I’m not going to lie, I think it is incredibly hard these days for your average, every day person to find correct information about things relating to Health and Fitness. Whether that be nutrition or training because essentially what is lacking is context with the knowledge that is available. So when looking at technique, more importantly your own, how do we really know what technique is right or wrong and how do we fix it?
The answer more so lies with one’s knowledge of movement, anatomy and how the muscles move during a movement. I am definitely not an expert by any means but I would like to think I have a fairly good understanding in this area now and can provide some fairly comprehensive information (with context) as for what not to be doing and to tie in with this what cues NOT to use.
Let’s start with squats.
As far as lifts that need fixing go, I think squats are my favourite and are the lift that is probably butchered the most, we see it all the time with lifters who have been given really poor cues to help them squat.
Let’s break this up a bit, a squat is a hinge variation, the driving factor for this movement is the hips and the core and the co-contraction between the two (co contraction just means how they contract together). So almost think of yourself like a Chinese bi-fold (silly I know!) But the point to this though is we want to minimize extra moving parts. This also allows us to really create a little cylinder of pressure with our core by using the ribs and the pelvis to help squish them together, literally like a can.
Stupid cue 1: Chest up.
So looking solely at the mechanics of a squat and the drawing above then let’s think about the cue ‘chest up’. As soon as we lift our chest up we are going to drop our pelvis into an anterior tilt and lose any hope of maintaining your core bracing where it should be or your pelvis positioning to stop your hip flexors getting smashed. By trying to squat with a duck bum your core can’t really do its job properly so what gets to do it? Your lower back and your hip flexors. Are you stretching your hips aaalllll the time and they aren’t getting better? Look at how you are moving in your squat 😉
“But if I don’t lift with my chest up I lean too far forward”, what’s more likely to be happening is that you are squatting normally but you aren’t used to it or, you need to do some work on how to hinge properly and load up your posterior chain better during the descent.
This cue also goes for standing back up out of the hole. You are not a snake; you do not need to lead the movement trying to chest bump the imaginary hand in front of you. Keep your chest down and locked into your core, drive with your bum. Your hip flexors and lower back will thank me.
Stupid cue 2: Spread the floor
Now I used to use this one all the time, great cue loved it. Then I learnt more about anatomy and functional anatomy and now I don’t love it. Most of the time when this cue is applied it is because someone is experiencing knee valgus (elvis knees) or general instability, yes this cue can help for sure but, when we apply this type of cue it is initiated from a position of internal rotation which means that the muscles that usually cop a beating are your adductors and your tfl which means your glutes are less likely to actually work during the movement.
Know what you can do instead? Use heaps of accessories work to make them super strong and your core so they kick in as they should do J
Stupid cue 3: Push in and down into your belt
Now this one applies more so to people lifting and using a belt. DON’T push down into your belt, don’t just blow out into your belt, all this is going to do is use the wrong muscles to stabilize and not use the transverse abdominis which is the muscle you really need to help you stabilize. If you are not sure if you are doing it properly try doing a deadbug but cue yourself to flatten your tummy using your lower abdomen, it is a lot harder than you think.
So aside from these cues how else can we tell your squat needs work? Some of the general areas that technique breaks down with a squat are:
- Knees coming in
- Feet collapsing inwards and lifting off the ground
- Folding in half in a squat like a good morning
- Hips shooting up first
- Head and neck overextending
- Butt wink
- Massive progression stall
- Struggling to hit depth
So what can you do to fix this? Most of the time you will find a huge amount of issues with movement originate from a weak core or a core that is not being used properly. Start here and then work outwards and find a coach who endorses moving well, (exercise physiologist or movement specialist is a good place to start) and fix it. Once the core is strong and working well in a hinging pattern most of the time the rest will gradually fall into place with good coaching and cueing.
Otherwise feel free to book in a session online and I can help you break apart and rebuild your technique.