This post was inspired by comments from Instagram, after I posted a video of me squatting. An individual commented that I was not squatting properly as I didn’t reach a depth below parallel. Despite trying to argue about the fact I cannot squat below parallel without arching my lower back, the person couldn’t accept it.
So, why can’t I squat below parallel? It all comes down to my biomechanics.
Let’s understand some terminology.
Mobility: the pliability of our soft tissues (including muscles and fascia) which affects how we move. Training or even just sitting down for prolonged periods of time causes our tissues to become shortened –which affects our range of motion in exercises.
Anatomy: This is simply the way our bones are formed and aligned. Everyone is an individual, and our anatomy will always be slightly different to the person sat next to us.
Firstly, squatting requires a lot of hip flexion, knee flexion and ankle dorsiflexion. The hips need to be mobile (so your glutes, hip flexors, abductors, adductors, psoas, tensor fascia latae and iliotibial band) need to have flexibility (NCSA). For me, those are no issues. Knee flexions requires flexibility within the hamstring muscles – an easy way to test this is touching your toes when sat down – again, I have no issue with this as my hamstrings are extremely flexible. Ankle dorsiflexion. This requires flexibility on their Achilles tendon, soleus, gastrocnemius and peroneals. The only thing that is tight for me is my tendon – and not a great deal.
So I’m flexible, but still can’t squat deep even with just an Olympic bar on my back.
So what can it be?
Well it’s to do with my hip and leg anatomy – namely my bones. A person with a long femur relative to the rest of their body has less freedom of movement and needs to practise a deeper squat than someone with a short femur.
Look at the picture. The person on the left has a short femur and a long torso. Their way of squatting would look “classically good” on paper and in the gym. The person on the right however, has a long femur, so in order for the load of their body weight to go to their centre of gravity, they lean further forward to counteract the way their body weight sits.
This is also the same for the tibia length. A short tibia relative to a long femur means that person has greater hip displacement which causes a more forward lean when you get deeper into the squat and this person may feel more effort in the back musculature. Whereas a longer tibia relative to femur length and have a more upright posture and would feel this working more in their quadriceps. The length of our bones affects the way we squat. But so does the way these bones insert into our joints.
So, next time you’re being criticised or mocked on social media or at the gym for not staying upright during a squad, don’t sweat it! It may not be your fault, you just may be impeded by an unfavorable skeleton.
by. Lucy Ellis