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Exercises Movements, technique & proper execution

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Old 08-30-2007, 12:57 AM   #1
Derek Maffett
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Squat flexibility and knee direction

I am trying to train two people right now, and I find that they both have trouble with squats.

One of them doesn't seem to have enough flexibility to squat very deep at all without coming onto her toes. I recognize that this is likely a hip flexibility issue and not an ankle one, but I don't quite know how to correct such a problem.

The other is a lot younger and seems to have good squat flexibility, but I noticed that she seems to have a tendency to squat with her knees pointed inward, more so than feet. I correct her but she can't seem to keep her knees naturally in line with her feet.

Also, what is the proper distance to place your feet apart in squats? And they are working on air squats, by the way.

Thanks,
Derek
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Old 08-30-2007, 04:24 AM   #2
Cal Jones
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Re: Squat flexibility and knee direction

Experimentation and practise.
A lot of women don't have good mechanics for squatting. Things like stiffness can be overcome with some work, but other problems, such as an excessive Q angle, or a lower leg that is proportionally short compared to back or thigh, will make squatting very difficult.
(If you're not sure about Q angles, this article explains it well, with a diagram. Safe.)

I suffer both of the above problems and although I diligantly practise my squatting, I must accept I will never be great at it.
To help, I take a wider than hip-width stance with feet turned out. My knees do not track over my toes when squatting. This is due to the Q angle. They're never going to. My body doesn't bend that way. However, I make a point of stretching out my ilio-tibial band, which gets very tight and can make a Q angle problem worse.

Additionally, I find that, due to having a long back and thighs, and short shins, my heels do not get under my bum when I squat. This is why I need a wider stance and have to turn my toes turned out. I can keep my heels on the floor this way, but this does put some strain on the ankle joint and so it's important to keep this joint strong (balance apparatus is good, or simply standing on one legs - yoga poses such as tree and eagle are helpful).

My next problem is that, due to hunching over a computer for the last 20 years, my thorassic verterbrae (which were naturally close to fused already) do not like to arch backwards. If I stick a barbell on my shoulders, I fold like an accordian that has been sat on by a fat man. Mechanically, I actually do better at overhead squats, because having my arms raised keeps my body in a better position. It may be your older client has a similar problem (especially if she is an office worker or does a lot of hunching activities like computing, kneedlework or knitting). If so, try getting her to do OHS with a broomstick or even a bamboo cane, just for stability.

For free squats, keeping arms up will also help. There are plenty of vids of Annie doing various free squatting WODs and her arm position helps maintain better alignment.

Hope this helps!
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Old 08-30-2007, 09:50 AM   #3
Craig Loizides
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Re: Squat flexibility and knee direction

Why does Q angle affect squatting? I would have thought that with the heels directly under the hips that the angle becomes 0 for everyone.
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Old 08-30-2007, 11:13 AM   #4
Elliot Royce
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Re: Squat flexibility and knee direction

As someone with similar issues, I'll give you my take on it:

if the knees are tracking in, it's probably because of abductor weakness. This should improve over time but make sure they make a conscious effort to pull the knees out as they squat. It is certainly something that anyone can do if they try.

As for width of the feet, I would start at shoulder width but sometimes it requires experimentation since everyone has a different hip construction and flexibility. Have your student find a position that feels comfortable and that allows for the maximum depth without preventing them from rising effectively (too wide can hinder the push). Remember that the toes point at 30-45 degrees to the side, not straight forward.

For the one with really limited flexibility, consider using a weight plate under their feet to give them a better angle. I used higher heels on my lifting shoes and was able, after six months, to cut a 1/2 inch off the heel lift. I know that some on this board will resist anything that is artificial but I found this a great motivator and progress enhancer.

Also, remember to encourage the knees to go forward of the toes if necessary. A lot of time people get stuck trying to do the wrong technique.

When they have some form down, start adding some weight. The weight will help push them down and increase flexibility. Again this should be done with a proper warmup and incremental weights.
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Old 08-30-2007, 12:06 PM   #5
Cal Jones
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Re: Squat flexibility and knee direction

I'm just going to direct you to this:

http://www.stumptuous.com/cms/displayarticle.php?aid=52 (safe)

It's a great resource for women and deals with woman-specific issues when exercising. The squat section has several pages - all good stuff.
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Old 08-30-2007, 03:22 PM   #6
Sean McCue
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Re: Squat flexibility and knee direction

An idea to address the knees turning in. Get a loop of Theraband and put it around the knees. Have your client do air squats and concentrate on pressing their knees out during the movement. The resistance of the Theraband will be a good guide for them.
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Old 08-30-2007, 04:02 PM   #7
George Mounce
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Re: Squat flexibility and knee direction

Cal I couldn't help but laugh from that website!

"Try a full squat. I think you will find that leg press is to squats as dog poop is to Belgian truffles."

So true, so true!
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Old 08-30-2007, 10:41 PM   #8
Derek Maffett
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Re: Squat flexibility and knee direction

Thanks everyone. All the info helps.
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Old 08-31-2007, 01:48 AM   #9
Blair Robert Lowe
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Re: Squat flexibility and knee direction

Thanks Derrick for posting this. I'm having some weird problems with one of my boys when he squats. His knees splay out and given that he just twisted his knee on tramp ( landed on one leg more than the other ), he has been complaining of knee achiness from time to time. I've taken him off drop landings ( off vault say ) and general jump up and stick.

However, a gymnastic stick is very partial ROM squat and he keeps doing that splay out when doing regular squats for conditioning ( rehab in my mind ).

He's getting this splay out a bit from the ballet he takes ( his mom is the dance coach for the gym ) maybe too.

We do lunges and wall sliding squats a bit too, but it's my idea in my head we need to really build up that knee jump. Nothing bothers my little guys, but then again one has awesome hip flexibility, while the 10yo ( who I'm talking about ) does not really. I've seen some ppl splay out when they lack the hip flexibility.
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