Drop it like a Squat: understanding our favorite booty builder

Consider the Squat; a gym rats’ second favorite day, a trainers go to for exercise introduction; it builds our favorite vanity muscle, helps in correcting posture through the trunk and building posterior stability.

Squat Form. Squat form is highly debated within the physical health world, which seems flawed in the sense that whether you are sitting, squatting, dropping low on a dance floor or stooping down to grab something, the form never actually changes. It can’t, Squatting is a complex movement made simple because the human body was designed to squat. However, what does change through all the various forms are the mechanics of how the muscles at each interval of the movement respond. these mechanics, like any other complex lift are dependent on muscular balance. It is this lack of balance that leads to Squat dysfunction. The Following is a break down of your phases of a squat with transitions, by understanding these phases and transitions, we can understand how to prevent injury.

Top: hips, knees, shoulders, ankles all in line with one another, weight is evenly distributed on the heels, feet are parallel and pointed forward.
Tran1: Thorasic spine bends anteriorly while lumbar spine begins posterior bend, shoulders laterally rotate, knees/thighs begin slight lateral rotation/abduction, weight begins to shift from heels into heels and ball of the foot, allowing the inside arch to act same as a keystone in terms of support.
Bottom: Weight supported by medial arch. Knees in line with (not past) toes. Shoulders and chest are wide and opened. Supported by the combination of the thorasic bend and lateral rotations; Hips are strong and supported by the combination of lateral rotation/abduction and posterior bend of lumbar spine. The Hips, not the Hamstrings, create the 90-degree angle of the Toe-Knee-Hip Triangle.
Tran2: Knee/thighs begins adduction/medial rotation as lumbar spine begins anterior rotation, shoulders and hips begin simultaneous vertical drive, Thorasic spine and shoulders begins to return to neutral as the body approaches top phase.

As demonstrated by the phases and transitions, proper form is unachievable if muscle imbalances or mobility issues prohibit the necessary mechanical transitions, or are unable to properly support the phases. For example; if the Adductors and Glute Medius cannot properly adduct/medially rotate the thigh/knee the pull angle cannot shift back to glute max/quads during transition2 and final top phase cannot be achieved.

As an LMP; the most common muscular dysfunctions pertaining to squats I see on a more than regular basis are:

  • shortened illiopsoas causing excessive kyphotic lumbar bend
  • shortened QL causing excessive kyphotic bend
  • Tight hamstring/Adductors causing excessive lordotic bend preventing proper hip tilt
  • excessive medial rotation of the shoulders, caused by a slew of chronic shortening through the entirety of the anterior shoulder, clavicular and pectoral regions
  • imbalances within the quadriceps group, causing improper tracking of the patellar slide
  • chronically weak and tight adductors
  • chronically tight IT band in conjunction with weak abductors
  • Glute and Deep-Six imbalance or muscle virus, causing gait dysfunction at the hip


~Joe Litke, LMP, CFT


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