Master The Squat Rack
Whether you are just starting out or you have been doing this for a while, you may be interested to know your squat form may be all wrong!
We’ve all heard it before, whether its from your trainer or the guy squatting next to you, quietly singing a reminder to himself. Keep your back straight, shoulders squared, and don’t let your knees pass your toes… if you do, it could result in a cataclysmic injury!
Well, here it is folks, another gym theory/ mantra debunked! Here’s the 411 on Squat safety.
The Squat Breakdown
As with most aspects of weightlifting, a good squat is really all about your form, adding any amount of weight should come AFTER you have mastered proper form. For any properly trained athlete, the following are useful guidelines for a standard, safe squat:
- Hips drive backward first
- Knees and ankles only bend after hips
- Weight stays on heels, and heels stay on ground
Front squats, goblet squats, back squats —they should all meet these standards. As long as the weight stays on your heels and your butt is back, you're squatting with proper form.
It is important that you start with the hips, to avoid putting any undue stress on the knees or your ACL or PCL, you want to avoid initiating movement from the ankles or the knees. By initiating movement properly, you are allowing your glutes, which are specifically designed bear a lot of force, to assist and distribute the weight and force more evenly throughout your body.
The general consensus seems to be that the squat is a quad-driven movement instead of a glute-focused exercise, this seems to be where the problem begins. When movement is initiated from the knees and ankles, not only will the knees move past the toes, but you are more likely put the majority of your weight on the balls of your feet, bringing the heels up off the ground. Even though we have already established that it is ok for the knees to come over the toes, the issue lies in the combination of the heels coming up off the ground and the knees passing the toes. This combination strains the knee and can lead to injury, or at the very least a slow and steady destruction of the knees.
How you may be hurting your back by not passing your toes
So based on the above information, I’m sure some people are thinking, “got it, but I think ill keep my toes behind my knees just to be safe.” So, here is why limiting you knee flexion is a terrible idea!
Our bodies are fascinating mosaics that move fluidly in unison assisting each individual movement instead of moving in isolated sections. When you raise one arm, it takes the assistance of your back and neck. When you purposefully restrict movement at one joint, your body will typically react by compensating in other places in the body. That compensation during a squat can result in one of three things:
- You will fall backwards.
- You will drive your hips so far back that you can’t actually get down into a full squat.
- You will move your center of gravity over your mid-foot by rounding your back, which by the way, can lead to pretty tremendous back injuries.
Of the three above compensations, the most important to discuss would be the back rounding. This damaging change to your posture can lead to significant injuries and a severe misalignment in the spine over the course of time. Simply put, you will be putting a much greater load on your hips, spine, and vertebrae which can lead to disc injuries- including a herniated disc.
So, squat smart my friends!