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.
Have you ever thought about performing a break test on your girlfriend to determine specifically where the muscular weakness are.
NASM CES manuals states “the two step process to assess muscle strength is used to help the health and fitness professional evaulate the possible cause of muscle weakness in a client, which will direct corrective exercise strategies. Muscle weakness can be attibutable to several factors, but the most common factors in a health individual are atrophy or inhibition.”
NASM Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training – page 168.
Great responses and information! It sounds like a more thorough postural assessment would need to take place to pinpoint all of her imbalances. Similar to what Marlan mentioned, I often find that athletes have more dramatic muscular imbalances than other clients since they train so hard in their particular sport which may call for repetitive movements. From what you describe, I find someone performing a squat in this manner typically pronates at the foot, lacks glute medius strength (or it isn’t firing at all), and has minimal ankle range of motion. Additionally, the Q angle plays a role at the knee in women. Since no one is textbook and there could be other imbalances at her pelvis I would definitely take the time to analyze and address her issues before she continues with force/repetition in poor form.
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.
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.
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