If your client has poor anatomical alignment and muscle efficiency they simply can’t have good form, regardless of how much coaching you give them. One of the comments told me to educate myself and read what the National Strength and Conditioning Association has to say about squats. Well here is exactly what it states, under paragraph 7 it states, ” While Squatting results in high forces on the back, injury potential is low with appropriate technique and supervision.”

I agree that what they are saying is absolutely true except the point is that supervision will help to limit injuries, however,  the fact that the risk of injury is there should be what you are thinking about. If the potential for injury is there then why are you doing the move? They openly state that there is going to be high forces into the back so have you made sure that your client has a back that is capable of handling these high forces? Have you made sure that they are capable of correctly achieving full flexion and extension throughout their spine? Have you made sure that they are able to fully articulate the pelvis so as to not place any unnecessary pressure in the spine and knees? Have you given them the necessary stimulus to ensure that their knees are in the anatomically correct position and not turned out like in the photo to the right? img_08811-150x1502

When did we decide that an exercise was so valuable that it was worth us risking injury, sometimes major injury to do it? In the pictures above, especially the one to the right, imagine the strain and pressure being placed on the lumbar vertebrae in his body if he has a barbell on his shoulders with 200lbs. Why would you do this to him just so that he may gain some strength in his legs that could so easily be accomplished without the risk of injury?

Here is a rule to live by as a trainer, never, ever should a client get injured while training with you. Safe training practices are great but if you do not understand the imbalances and inefficiencies of your client than how can you know what is safe and unsafe to give them.

This post is getting long so I will finish my thought in the next post.

1 Comments on this post

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  1. CollegeAthlete said:

    This is a great post. I have had the experience of training in a very competitive college athletic program, and the thing I never saw, especially in the weight room, was an athletes evaluated, so that a training program could be built around them and their specific needs. It was always the system that had been “proven” to work, and every athlete was expected to follow it to the letter. Well, what about each athletes individual bodies and muscular systems? Although no one that I can think of suffered any squatting injuries, there were many, many hamstring pulls, quad pulls, shin splints, strains, sprains, which is commonplace at just about any college or high school nowdays. Are Coaches and Trainers so focused just on treating these injuries as they come, instead of asking why? Could it be that all the repetitive heavy lifting placed on such inefficient bodies are translating into more and more injuries on the field?

    July 14th, 2009 at 10:43 pm

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