Squatting is a primal movement pattern that all humans learn as young children. It's odd that so many people have difficulty keeping their feet fully on the floor while squatting as adults. Squatting is a beneficial exercise that will lead you to a stronger, more attractive body. Don't worry if you can't squat properly; there are simple tests and quick fixes to help you squat like a pro.
If your heels come off the floor while squatting, check if you have calf tightness. Tight calves will limit your dorsiflexion -- flexing your toes toward your shin -- and lift your heels off the floor. To test for calf tightness, loop a belt or stretch band around the ball of your foot and pull back. If you feel tightness in the back of your lower leg, it could be contributing to your improper squat. Pointing your toes outward slightly will often fix your squat technique if you have tight calves. Make stretching your calves a habit in order to increase your dorsiflexion.
While testing for calf tightness if your calves are not tight but your ankle feels stuck, your mobility is an issue. Gray Cook, a sports physical therapist, developed a system called the “Joint-by-Joint Approach,” which aims to restore your body’s mobility and stability, starting with the ankle. Cook discovered that many injuries he treated, even in the knees, hips and back, where initially caused by poor ankle mobility. Putting a wedge under your heels or wearing weightlifting shoes will allow you to squat properly while working to regain ankle mobility.
Strength and condition coach Mark Rippetoe, who's famous for being very outspoken, believes exercises like squatting are all people need to develop core stability; Cook and others disagree. Cook believes that poor abdominal control can lead to many squatting problems, including heels coming off the floor. Harvard Medical School agrees with Cook’s beliefs by saying the restoration of core stability with exercises like planks has the potential to improve squat form. Cook also says a wedge under your heels can temporarily solve the problem of core stability by changing your center of gravity.
Always consult your doctor before starting an exercise program. Tell your doctor if you experience pain with any exercise, stretch or movement. If you're referred to a physical therapist or chiropractor, tell her you want to start an exercise program. She'll be able to tell you specifically what you need to do in order to injury-proof your body and exercise safely. Make a habit of practicing stability and mobility drills as well as stretching often. This will perfect your squat technique in no time.
- Primal Movement Patterns; Paul Chek
- CharlesPoliquin.com: Simple Solutions to Correct Your Squatting Technique
- Gray CookMovement.com: The Joint-by-Joint Approach
- CharlesPoliquin.com: Ten Things We’ve Learned About Squats
- StartingStrength.com: “Core” stability “Training”
- GrayCookMovement.com: Chapter Nine: Analyzing the Movements in Screens and Assessments
- Harvard Health Publications: Strengthening Your Core: Right and Wrong Ways to do Lunges, Squats and Planks
- Mike Powell/Digital Vision/Getty Images