Why you should be squatting and how clinical pilates can help.
Being able to perform a squat is an integral movement required throughout our normal daily lives. Every time you sit in a chair, sit on the toilet or bend down and pick something up, you are performing a squat movement. Without even realizing it you are performing a squat many times throughout the day and that’s even before you have gone to the gym, boot camp session or your usual pump class! Even so, a lot of people get this movement wrong and I will be discussing some common faults and how clinical pilates can help correct these altered movement patterns.
However, before I discuss that its time for a little anatomy lesson. The squat is often thought of as a lower body exercise and great for building strength in the quads, hamstrings and gluteals. However, a good squat technique also requires the back muscles and abdominal muscles to be working well to be able to hold a nice upright posture. Without engaging the deep and also superficial back and abdominal muscles, it will not matter how strong your legs are, you will, more than likely have an inefficient squat technique, which may lead to injury and pain. Therefore the squat is not just a lower body movement but can be considered a full body exercise!
There are many reasons why someone can’t perform a squat properly and can be different for each person. Here I’m going to discuss three of the common faults we see with a squat technique and how clinical pilates can help. These include; a lack of ankle mobility, inability to hinge through the hips and reduced ability to maintain an upright and neutral spine. All of these things can be addressed in our clinical pilates classes and are explained further below.
Reduced ankle mobility
Reduced ankle dorsiflexion (bringing toes and foot upwards towards your shin), can have big effects further up the movement chain. It can lead to the body ‘stealing’ movement from elsewhere and placing further strain on the knees, hips or back as they try to make up for the lack of ankle mobility. There are several exercises that can assist with this and improve ankle mobility and are demonstrated below
Ankle mobilization with power band helps improve the ankle range of motion.
Walking on the reformer helps stretch the calf muscles and improve ankle range of motion.
Unable to hip hinge
Being unable to hip hinge forces you to ‘steal’ movement from other areas of the body, typically the knees and lower back. Without the ability to hip hinge greater strain will be placed on your back and knees during a squat movement. A good hip hinge pattern also allows greater gluteal muscle activation and ultimately strength. Here are a few examples of exercises to help with hip hinging which we give during our clinical pilates classes.
- Good example hip hinge
- Bad example hip hinge
- Hip hinge exercise
Bridges help activate the glute and hamstring complexes- you can feel the movement of hip hinging during this exercise.
Seated leg work on the wunda chair helps aid in maintain neutral spine and allows the feeling of hip hinge.
Maintaining a neutral spine
During our clinical pilates classes you will often hear the instructor talk about maintaining a neutral spine during exercises. This means being in an upright position, neither too flexed nor extended, some may say having good posture. This is important for efficient movement and to avoid increased strain on the spine. Being able to maintain a neutral spine during a squat movement is important for the same reasons and especially important if you are squatting with weight. Maintaining a neutral spine requires activation of your deep abdominal and deep spinal stabilizer muscles. It also requires a decent level of spinal flexibility and so some time with a spikey massage ball and foam roller may be required to help loosen up. Here are some examples of exercises that require maintaining a neutral spine.
Example of poor squatting technique with very poor neutral spine and ankle range of motion.
Good squatting technique maintaining neutral spine
In summary, squatting is an important daily movement and everyone should know how to squat properly whether you are sitting all day at the desk, an avid weight lifter or just want to be able to move around without pain. At Beyond we are able to assist with correcting and improving your movement during our clinical pilates classes. If you have any questions please speak with one of our practitioners to help you move through life and squat through life!