Kendy (Left) has a long torso relative to his femurs, which creates a more upright posture. Teresa (Right) has long femurs relative to her torso, which causes her to lean forward excessively.
Have you ever wondered why no matter how hard you try, you just can’t squat below parallel and remain upright using perfect technique like the models in the fitness magazines or your friend at the gym? Is there only one way to perform a squat? Factors that affect squat mechanics include the following: the shape of your hip socket, body segment ratios, mobility, stability, motor control issues, and the type of squat being performed.
In this article, the first in a three-part series, I will explain the various reasons why your squat may look different than another’s squat. In the second article, I will dispel the myths and lies surrounding the squat. In the third and final article, I will give you tips on how to perform the squat and how to progress to the “perfect” squat.
Hip Anatomy: Determining the Shape of Your Acetabulum
The shape of your acetabulum is determined by genetics. Some of us are born with a shallow hip socket making it easier to squat to full depth. This is sometimes called the “Dalmatian hip” and is prevalent among Eastern Europeans. The “Scottish hip,” which is prevalent among Western Europeans, has a deeper hip socket. For these individuals, it is more difficult to squat to full depth. To determine the depth of your acetabulum you can have a FAST certified personal trainer or strength & conditioning coach perform a hip scour and hip impingement test.
Body Segment Ratios: Torso-to-Femur & Femur-to-Tibia Ratios
Individuals with long torsos relative to their femurs can squat more upright and to a deeper depth. Those with short torsos relative to their femurs are forced to lean forward while descending into the squat, and have more difficulty going deep (see pictures above). A tibia that’s longer than the femur produces a more upright stance, and a tibia shorter than the femur creates forward lean, which can be reduced by holding a wider stance and a 20-30? turnout of the toes.
Other Factors Influencing Squat Mechanics
Squat depth can be limited by a lack of mobility in the ankles, hips, thoracic spine, and tight hamstrings. Hip and core stability problems along with motor control issues (timing and coordination of all the muscles involved in the squat) can also lead to poor squat performance. To determine whether you have any of these issues, have a FAST strength & conditioning coach perform a Functional Movement Screen on you.
The following is a list of factors that can create a more upright squatting posture:
- Adequate ankle dorsiflexion mobility
- Elevated heels (Olympic lifting shoes)
- Wider than shoulder-width stance
- Longer relative torso length
- Pushing the knees out
- Bar positioned high on back
- Shorter relative femur length
- Type of squat (Front, goblet, sumo)
Factors that can create a more forward leaning squatting posture include the following:
- Inadequate ankle dorsiflexion mobility
- No heel elevation (flat-soled shoes)
- Narrow stance
- Longer relative femur length
- Shorter relative torso length
- Not pushing the knees out
- Bar positioned low on back
- Type of squat (Back, close stance)
Now that you have a thorough understanding of the factors that can influence the way you squat, you can start to see why one person’s squat might look very different from another. In the next article, I will explain the myths and lies surrounding the squat, and why you shouldn’t believe everything that you read or hear. In the meantime, come visit one of our FAST locations for a free fitness evaluation by a certified personal trainer, which includes a squat assessment.