Built To Squat

Do you ever feel that however much you squat, you just can’t nail proper technique? Have you ever looked around the gym and there’s always that one person who seems to just be built for squatting and make it look effortless?

Well, what if I could tell you that it may not be your fault you have to work hard on your squat whilst others make it look effortless? I hope you answered that question as yes please, as this whole article is about that very question!

When it comes to anything regarding nutrition or training, something that may work for one person may not work for another. Everyone is different. That is the same for how people are built as well, it’s just how it is.

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Now, what dictates a successful squat is someone’s centre of mass. This is what keeps you balanced, move too far away from that and bad things happen. For example, rocking forward onto your toes shifts you off balance, and especially when using a bar, this will make you fall forward. This is why your centre of mass should go through the middle of your foot. The dashed line on the image below shows where the centre of mass is distributed.

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With everyone being built differently, however, some people have to work harder to stay closer to their centre of mass. The first thing that I advise people to work on is their ankle mobility (you can read Ankle Mobility: It’s not sexy but it works for more information on this). Ankle mobility determines how far your knee can go forward. If your knee doesn’t go very far forward, this results in your hips having to work harder to push further back to hit depth. This in turn leads to your chest dropping and the bar that’s on your back moving away from the middle of your centre mass… panic stations at the ready! If your knees can move forward freely, your hips won’t move back as much and your chest will stay up, keeping bar over your centre mass. Happy days.

Therefore, rule number one, work on ankle mobility.

The second thing I advise people is to look at the lengths of the bones in their legs. Having a long femur (thigh) and a short torso can result in their chest leaning forward due to your hips having to work to go so far back, and not necessarily going ass to grass. On the other hand, having a short femur and a long torso will result in an ass to grass squat and their chest to stay upright, as your hips have less distance to push back. Both squats get people to the desired end goal, but one looks a lot more comfortable than the other.

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Rule number two, don’t fight against how your body is designed, work with it and adapt. Below is a list of tips that can help you keep a more upright posture and keep that bar in line with your centre of mass;

  • Heels raised, i.e. lifting shoes or putting your heels on some thin plates allows your knee to move forward more freely, reducing the distance your hips have to push back
  • Have a wider stance to provide a greater base of support
  • Make sure your knees follow your toes and don’t cave in as this will make everything else fall forward
  • Use a high bar position (unless you’re competing in powerlifting in which case a low bar position may be more beneficial) as the weight will be distributed through your centre of mass
  • Work on quad strength, i.e. split squats, leg presses, prowlers, to make you more stable when pushing the bar up

So, if you are someone who has always struggled to get to grips with squatting, don’t beat yourself up about it. You can only work with what you’ve got and in some cases it does just come down to some people are built for certain things and not for others. Use the few tips I have provided above and really concentrate on your squat form. There’s nothing wrong with dropping the weight for a few weeks and working on technique with lighter weights. I know I’ve done it before and have reaped the rewards with my squat shooting up these past few weeks.

Thanks for reading, and if you want to contact me you can drop me an email at steve@getprimal.co.uk or come visit me at Primal Gym.

Coach Steve

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