What Is Limiting Your Squat?
Squats are a staple in many training programs. It’s a full body exercise that checks a lot of boxes with regards to targeting multiple muscle groups. With that being said, squats can be challenging as some people may struggle to perform the movement due to a variety of reasons. What these people are left with is the idea that they aren’t good at squats and that they are going to cause more harm. While being mindful of discomfort is always important, we should always ask ourselves why that discomfort is there in the first place.
A place that often goes overlooked is the ankle and how it plays such a vital role in being able to descend further into a squat. We’re going to show you some of the compensations we see due to a stiff or immobile ankle, some ways to assess the ankle, and some options you can utilize to get that ankle moving! As always, please consult with your doctor or local physical therapist if something you are dealing with is causing pain and it hasn’t been fully evaluated yet.
Compensation Patterns During The Squat
Before we get into our ankle assessments when it comes to the squat pattern, we’re first going to show you some compensations that we often see. These compensations are normally seen due to lack of mobility in the ankle, which then creates more undue stress in other areas.
Ever have a client who complains of low-back pain or maybe front-of-the-hip pain during squats? This is a common compensation that causes them to lean forward as they’re squatting. This puts more undue stress on areas that don’t need to be overworked, especially as the weight goes up!
Heels Rising Up
This is another common issue we see when clients try and get deeper into a squat, but in doing so they allow their heels to rise up off the ground. This compensation might lead to increased stress on the knee but also challenges their balance way more than it should.
Feet Turning Out/Knees Turning In
This is a classic compensation pattern we see when clients or athletes are descending into the bottom portion of the squat. This range is limited due to their ankle mobility. The body will always follow the path of least resistance, so once the individual hits their limit, they’ll rotate their feet out and subsequently allow their knees to cave in more to get a little bit of extra motion at the bottom of the squat.
Assess The Ankle, Don’t Guess
The ankle often gets overlooked often during squat assessments. The ankle joint allows for front and back motion, but also does allow some rotational movement as well. Assessing the ankle can be a game changer; it will show you and your clients just how influential it can be on the squat pattern.
Assessing the ankle is really easy and we break it down in this video!
The Assessment Becomes The Treatment
The best part of this is that our assessment becomes part of our mobility to help restore healthy ankle motion. We’ll be more diligent with our movements to make sure we get the most out of our mobility work to reduce tightness and get you moving better! Here are some more videos to help you along your way.
Variations Of The Squat To Consider
If the ankle continues to be a primary limiting factor in a client’s ability to perform a squat well, then train the movement in a slightly different manner. Never be deterred from training a movement pattern if something in particular is limiting them. There is always a way around it!
The squat is such an important part of most training routines. You just need to make sure it’s not going to cause any problems when you try to implement the movement. As coaches, we always need to consider the individual’s unique anatomy and goals to still achieve a training stimulus that enhances their performance. Don’t let your clients start dealing with nagging knee, hip, or back pain due to the ankle limiting their ability to squat efficiently! Always assess their movement and educate them on why they might be moving a certain way.