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Functional Movements – The Squat

Why Should I Squat?

Squatting exercises are considered functional due to their ability to maximise strength and athletic performance whilst helping to preserve function of vital everyday movements such as sitting, standing or simply getting out of bed.

The squat is a multi-joint compound movement which effectively engages the lower limb and lumbopelvic regions and can be tremendously beneficial to your overall health and wellbeing.

How Do I Squat?

Seen below is a breakdown of the different in how to correctly perform the squat;

Starting Position:

· Position yourself under the bar with bar across the upper trapezius muscles

· Take two or three steps backward until balance has been established and feet are positioned evenly apart, your stance width should be based on personal preference

Head and Eye Position:

· Head and eyes are positioned forward, allowing the cervical spine to keep in line with the body helps maintain bodyweight distribution


· Inhale deeply and brace your core during the lift in order to maintain intra-thoracic pressure and prevent bending forward and arching the back, we call this the Valsalva Manoeuvre

· Exhale at the top of the squat


· On descent push hips back and maintain neutral spine, whether you choose to put more emphasis on the knees or hips will be determined by the positioning of your torso and the bar.

· A high bar positioning emphasis the knee extensors such as the quadriceps where as a low bar positioning emphasis the hip extensors and spinal erectors

· Distribute bodyweight evenly throughout feet

· Maintain slow, controlled descent

· Proper depth is achieved when mid-thigh is parallel to the floor


· Drive feet into the floor, extending hips and knees

How an Exercise Physiologist can help …

As Exercise Physiologists we look to improve performance and reduce deficits, whether it be fundamental movement biomechanics, strength, skill, flexibility and many more areas.

Based off the results of an in-depth initial assessment establishing an individual’s medical history, goals as well as physical abilities, an Exercise Physiologist can provide an individualized exercise program to help you take your squat to the next level, or simply as a means of improving one’s ability to perform activities of daily living.

With a better understanding of how to perform the squat, we can begin to address the most common mistakes such as excessive and uncontrolled knee valgus and lower back rounding, and where an Exercise Physiologist may assist in preventing these movement patterns from occurring.

Lower Back Rounding or the “Butt Wink”

This occurs when the lumbar spine flexes and goes into a posterior pelvic tilt at the bottom of a squat. When performed in this manor to an excessive degree, the lumbar spine often lose stability which can apply potentially harmful forces to the vertebrae and intervertebral disks.

Some degree of lower back rounding during a squat in order to maintain a neutral spine is widely viewed as acceptable. It is recommended to become as flexible, strong and stable as possible to avoid this. For some however, a structural issue emerges in which the depth and width of the hip socket limit the ability to achieve a deep squat without the lower back needing to flex and round in order to achieve the additional range of motion.

If an Exercise Physiologist determines strength and stability are the main issues that need addressing, he/she might prescribe an anti-flexion strengthening exercise such as the plank which teaches the patient to maintain a neutral spinal and strengthening the relevant lumbopelvic and core musculature.

Knee Valgus or “Knock Knees”

This occurs when the knees cave inwardly and the hips internally rotate as a result of either weak hip external rotators, comparatively overactive hip adductors, inadequate ankle mobility through dorsiflexion, inadequate quadriceps strength of the VMO (vastus medialis obliquus) or inadequate hamstring strength of the semimembranosus and semitendinosus. Excessive knee valgus can lead to an array of musculoskeletal injuries over time such as patellofemoral pain, ACL tears and ITB syndrome.

If an Exercise Physiologist determines that lack of adequate hip external rotation and abduction strength are the main issues that need addressing, he/she might prescribe a hip abduction strengthening exercise such as the side plank.

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