Up until I found Crossfit, I was one of those people who thought that squatting past parallel was bad for your knees. It was what I was taught in my Exercise Science Degree at University. “Only squat til your thighs are parallel with the ground, keep your shins vertical and knees bend to 90 degrees”. It wasn’t even something that we as students questioned, we just followed like sheep….baaaa. But I digress. Why DO we squat below parallel in Crossfit? ‘Cause it’s FUNCTIONAL!!!!!! When was the last time you sat on the toilet? Have you ever been to Southeast Asia? Ass to grass….(or should I say ass to hole in ground).
Being a physio I am trained to observe and find movement dysfunction in people with pain/injury. And man, do I see ALOT of squat dysfunction. It’s crazy, really. I ask someone to squat and all of a sudden a normal functioning human turns into a freak. I am really not kidding here.
PHYSIO: “Can you show me a squat”
PATIENT: “hmm ok.”
* patient proceeds to stand with their feet close together, lifts heels off the floor, knees collapsing inwards, absolutely no use of hips, glutes or any other part of the body which aids in squatting and goes down about 1/4 of normal range*
PATIENT: “how’s that?”
PHYSIO: “Do you squat like that normally?”
PATIENT: “Er, um….maybe”
(If the photo on the left is you, sorry, but you need help)
So, how can bad squat dude on the left improve his squat?
- Practise with proper technique
- More mobility
We all should be able to execute a proper squat provided we are taught correctly and have the mobility to be able to achieve full range of movement. This all takes time and effort but put in the work and you will see the rewards. I had a lady who did four one-hour mobility classes with me who posted a 10kg improvement in her back squat. Mobility works, if you do it!
From the ground up, bad squat dude should be working on:
- Ankle flexibility
- Hip external rotation and abduction flexibility
- Hip flexor flexibility
- Hamstring flexibility
Check out http://www.mobilitywod.com/ and type in any of the above 4 bullet points into the search for K-K-starr’s video blog on working on improving mobility in those areas. I would also start practising some proper technique into a range that you are comfortable with. Squatting to below parallel depth (if it is something you have never done) is going to be tricky when you first start. Go to chair height with good form to start with and slowly increase your depth over time. Be patient, it won’t happen overnight.