Of all the exercises performed incorrectly in gyms, squatting is probably the most dangerous. Bad form could damage knees, back muscles and tissues, and even vertebral discs and bones.
It may surprise you then to learn that a large number of people are more interested in how much weight they can lift, rather than how they are lifting it!
Poor technique not only risks injury, but also inhibits growth in the muscles you are targeting. A squat or deadlift performed with a knee drop (yes, just as it sounds, the knees collapse towards the floor) will load weight through the knee joints and cause the muscles in the quads to work harder. This means less muscle recruitment in the glutes, hams, lower back and core!
The most important part of a squat or a deadlift is the ‘hinge’. This is the backward movement of the hips. During this movement the knees do indeed bend but ‘drop’ should be minimised. To hinge backwards requires good core support (abdominals, lower back and deep musculature) as well as mobility through the hips and lower back.
As we hinge backwards the tailbone should be kept neutral and not tuck under. This again requires core support and mobility.
The upper body should stay in neutral spine position and just follows the movement of the hips. Guess what…..yup requires core support, and mobility through the upper body this time!
Neutral spine is the spine stacked is a position of minimum stress, or “The individual’s normal spinal curvature, in standing, with no biomechanical dysfunction present” McGill, 2006.
How many people have no biomechanical dysfunction? Well, I haven’t met anyone like this yet. The body compensates to keep us moving. If you sit all day you risk weakening abdominals, lumbo-pelvic control and your posterior chain, however, despite this weakening you will still be able to stand up for hours, and move around. How? Your body recruits other muscles to help the ones that are struggling. It thickens your connective tissue to provide extra support.
However, in time you will start to get little niggles. A bit of backache after working all day? Or maybe the occasional twinge after a workout? Hip pain after standing for a while?
Most of us can’t easily change what we do for a living, but we can change our technique and train smarter. Work on your core support and improve your mobility. Get your squat technique checked if in any doubt at all.
Train for results, not injury.