One of the messages that seems to have infiltrated the pre/post-partum recovery and return to fitness world is to stand and squat with your feet straight. I am not a fan of this message, and never a fan of a formula or an “everyone should” premise. Saying everyone’s feet should go in one particular trajectory flies in the face of what we understand about biomechanics, and the individuality of everyone’s structure and capacity. In the words of a very wise colleague when I asked for his thoughts on the straight feet recommendation for squats, he responded….”Do they hate hips?”.
Your foot position follows your hip position.
At the end of the day hip health and pelvic health are anatomically intertwined. Pelvic floor access and function is linked to movements and musculature of the hip (glutes). That is a pelvic health segue to this amazing blog series by The Barbell Physio on hip sockets and squat depth to support variation in foot position for squatting. Note the foot position and the variety of foot turn out of all of the “good” squats demonstrated! Please read the blog below and consider how the information applies to you and the patients/clients you work with. What position seems to be your natural foot turnout for squats? Read on….and thanks Zach for sharing!
HIP SOCKETS AND SQUAT DEPTH – HOW INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES IMPACT SQUAT PERFORMANCE
By Zach Long, DPT (reprinted with permission)
Last week in Part I of this series on individualizing squat technique prescriptions, we covered how an athlete’s hip and ankle mobility (or lack thereof) can impact their squat form. These variations in individual anatomy mean that many of the “rules” for what a proper squat should look like are false. So many of the popular things coaches say such as point your toes forward will actually negatively impact an athletes performance and health squatting. Now in part II, we’ll cover hip specific anatomy and how that will lead to widely different squat forms.
The best illustration of how hip boney anatomy will impact the squat that I’ve ever heard comes from Dr. Stu McGill, known worldwide as the leader when it comes to spine biomechanics. If we look at the countries in the world with the highest rates of hip dysplasia we’ll also so excellence in the sport of Olympic weightlifting that is dominated by those that can squat to greater depth.
This is one reason why the areas of Poland, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and West Russia have historically done so well in Olympic weightlifting. Their hip sockets allow them to squat deep and as a result they don’t have to pull the barbell as far off the ground and therefor can lift more weight. In contrast, people from Normandy, Ireland, and Scotland have very deep hip sockets and for the most part don’t excel in Olympic weightlifting.
Now let’s dive into some specifics of hip boney anatomy and how that can impact the squat.
The femoral condyle rotation seen on the right would allow an athlete to squat with a very wide, externally rotated leg as we see with powerlifters. On the left, this hip would not be able to achieve the same positioning.
Up next, look at the acetabulum (the socket of the ball and socket joint) of the two above hips. On the left it faces forward and more superiorly than the right, allowing for improved squat depth.
The right hip socket in this photo is less deep, which would also allow for improved squat depth.
When viewing these pictures as a whole it should be undeniable that there is absolutely NO way that any two athletes have the exact same squat.
Add in the ankle mobility discussion from last time and then add in bone lengths and sports participation that we’ll discussion in the next few weeks and we’ve got even more evidence that squat technique prescription must be individualized.
Note: Thanks to TheMovementFix.com for introducing me to the above pics explaining this topic!
Want more? Check out Master The Squat to learn the complete system Zach Long, DPT uses for evaluating and correcting athlete’s squat patterns.
Get to know Zach: Dr. Zach Long is the Director of Physical Therapy at Carolina Sports Clinic in North Carolina and runs an industry leading fitness website “The Barbell Physio” where he is a trusted resource to thousands of athletes, coaches, and health care professionals across the United States and beyond. Additionally, Zach teaches “Adcanced Concepts in the Management of the Fitness Athlete” through the Institute of Clinical Excellence. Zach is an ABPTS Sports Certified Specialist, Level One CrossFit Trainer, NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist, and certified SFMA practitioner.