It is no secret I love squats. I always have, I am just biomechanically built for it. It doesn’t mean I haven’t worked on and played around with my set-up and form, I have, a lot. It does mean though that my squats appear “pretty.” Today I bring you an idea on why people can look different squatting but still be “doing it correctly” and why if you are trying to mimic someone to correct your own form you should find someone with your body proportions.
My non-negotiable when teaching someone to lift is proper form. By proper I don’t mean “perfect” as that doesn’t really exist. Proper as in certain this must happen bef
ore more weight can be added to the bar. In no world is it worthwhile to add load on a beginner’s lift while they don’t have basic mechanics down just to boost the ego of the lifter/coach. Yes, it is cool to lift more weight but it is much cooler to build an unshakable foundation and keep yourself injury free.
For the squat my non-negotiables for new clients include: keeping the torso angle the same throughout the lift, keeping the feet flat on the floor, and not having excessive knee valgus. I have had many new clients who struggled with one(or a few) of these and spent a fair amount of time squatting to a box, with a band around their upper thigh, elevating the heel, and doing goblet squats before they ever touched a barbell. I also make sure new clients are comfortable squatting to parallel doing goblet squats before putting them under the barbell. When my advanced clients go heavier, or test 1RM these non-negotiables are the point when I tell them to “shut it down” even if their legs have more in the tank. If their upper back is collapsing, their lower back is rounding, there is a big shift in weight backwards, excessive knee valgus, or they are above parallel, it is time to call it. Again, outside of telling people I lift X amount of weight, it is not doing them any good in the long run. If they are working towards a goal, they will achieve it if they continue their workouts. Progress comes in many ways, not just PRs.
When I teach people how to squat for the first time I give the same basic cues.
- Feet shoulders width apart, inside of your sneaker lines up with the outside of your shoulder.
- Bend at the knees and hips, always keeping your chest above your hips.
- Out of the bottom feel your whole foot on the floor, keep your chest up, squeeze glutes and quads.
As people become familiar with the basic movement, that is when you can start to adjust their squats to put them in the best position for the body proportions and help them achieve success. One of my favorite topics is how there is several ways to get to the same result as everyone is different. You will see this in lifting as people take different approaches to each lift due to their body shape, proportions, and mobility., those with long femurs will have a bigger torso angle and almost appear bent over themselves at the bottom of their squat. They also will not be able to squat as low and many times will just break parallel. This is OK, however, you must be sure when the direction changes out of the “hole” the chest and hips rise at the same time(refer to #4). I have found that people with longer femurs generally do better with a slightly more hip dominant squat, a wider stance, and being more externally rotated at the hip(toes out).
People with short femurs tend to be more upright in their squat. There squats will appear more pleasing to the eyeball. They will be able to have more balance throughout their foot, stand with their feet close together and be able to drive into their quads more than their long femur-ed friends. They will be able to get lower in the squat without sacrificing their torso angle throughout the movement.
This is a VERY basic overview of two of the main differences you will see in squat mechanics. Is one right or wrong? No, but there can definitely be a right and wrong.