View Full Version : Squat form and ankle flexibility

Emily Mattes
12-06-2007, 10:55 AM
I posted this in the "Exercises" forum, but thought it more appropriate for here.

I have problems maintaining a vertical torso with my squats. I have been using some of the techniques outlined in the first SquatRx video towards improving my lumbar curve. At the bottom of a below-parallel squat I can hold onto a squat rack and maintain and nice upright torso and lumbar curve, but the minute I let go and try to keep my torso straight I fall immediately backwards.

I don't have access to a camera or digital camera, so I drew an approximation of what my body looks like when I'm at the bottom of my air squat when it's below parallel:


My back is almost folded completely over. My knees, head, and toes all remain about in line--I can't get my knees to travel any farther forward. As a result, my back is very flat. When I do overhead squats, the problem is even more pronounced due to my efforts to not drop the weight. I am more upright in front squats but end up losing my lumbar curve.

12-06-2007, 11:14 AM
If you're falling backward, your center of mass is clearly behind your base (feet). You're attempting to counter this imbalance with the forward lean, but of course such forward lean prevents successful front and overhead squatting, and places unreasonable demands on hip extensor flexibility to maintain lumbar extension. In order to achieve a more upright torso position and maintain balance, the hips must move in closer to the feet, which can be accomplished in two basic ways--driving the knees farther forward and/or orienting the feet/knees more to the sides.

In your drawing, you knees are not extending further than your toes--get the idea that this is necessary, beneficial or even possible in most cases out of your head. Your knees MUST protrude over your toes at least slightly in order to achieve the desired position--how much will depend on your body segment lengths.

Turning the feet out more with a slightly wider foot placement will mitigate the long femur problem to a degree by minimizing the horizontal movement of the hips (knees travel more to the sides than forward). However, there are very real limits to how wide and externally rotated you can get without actually limiting depth and increasing the potential for knee and hip injury.

Ankle flexibility is the limiting factor in regard to horizontal knee position--clearly if you're unable to dorsiflex the ankle adequately, the knees cannot travel far enough forward, and since they're attached to the knees, neither can the hips, placing you in that excessive forward leaning position you describe.

Check out this thread for a ton of detail on this very issue:

Boris Bachmann
12-06-2007, 08:35 PM

Greg's reply is great. Reread it.

In the simplest terms:
*Straight is good. Straight does not mean upright
*If you are high bar squatting, the hips will remain under the bar (not sitting "back" as much) - if you don't, you are going to be putting a lot of stress on your back.
*If you are low bar squatting, you will sit back more and you will have more forward lean to keep the bar centered over your foot.

Yong Tang
12-07-2007, 12:05 AM
I agree with Greg regarding the knees over toes issue. I have squatted in the past focusing too much on not letting my knees go past my toes, but that led to negligence on the form of my back. Sticking out a little over the toes feels really comfortable actually and it helped improve my posture and balance. Don't let that be your limiting factor.