Ask the Doc: Introducing the Squat Guide

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by KYLE M. SELA|PT, DPT, SCS, OCS, CSCS

Ask the Doc: Introducing the Squat Guide

The SquatGuide™ blocks unwanted movements and facilitates desired movement without the coach having to say a word.
James is a 37-year-old firefighter who is 7 months into CrossFit training. He shows up consistently to classes and works his butt off. He is transitioning to CrossFit after years of the typical workout routine of back and biceps followed by some type of cardio. He looks fairly fit but does not move very well, and on top of that he is very competitive. He meets the movement standards of most WODs but doesn’t quite understand that he is sacrificing form to meet those standards. His coaches have used a number of cues and techniques to help him develop his mobility and stay in proper position. However, each time he comes in, it’s like all previous coaching has been thrown out the window. When he is in the heat of a WOD, his form really breaks down as fatigue sets in… but his competitive nature drives him to push through some developing pain and closer to a potential injury. James is frustrated, the coaches are worried, and something needs to change.

The SquatGuide™ was recently introduced to the box and the coaches decide to orient James to the piece of equipment. He is shown how to use it with a few progressions that will develop his pattern and mobility over time. James is amazed how quickly his form improves when first using the SquatGuide™. A light bulb goes off. All of a sudden it’s simple for James, as he can immediately tell when his form breaks and then makes the appropriate correction. The SquatGuide™ blocks unwanted movements and facilitates desired movement without the coach having to say a word. Freedom for James, relief for the coaches, and finally real progress.

Squats: The Beautiful Struggle

Squats: The Beautiful Struggle
Talk to any box owner, strength coach, or physical therapist — they all will tell you the same thing: “I wish all my clients could move better.” We relentlessly attempt to educate, guide and develop great patterns and strategies that our clients can apply to any task thrown at them in the gym or life. Though passionate, educated, and determined, our success depends on the client (1)understanding what we want them to do and (2)being able to routinely practice what we want them to do to make a change. This article revolves around the SquatGuide™, a device we’ve developed at Movement Guides, Inc. that is aimed at bridging that gap between what the coach wants and what the athlete does… specifically when it comes to the squat.

The squat is so basic, yet we all struggle with it. For me it’s like a barometer of how things are running physically for myself or my patients. When things are running well, the squat is a thing of beauty, but often that is not the case. Immaturity, lack of instruction, fatigue, injury, weakness, restriction, and anatomy can all be factors that lead to poor squatting form or patterns.

Immaturity, lack of instruction, fatigue, injury, weakness, restriction, and anatomy can all be factors that lead to poor squatting form or patterns.
Issues can arise from many different locations in the body and for many different reasons. But regardless of the issue reason, there is a common result, known as “medial collapse.”

If you look at someone performing his squat head on (from the front or in the frontal plane), draw a line from the person’s hip to the ankle. Medial collapse refers to the knee diving inwards or medial to this line at any point during the squat. Again, why this happens varies greatly between individuals, but watch closely and you’ll see it often. You might see it for the entirety of the squat in a newbie who’s had poor instruction, but you’ll also see it in the experienced lifter as they fatigue or push the limits of their capacity.

Medial Collapse

Another component of medial collapse seen from the side is the squatter moving her weight into the toes and off the heels of the feet. This usually coincides with the knees moving too far forward during the movement.

Again, the culprit here varies greatly. Limitations in mobility at the hip, knee or ankle; weakness at the spine or hips; collapsing of the medial foot; or simply poor motor programming are just a few of the potential causes. Whatever the reason, simple cues by a good coach can correct and eventually prevent its occurrence.

  • Neutral spine
  • Active hip external rotators
  • Femur at least in same plane as foot (knees out)
  • Knees travel in same plane on descent and ascent
  • Sit back in your heels
  • Keep shins back
  • Push out, not up
  • Grip the floor
  • Spread the floor with your feet 
While these cues and others are great and can be effective, the problem is that many people need consistent and often varying cueing over time in different states of fatigue and loading. This really requires the presence of a trained eye to give these cues and why the SquatGuide™ is appropriate for the gym, clinic or home setting.
It can give these cues in the absence of a coach and while the user is moving. A video can be a great tool, of course, but video does not give the squatter info during the movement and does not aid in developing muscle memory for what proper form should feel like.

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