I have known Daniel for several years. Originally, he met my friend Waylon at the LAC because there was only one squat rack. Waylon asked if he could work in, and then noticed that Daniel squatted about 8 inches high. He recommended that Daniel get some help. He, then, joined my old gym. We worked with him for a while and got him into a somewhat acceptable squat. Daniel moved to LA and I haven’t seen him for a few years. He sent me a message on the Facebook last week saying that he would like to come in and work on his squat some. He said that he had hit some PR numbers, but things were starting to feel “weird”. Daniel is a 485# squatter (no wraps) at about 190# BW, and has been training consistently for a about 5 years.
This is Daniel’s before squat. Right off of the bat in his set up you notice how far out in front of hips the bar sits. He actually feels like this is an upright position. Yet, it doesn’t look to me that he is able to achieve full hip extension at all. I would probably red light this 100kg. Next, watch as he descends. His hamstrings are already pre-stretched due to his poor starting hip position then, he reaches back to descend in the squat. This causes him to lose his lumbar position at the bottom. His squat is already pretty wide, but at the bottom, he is still losing his foot position and rolling onto the lateral edge of the foot. He reports that he feels like he needs to really push out in order to get depth in his squat and that his adductors get really sore after squatting.
When Daniel came into the gym, I told him that I wanted to see him squat. I don’t always jump into some in depth movement screening and analysis. Often, I like to see what someone’s normal routine looks like. Daniel began stretching. He was really cranking on his hips hard. He seemed to really favor stretches for the anterior hip and pigeon style external rotation stretches. I could tell right away seeing his pigeon stretch that he didn’t need to do it. He had plenty of external rotation. You can see how he sets up in his squat, that many people probably associate that with “tight” hip flexors, however I feel that is actually the opposite of the problem, and even though it may “feel” tight, that is not the problem.
You can see that he has almost zero internal rotation and pretty normal external rotation. Then, he reports an impingement pain when we take him into hip flexion and internal rotation. When we take him wide, like he feel like he needs to squat, he feels no pain.
I took Daniel off to the side for about 10 min and performed some drills with him. A 90/90 hip lift, some clam shells, some rolling, some crawling, and then some half kneeling split squats. This drills helped to reposition his hips. Once his hips were in a better position, you can see that the internal rotation returned, and that there was no more impingement pain. It is important to note that you could probably just do the floor drills and not work through the other postures and the test on the ground would show improvement, but I find that it is imperative to work through the other postures if you want the changes to have the highest carryover to the standing movement. If you jump straight from a 90/90 hip lift to a back squat you skip to many steps and there seems to be some of a disconnect for most athletes between the positions.
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Notice the dramatically improved starting position. The bar is much more directly over the hips. He is able to keep a much better lumber position in the bottom of the squat and he gets down there without feeling like he needs to excessively drive his knees out. This means that he is able to maintain a strong foot position throughout the movement, which leads to more speed out of the hole. We can see a direct carryover from the improvement in the internal rotation of the hips to the back squat.
It is important to note that I would not want someone to make a dramatic change like this and then try to load percentages greater than an 80% of their max. If you do that you will likely resort to your old patterns because they “feel stronger” Implementing changes like this needs to be done at the beginning of a training cycle when you are dealing primarily with lighter load and working in a much higher volume. You also have to stay on top of doing your warmup progressions for at least 3 weeks. After that you will have a better feeling of what specific drills work the best for you and be able to sprinkle them in as you feel that you need.