I’ll try to keep this short!
My girlfriend has been doing crossfit for about three months now. She is an athlete, but mostly a runner, so she has very very strong legs. As you all know, deep squats are some of the primary movements in Crossfit (which I dislike because i NEVER make my clients squat that low with their knees turned out). My girlfriend told me the instructors keep telling her to squat lower and that her chest is falling forward. I told her to squat safely and that if she couldn’t squat that low with proper form–dont do it!
I put her through a workout yesterday that involved body weight squats–knees/hips 90 degrees, knees and toes in line with each other. I was surprised to see even with no weight, he knees falling INWARD, LACK OF BALANCE, and CHEST FALLING FORWARD.
Now, in a squat assessment with a new, de-conditioned client, I would know the causes of these improper movements. BUT, as mentioned, my girlfriend has good balance, strong legs, and is an athlete. WHAT COULD BE THE CAUSE OF THIS???
TIGHT HIPS?? OVERACTIVE ADDUCTORS? WEAK LOW BACK??
ANYTHING WILL HELP! I just want to make sure she is doing these exercises correctly, and not becoming injured.
Hi Rachel. I’ll preface my answer by saying that this is a very limited answer since I have not seen your girlfriend, nor do I know about her fitness and health condition – so this should not be taken as an ANSWER specific to your girlfriend.
Based on what you’re saying here, one of the issues with her knees collapsing inward (as you describe this it sounds like valgus) as she squats COULD BE weak gluteus medius muscles. I work with female athletes and one of my very early assessments is checking for this “valgus” position. Often that issue is addressed by strengthening the glute medius with such exercises as ankle cuff walks or “monster” walks.
I would recommend having her assessed by a physical therapist to see if in fact that, or something else is the issue before you start trying to address it.
I hope this helps.
It’s possible that tight hips could be causing her to initiate the movement from the knees. Also could be over training or excessive flexibility in the knees. She could practice with a stability ball between her lower back and a wall so she has something to lean up against. Let the ball roll up her back as she squats and practices good form. Cue her to keep her shins and back parallel looking in a mirror from an angle. If she has knee issues it is contraindicated to squat deeper than 90 degrees. If she still can’t perform it with the stability ball maybe try some different exercises to increase hip mobility and knee stability. Physical therapy does sound like a good option for a thorough assessment.
Alright..I’ll bite. Lets take a look at a couple of possible reasons for the chest “falling” forward.
1) if her femur:tibia ratio leans toward a longer femur then she is going to need a wider squat stance…such as wider than shoulder(or possibly wider) not just hip width. I can go into more detail with other exercises needed to adjust compensations that can develop with a wider stance if you would like.
2) weak core can cause an issue here as well. what does her lumbar curve look like when she is squatting?
3) as a runner she might have synergistic dominance in her hamstrings and her glutes might need some work….goes hand in hand with the weak core issue.
4) strong legs don’t mean anything without mobility. what is her ankle mobility like? if she has limited dorsal flexion then she will be forced to rock back and stick her butt out farther than necessary to get depth. This will cause her torso to lean forward and her butt to stick back. Now with this in mind think about a traditional powerlifting squat…they lead with the butt straight back to initiate the movement which is absolutely fine if you have a wider stance squat where the shins can stay perpendicular to the floor. If she has been taught to squat like this (knees behind toes) and her stance is to narrow it is impossible to go ass in the grass deep.
5) Where is her bar position? Is she high bar squatting or low bar squatting? A high bar squat will keep the torso more upright and a low bar will set the center of gravity in line with the scapula thoracic region which will put the shoulders forward more than a high bar squat. I personally prefer the low bar squat for heavy squatting and snatch body position carry over. The high bar back squat is a good way to load the legs closer to the body position of a power clean without doing a front squat.
Now with this all in mind lets look at your symptoms:
Wobbly knees – week hips
torso forward – ankle mobility and core strength
loss of balance – ankle mobility and hip stability
One more question…is she a quad dominant squatter or a hip and hamstring dominant squatter?
If you make a video and send it to me I can give you a more in-depth opinion of what is going on.
I see you are NASM certified so the solutions chart for the overhead squat assessment has some of what I’ve said in it and might be worth taking a look at as well
Shawn has given you a great starting point. There are a lot of factors that can be causing her knee dominance here. Most likely she hasn’t mastered the squat form. If she is unable to do a loaded squat, she needs to regress to a body squat and master the form. This is the obvious answer without providing a detailed analysis.
You said she has other instructors. I’m assuming that you know a lot about her program, which is why you have given her conflicting information. It’s important for her that she gets the right information regarding her program, but it’s ultimately up to her and the instructors she chooses to use. She won’t get anywhere with multiple trainers telling her something different every day. First thing she ought to do is to choose to train with you, others, or just train herself.
Just because she’s an athlete, that doesn’t mean that she isn’t subject to the same muscular imbalances that deconditioned clients may have. Another suggestion that might be more suited to her crossfit, put her on a smith machine with no wieght on the bar, and get her used to those deep squats on the smith machine. It’ll force her to do it correctly, with instruction of course. The smith machine might be a great progression from learning the form for a regular squat. She might learn the form best by just using a body bar and putting it behind her back so that it comes into contact with the back of her head, the top of her butt, and the thoracic spine. http://www.chicagohealers.com/wp-content/uploads/care-for-back1.jpg (See that link to see what I’m talking about.) That’ll help her get used to keeping her chest out and keeping her spine in proper alignment. It’ll tell you more about what muscles are weak with her as well upon proper analysis. The stability ball idea is a great suggestion as well. I don’t feel comfortable offering an opinion of what’s going on with her, I’d have to see it myself, but I think you’ve got a lot of good information to pull from here, and if you are going to train her, this should be a great place to start.
I agree with Shawn that ankle mobility is key. As well as initiated the movement from the hips. Shawn shared with me a great progression for hip stability. What is everyone’s opinion on foam rolling (myofascial release) on improving ankle and hip mobility? Specifically, calves, IT band and the deep hip muscles.