Do you have an immature squat?

When I got my CrossFit certification nearly 5 years ago (Woah, time flies!) I was learning the mechanics of teaching the squat varieties, starting with the air squat. Now, the cert is very hands on so everyone in my group was performing the exercises while the instructor was talking about cues etc. Next thing I know I am being pulled in front of the group and being told I have an immature squat! What does this mean I hear you ask? Basically, it is when you can get your hips below parallel but not without compromising something else, for example rounding your back and breaking at the hips or you are unable to keep your weight in your heels.

This is a common problem (I could be just saying that so I don’t feel so alone!) and one that is not easily fixed but can be worked on. While I believe everyone in the gym would call themselves active many of you are actually quite sedentary during the day; sitting while you drive to work, sitting all day at work, sitting eating meals, sitting watching t.v at night before going to bed. All this sitting leads to tight hip flexors and poor ankle flexibility. I see a LOT of people doing great work on loosening up their hip flexors before and after classes but what about those ankles? In my experience it is actually the lack of ankle flexibility the leads to immature squats and not necessarily constricted hip flexors.

So here is a couple of things you can start doing to increase your ankle mobility. Before you start, do 10 air squats and pay attention to how it feels, where in the movement you break at the hips or feel yourself move onto your toes.

First, ankle distraction. Loop a band (ideally a green one) around the bottom of the pull-up rig, place it around your ankle and step forward so the band is trying to pull you back towards the rig. From there bend your knee and stick your butt out a little all while keeping your heel on the ground and feel your ankle joint being pulled backwards while you try and move it forwards (this is distraction, in the medical sense). Hang out here for 90 seconds to 2 minutes doing some little pulses in different directions – towards the big toe, towards the pinky toe etc.

Next, turn around so you are facing the rig and do the same thing. This is going to increase the ankles ability to move forward to the toe because the band is pulling it the same way that you are moving. Same time frame, same little pulses.

Lastly, grab a kettlebell we have and put it next to a wall or the pull-up rig post. Stand on the kettlebell so your toe is under the handle and let your heel curl down the bell. Keep your knee straight and try and push your bodyweight forward while keeping the heel as low to the ground as possible. Hold for up to 2 minutes. Stay on the same leg, this time bend the knee and repeat the same bodyweight and heel position. You should feel the stretch move a little lower around the achilles tendon. Hold for up to 2 minutes and then switch legs.

After you have finished all this, retest your air squat and notice the difference. Can you keep your chest up higher? Is your weight more in your heels? Do you feel more stable?

As for my squat, it is still a work in progress. It is still a little immature, but maybe one day it will grow up!

Dr. Liz Marshall – Chiropractor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.