Updated: Jul 13, 2020
The overhead bodyweight squat is one of the main assessment exercises I use with all my clients. The overhead squat tells you a lot about overall strength, mobility, flexibility, muscular weakness, muscular imbalances etc,.
The overhead squat position, used with my clients in their posture & movement assessment
Should everyone squat?
In short, yes. Every single person on the planet would benefit from training some variation of squats, after all, it is one of the most fundamental human movements and we do it many times a day, in some form or another. However, the type of squat that will benefit your training will depend on your age, training background, goals, mobility and general fitness. An olympic athlete may do barbell back squats with 3x their bodyweight, a person recovering from a 2-year old knee surgery may do banded-squats to box in order to rebuild strength around the knee joint and a 67 year old retired person may do a standing squat from chair position to make sure that they can get up from the sofa or bed without falling or hurting themselves. It is not as simple as every person should squat, more specifically, it is that every person should do a squat variation that is suited to them.
Can you squat properly?
The squat is a powerful tool that should be used in every exercise program whether to build muscle, lose fat, increase strength, improve mobility, restore posture or even within a rehab program. Due to modern day living, the squat has been compromised, with most of us unable to squat much lower than the couch or toilet. We should all be able to squat to, at least, parallel, and in most cases, ass to grass.
Are your squats stuck at parallel?
Do your knees hurt?
Are you feeling the pressure in your lower back?
Is there a restriction present when you try to bend your legs more?
5 mobility drills to better overall squatting.
Incorporate these 5 easy drills into your daily posture routine [or training plan] to fix your squats.
1- Foam Roll Upper-Back: If your arms collapse forward as you descend into a squat that's a sign of poor thoracic mobility. Probably from the bad sitting posture, certainly from being on the computer. Use a foam roller to restore extension in the upper back
2- Overhead Squat on Wall Stretch: The overhead squat on the wall increases shoulder, upper back, hip, groin and lower back flexibility. The laying-down version of this move allows you to get in a better position than you would when performing standing. That way you can focus on really opening up the hips by pushing the knees out, engaging core strength by pushing the lower back into the ground [also a fix for Anterior Pelvic Tilt]
3- Moving Hip Opener: If you can’t get low on your squat, the chances are your hips are tight so work on your end range of motion by going deep into an open hip stretch. Aim for 1 minute each side. Go through the movement slowly, it's not a race, the objective is to increase range of motion and the hip joint not to complete a ton of reps.
4- Ankle Mobility - 3 Way: Just like the hips and knees, the ankles must bend too. Sometimes, not reaching squat depth can be due to poor ankle flexibility, usually from a restriction in dorsiflexion [toes pointing up]. To do the 3 way drill, move your knee towards your big toe 5 times, then move your knee over the centre of your foot 5 times, finally move your knee to the outside of your foot, towards your little toe 5 times. Keep your heel on the floor at all times.
5- Banded Clam Shell - Glute Activation: The glutes are the hip extensors and help resist internal rotation which means safer and more effective squatting. If the glutes are weak or simply not firing then they can’t support the hamstrings and will put more pressure on your lower back. So isolate the glutes and do some key activation exercises to ensure the glutes are both strong and effectively recruited in the squat.
I hope you found this article helpful and you now have some mobility drills to help you improve your squat pattern and depth. These drills are a good base for most people but as you continue to progress you many find that there is one specific area of your squat that needs more attention and therefore, requires some different drills and strategies to fix it. In the mean time, give these general drills a go regardless of your specific limitations.
For a video on how to perform all 5 drills, click here.
Take care [and happy squatting]
Gemma, Generation Strength