The squat has been one of the most heavily used strength training exercises in athletics, fitness, competitive weight lifting, and exercise across the board for many, many years. No matter the goal of an individual’s exercise – get stronger, increase athletic performancee, lose weight, etc. – squatting is a go to movement in all arenas. Over the years, more and more exercises have been introduced to exercise or training regimines, and despite these new introductions, the squat has stood its ground as a staple of working out. Also, there are a huge amount of exercises that are based on the squat, and many people are doing a variation of squatting on a daily basis, without even knowing it. Because it is so popular, as well as such a crucial movement pattern to understand and devlelop in athletes of all ages, the mechanics of the squat must be discussed. Luke Rose, strength and conditioning coach of Rutgers University Football, has a background in powerlifting and has thus spent an immense amount of time around a lot of very good squatters. He uses this knowledge and experience to teach his athletes the the intricacies of this movement pattern so that they can get the most out of every squat, and do so safely.
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In the video below, Coach Rose breaks down one of the most common incorrect motions that occurs when people squat – the chest collapse. Often times, due to muscular imbalances or mobility issues, an athlete will have trouble ascending from a squat position to standing upright – the issue being that their chest tilts toward the floor rather than rising straight up as he/she stands up. Many have attributed this issue to having a weak “core” (which has many definitions, but we will define here as the abs and lower back muscles) and therefore not being able to brace the torso during the upward motion of the squat. Rose argues that while this may be part of the issue, he believes that a lot of the problem may originate with weak glutes and hamstrings. These two muscle groups share the responsibility of extending the hip, the motion that occurs in the upward motion of the squat. The other dominant muscle group involved in squat ascension is the quadriceps, which extend the knee. As Rose illustrates on the whiteboard in this video, it is ideal for the bottom of the squat to have a parallel shin and chest angle, or at least very close to it. The quadricpes are naturally a larger and more powerful muscle group than the hamstrings, and therefore can tend to dominate standing up, causing the knee to extend before, or faster than, the hips are extending. Visually, this looks just like the issue addressed before – the hips rise and the chest stays down.This problem is multiplied when the glutes and hamstrings are weaker than they need to be, and the individual squatting can be in even more of a compromised position.
Many coaches would say that to avoid this scenario, be a better coach and find a coaching cue, drill, or supplementary exercise that helps the athlete understand to keep his/her chest up and rising at the same rate as the hips. It would be naive to do so, however, because no matter how well it is explained, demonstrated or even drilled, the athletes hips (glutes) and hamstrings may simply not be strong enough to achieve the motion the coach is looking for. Therefore, being a better coach is more than just helping an athlete understand, it includes training in a way that puts him or her in the best position to succeed – which, according to Luke Rose, would be strengthening the glutes and hamstrings sufficiently to counter (and work synergistially with) the quadriceps.
Luke Rose, Assistant Strength Coach for Rutgers University Football, breaks down the squat on the video below:
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