Powerlifting And Chiropractic

The Squat - A Fundamental Movement Pattern

As part of the chiropractic assessment we check our patients ability to squat, getting up and down from sitting. It is essential to be able to squat correctly to avoid getting back pain and other injuries.

The squat is also one of the three disciplines in Powerlifting. This article will explain some fundamental and important aspects of the squat which is relevant to everybody, but especially powerlifters.

The squat is considered a 'fundamental movement pattern' this means that it is something that everybody is expected to be able to perform in order to be able to cope with the physical demands of everyday life, not just powerlifters.

As we develop as children we first learn to roll over, sit up, to crawl, to squat and to walk. These are all excepted developmental milestones which relate to the maturation of the nervous system.

Our squat as a child is usually near perfect, the joints are controlled and the mobility is sufficient to sustain the movement, however as we age we pick up bad habits – sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day shortens our hip flexors, watching television stagnates our diaphragm and poorly structured gym routines focused on resistance machines all lead to a gradual degradation of these fundamental patterns and ultimately - injuries. Not just injuries in the gym but also injuries in daily life.

So when attempting to squat, many of us are often limited from performing the movement efficiently and safely, leading to injuries, and at best a poorly performed squat. This can lead to people avoiding compound movement exercise which has tremendous all round health benefits, which we will explain later.

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How To Do A Correct Squat

We will describe the 'low bar squat' in relation to powerlifting, low bar is the position the bar falls on the back.

To begin with, just use your body weight and perform it with perfect technique! A  bodyweight squat should be established first!

How to do a correct squat:

  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart, toes angled out to around 20 degrees.
  • Stand up as tall as your can; image your spine being a broom handle.
  • Take a deep breath and contract your core, keep your back straight.
  • Bend first at the hips, as if you were sitting backwards onto a chair. Don't lean forward!
  • Follow this with the knees, make sure your knees stay pushed out from the body.
  • Lower yourself to the point that you feel your are able to maintain the 'long spine'.
  • Push through both feet equally and bring your hips through as you rise.

If you struggle to attain reasonable depth, start from the bottom up. Begin kneeling, assume the bottom position of the squat and sit for a while until your feel comfortable, now rise as before.

Now to add weight, make sure your bodyweight squat technique is perfect before adding weight. If you rush to add weight on bad technique you will undoubtedly injure yourself quickly.

  • Start with an empty bar, place your bar in a rack at about the level of your chest, it might feel unnaturally low to begin with.
  • First facing the bar, grasp it with both hands at shoulder distance, do not wrap your thumbs around the bar (it will be easier on your shoulders later).
  • Now step under the bar, and place the bar in the dip created at the bottom of your shoulder blades, now squeeze your upper back tight (again, it might feel unnatural at first). The more you squeeze your upper back the more stable the weight will be, the reason the bar is placed this low will become apparent later, but I can assure you when the weights get heavy you would rather rest the bar on muscle than further up the neck on the spine.
  • Now to unrack, keep your back tight, lift the bar and take a couple of small steps backwards, keep tight at all times.
  • Assume your feet position (shoulder width, 20 degrees) straighten your spine (broom handle) take a deep breath and squat downwards. Go down slowly, rushing will only get you injured!

It will take a couple of weeks of diligent practise for your nervous system to integrate the new movement pattern. To begin with you will have to think a lot about what your are doing. The more you practise the less you will have to think and the more natural the movement will become, it is then that you can start to add weights.

Common Mistakes When Squatting

The most common mistake and the most relevant to chiropractic is the 'butt wink' or posterior pelvic rotation to give it a proper name.

We will cover this further in the future, as the topic deserves an article all to itself, but for now I will describe what it is, and how to stop doing it.

When calling part of a technique a mistake we fall vulnerable to the argument of many who produce very strong squats which are technically imperfect, we are not discussing how strong a squat can be, but instead what biomechanical alterations we can spot that contribute to dysfunction and injury.

Under extreme load the spine wants to stay as rigid or stable as possible (like a broomstick) although in daily life dynamic stability is necessary. Under 200kg of load, the wrong type of movement could be disastrous!

So if we load the spine, then allow the pelvis to 'tuck' we produce a squeezing of the lower lumbar discs, putting massive pressure on the most vulnerable part of the disc. If this is repeated numerous times every week, you are drastically increasing your chance of a disc injury. The main reason that cause disc herniations is repetitive bending!

How To Prevent Disc Injuries When Squatting

ISIS Chiropractic Milton Keynes and Northampton. We have consulting rooms available for rent in our clinics at Milton Keynes and Northampton.

To prevent disc injuries when squatting you should do the following:

  • Fist make sure your knees are tracking outwards far enough from your body,
  • Second: squat only to the depth you back can handle before tucking, regularly squat to that level and you will progress over time lower and lower, there is no mobility drills that substitute for a weight over your back.
  • Another common mistake is, allowing your centre of gravity to track outwards. I see this regularly and it is not only damaging for your lower back, knees and neck, but it always makes a lighter load seem far heavier. Just to clarify, the bar should move vertically at all times, never horizontally!
  • Look down at your feet, the midpoint of your foot is where the bar should sit above, at all times. For every inch the bar travels in front or behind the midpoint of your foot your body will have to work extra hard to stabilise the weight.

Why Squat?

So why learn a difficult movement, which has the potential to harm you if done incorrectly? Simply put, the rewards outweigh the risks!

A correctly performed squat train’s more than just muscular strength. The weight has to be stabilised and coordinated at all times, as you move with the weight on your back your nervous system is making tiny adjustments at speeds faster than you can think in order to keep you balanced.

The small muscles that are used to stabilise joints are just as important, if not more important, than the large muscles that move the joint. Training on resistance machines may well be safe in the short term (good for gym health and safety) but as our patients know, these machines only train the large muscles that move joints, not the smaller stabilisers which are left to shrink and weaken predisposing you to injuries.

In the long term, this can lead to shoulder problems (rotator cuff tendonitis), joint sprains, muscular imbalances and a predisposition to lower back problems.

The squat incorporates the ankle, the knee, the hip, the spine, the shoulders and the neck every single one of these joints needs to be stabilised to produce the movement. This is why we call the squat a compound movement just like the deadlift, clean, kettle bells and using free weights and this is why these compound movements are superior to unidirectional resistance machines.

If You Want Help, Please Let Us Know

Chiropractic treatment is ideal if you suffer from powerlifting and weight training related injuries.

The reason being that we understand and specialise in biomechanics of the whole body, not just the pelvis, back and neck. We also specialise in ligament, tendon and muscle injuries which means that we are ideally placed to help you with your problems and also help you prevent injuries and help you reach your potential.

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If you need any information urgently, please contact the ISIS Chiropractic Centres here. We look forward to hear from you

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