Two Tips: Effective Squat Setup
The squat is an exercise and movement that is highly utilized in the fitness & rehabilitation industries. There are countless methods, modifications, and tools on how the squat should be performed. Yet with these different approaches, many often overlook the portion of time from non-weight bearing to weight bearing (the setup). That being said, lets look at two tips on safely and effectively executing the squat setup.
1. Initial Pre-Tension: If you have previously read any content of mine, this first tip shouldn't be a surprise. However, too often clients/athletes will go under the bar and "just pick it up." When this occurs, the system did not have adequate time to respond to the (ideally) heavy and challenging load. In addition, when setting up with enough pre-tension it forces the client/athlete to get fully under the bar. Typically, people fall into a bad habit of only placing their upper body under the bar and using lumbar extension to pick the weight up. This sets up the stage for back pain even before starting the movement— no wonder why people say squats cause low back pain! Conversely, getting under the entire bar to initiate pre-tension will reinforce hip extension (good) as the prime mover compared to lumbar extension (bad).
Quick Check List;
-Pressure through the mid-rear foot
-Feel and sense body weight through both legs and bilateral arches
-Big toes remain in contact with the ground
-Slight femoral external rotation
-Activation of hip extensors/abductors/flexors/anterior core
-Arms firmly press up
-Press upwards into the bar as much as possible without lifting it (pre-tension)
2. Minimal Step Rule: Seek to take the minimal amount of steps needed when moving to the correct starting position. Typically, an unnecessary amount of steps are taken when clients/athletes setup for the squat. Remember that when the bar is heavy, we are trying to sustain activation and engagement throughout the entirety of the movement. Extra steps may lead to pre-mature fatigue, lost focus/balance, excessive spinal force, and lost pre-tension.
Quick Check List:
-Sustain pre-tension during weight acceptance & backwards movement
-Envision and focus on the shortest amount of steps needed
-Once steps are completed, ensure you reinforce the above mentioned steps.