Learn to squat differently – Part 1
By Erik Bies, DPT MS
Squatting enables you to achieve positions for movements needed in everyday life such as getting to the ground to tie your shoes, to crawl under the kitchen table, to pick up a grocery bag, to reach under the couch or even to pick up the couch. Given those examples, there is no one perfect way to perform a squat, but for a specific task there may be an “optimal” strategy to perform a squat involving the least amount of energy expended or the least amount of physical strain/stress on our bodies. You may get into trouble when the movement becomes “awkward” and you do not distribute body weight or external loads effectively to the point that your tissues cannot deal with the mechanical stresses. DO NOT FEAR! That does not mean that if your movement is not perfect you will injure yourself. But, the likelihood of getting injured increases if you overload the movement with either too much repetition or one acute overload. Can you think of a time you lifted too much and your back or knee ached for days/weeks/months after?
What is really cool about your movement system is that with repetition of tolerable stresses, your tissues adapt and become stronger to meet the demands of the movement through mechanotransduction. Furthermore, with repetition your movement system learns! Understand this central theme regarding movement: The combination of your body’s tissue capacity to deal with and adapt to physical stresses AND the coordination of your movements build your physical resiliency and increase your movement options. One negative is that habitual movement patterns, or lack of variation, in movement can create repetitive stress or overload that you not recognize until it is too late. This is why you need to learn to squat differently.
You need to develop coordination to be stable. Coordination necessary for stability involves the synchrony of muscle activation timing, muscle lengths, and force production (stiffness) to position joints throughout the movement to create fluidity of movement. Variation in external loads and in joint motion required should alter your movement strategy, right? Not necessarily. Your habits, beliefs, or fear may influence how you move, such as how much to bend your knees, hips, or back. When your strategies are limited, you may be subconsciously selecting riskier movement behaviors and not even know it. Fluidity or synchrony of movement through a variety of movement patterns is a skill you may lose without practice. Exploring your ability to squat differently can improve this. How can you practice? Stay tuned for upcoming posts.