SQUAT LIKE A BOSS
8 keys to successful squatting as a womxn
Squats are a fundamental, compound exercise that EVERY female athlete benefits from working into her (their) routine regularly. From runners to footy players, squats are queen. It’s time for you to embrace your version of them.
*Quick note about the images above: I went searching for images of women squatting. I spent a solid 45 minutes scrolling through stock photography, looking for diverse images with black and brown women, trans women and more, with little to no success in this short window. Aside from that, a good portion of the images are sexualized, with the women wearing scant clothing, posing in hyper-sexualized positions and generally not fitting with the Sisu vision.”
Too often, womxn are given harmful feedback about their squat technique that doesn’t lead them to feeling confident performing the movement.
“With a loaded exercise, of ANY kind, the primary target should be to do it in a way that feels good to you” — Dr. Ellie Somers
I have heard womxn say that they were told:
…their glutes were’t firing while they perform the squat
Nearly, if not completely, impossible when you’re performing a squat
…their quads were too dominant
Wut? This has literally zero basis, go team strong quads (trademarking this for a t-shirt later) all the way! For womxn, there’s no such thing as having quads that are too strong
…they were simply doing the squat WRONG
Ew. I just can’t.
As with any exercise, or skill-driven activity, the problem with using language like this to a female athlete, is that the presumption is that the athlete is the one with the problem. That her body moves wrong or that her body IS wrong. In reality, it’s the coach, physical therapist or trainer with the problem here.
With a loaded exercise, of ANY kind, the primary target should be to do it in a way that feels good to you. And practicing over time can improve your technique AND your confidence.
PRACTICE MAKES PROGRESS
Many coaches and physical therapists presume that if you’re not doing it right the first time, then loaded squats are dangerous for you. This dogmatic style of coaching and approach to exercise is based on the false assumption that humans are fragile. You are not fragile. There are times that you might FEEL fragile, but you are not fragile. More learning on that here.
If you are someone who is worried about injury risk, I can help you with that. If you’re looking for some additional learning and guidance, I encourage you to check out Allison Tenney’s and I’s free Renegade Wolf Training Load eBook: Ready, Set, Load to foster your understanding of injury risk and the things that may predispose you to risky engagement in activity (hint, technique barely even makes the cut!).
SO, YOU WANT TO IMPROVE YOUR SQUAT TECHNIQUE BUT YOU’RE NOT SURE WHERE TO START
Here are my recommendations to help you squat like a boss
1. START SQUATTING CONSISTENTLY
Consistency wins every time. The more you show up for squats, the easier they’ll get, the better you’ll get at doing them. Practicing even 1-2x/week can make all the difference!
2. LET GO OF PERFECTION AND EMBRACE THE PROGRESS FOUND IN PRACTICE
Try a squat or two and then ask yourself, “does this feel right to me?” “Does it feel good?” “Am I ok?” If the answer is yes…then get after it. The perfectionist in you can be a barrier to your progress. Just check out some early day lifting shots of me compared to my lifting now. PROGRESS.
Things that needed more practice: 1. Squat depth: working to get my hips below my knees. 2. Elbow height, elbows should be straight forward. 3. My face: face should be relaxed.
3. FOCUS ON THE TRANSFER OF THE LOAD (HINT: IT SHOULD MOVE STRAIGHT UP AND DOWN).
Certainly a target in lifting, is efficiency. If being efficient is something you care about, take a video of yourself and see if the weights transfer forward/back or if you can get the load to transfer straight up and straight down.
4. WHEN DROPPING INTO THE HOLE, THINK ABOUT PULLING YOURSELF DOWN (VERSES LETTING THE WEIGHT PUSH YOU DOWN)
This simple adjustment can help you feel a bit more “in control” while squatting. That you’re not letting the weight push you down, you’re actually PULLING it closer to the floor. Try it. Trust me.
5. SLIGHTLY TURN OUT YOUR FEET AND GENTLY SCREW THEM INTO THE FLOOR AS YOU PULL INTO THE HOLE
A very subtle turn out of your feet can help create more space for your hips to flex fully when getting to about 90 degrees of hip flexion and beyond.
6. DRIVE YOUR KNEES FORWARD OVER YOUR TOES!
The age old recommendation that your knees can never pass your toes is the WORST (I am no saint, I used to tell people this too, but we gotta stop, it’s messing up people’s minds and their squats!)! The mechanics of a squat make it near impossible for this to happen. Trust me, it’s absolutely necessary that your knees come forward over your toes if they can, and bonus: it’s not dangerous for you if they do.
While there are some squatty things happening here, this is actually closer to a deadlift-style movement. Don’t be fooled, nothing wrong with this movement, but no reason to use it as a substitute for your beautiful squat.
7. START AT THE BEGINNING
What I mean here, is start small, start easy. While you can absolutely test your hand at a more advanced squat and be just fine, following a progression could help foster your confidence and give you some valuable skills to improve your movement proficiency. The key is to create a successful training environment from the beginning, start with the easiest thing to create feelings of success and confidence, then progressively increase the challenge.
The following 4 squats are in order from easiest to hardest.
8. FINALLY, FEEL FREE TO TOSS DOGMATIC ADVICE AND FIND YOURSELF A GREAT COACH
If you are in need of physical therapy schedule below! If you are interested in run coaching, reach out via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are currently seeing folks virtually and in-person for physical therapy and run coaching needs.
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