We have discussed what a Russian baby maker squat looks like and why we don’t want to squat like that. Now let’s talk about what’s causing this problem.
(May or may not have gotten a little carried away with the memes…)
1. Your butt is weak.
This is one of the most common causes of poor squat technique. And yes, it is possible to squat for years, or squat heavy loads, and still have underdeveloped glutes. Our bodies are incredibly resourceful and will get the job done, using whatever compensatory techniques it needs to. Since the glutes are responsible for hip extension, an athlete that has poor glute strength will tip forward in the lowering phase of the squat, regardless of how strong their core is. This movement pattern will place load on the lower back and reduce the power output of your legs. Key note: your back is not as strong as your glutes and will become injured under heavy, repetitive loading and flexion.
2. Your hip flexors are shorter than a baby oompa loompa.
First, what do the hip flexors do? The hip flexors pull you from an open hip to a bent hip. Tight/short hip flexors cause a change to your pelvis, one of these changes is the beloved butt wink or anterior pelvic tilt. Besides being aesthetically unappealing, the butt wink lengthens your abs and hamstrings, making it harder to stabilize your core. The hip flexors contribute to poor squat technique by creating forward tilt at the base of the squat. This body position is extremely difficult to rectify in the middle of the squat, meaning the upward part of the squat will happen with the weight shifted forward over the knee. Again, more of the load will be shifted to the low back.
3. You have non-existent adductor strength.
Squatting with buckled knees isn’t cool, even if you are squatting massively heavy weight. Think of the adductors as the muscle group that stabilizes the knees. When the adductors are tight, stretched, or weak, the knee cap will track incorrectly. Tight adductors can also leave the lifter feeling like they got a groin strain for a couple of hours. Poor adductor strength will create instability in the knee position, changing the muscle groups used to move the load. Knee position (too far in or out) has been shown to change muscle recruitment and can increase the stress to ligaments and tendons.
4. You skipped back and core day.
Who needs a strong back, squatting is a leg exercise…. Said no smart person, ever. Thinking that you don’t need a strong back to squat big weight is like thinking a truck would be able to carry a heavy load without a frame. When squatting, athletes that have a weak core and back lose their neutral spine, especially in the bottom of the squat. When you lose your neutral spine, you stretch the ligaments that support the spine. (The hip extensors pull down on the pelvis, the lower back pulls up, a weak low back can also cause a butt wink). The spine is 55% stronger when in the neutral position. We all know squatting with a rounded back is bad, but there are different areas of the spine that can round due to lack of static strength. In fact, the thoracic spine is more important in stabilizing the spine than the abs! Long story short, the lumbar and thoracic spine must be incredibly strong to hold the pelvis in place and prevent the spine from buckling during squats and deadlifts.
Protect your spine people!
5. Your hamstrings get no love.
We love our glutes and quads. The hamstrings are out of sight and out of mind for many, no one ever comments on how amazing your hammies look. They should. When you look at your legs and your quads are quadruple the size of your hamstrings, or you can’t see your hamstrings at all, we have a problem. The underrated hamstrings are synergistic to the glutes and quads. The quads generate a forward force on the tibia, the hamstrings generate a backward force on the tibia, this creates stability at the knee. When the hamstrings are weak, the athlete is not able to keep weight off the forward part of the foot; athletes tend to shift weight forward in a variety of ways in order to overcome weak hamstrings (this includes shifting the torso forward).
OK, that should be enough information to assist with troubleshooting the squat….
P.S. – This article mainly focuses on the weak muscle groups that contribute to poor squat form. There are many flexibility and anatomy issues that can contribute, those will be discussed in later posts. But remember, most of the time weak muscles are short, this profoundly influences mobility.
KJ CrossFit is located in Longmont, Colorado. They offer CrossFit classes for all skill levels. Convenient location for all of Longmont, Dacono, Firestone, and Frederick.