Keys To Mastering The Squat: Part 2

Have you ever sprained your ankle?  It sucks, you feel like the dumb blonde in the 80-90s horror movies, “I can’t go on whatever shall I do”.  If you haven’t count yourself lucky, because even a minor tweak or tear can have lasting impressions.  Getting a little ahead of myself.

So last time we talked about the kinetic chain, today we’re going to look at where it all starts in the foot and how even a minor tweak 10 years ago can be causing problems today.  The reason it’s called a closed kinetic chain is because the closed end is the foot planted in the ground, this affects everything up the chain.   Depending on the position of the foot (if its pronated/supinated, internal/external rotation) effects everything up the kinetic chain.  A recent study found that foot hyper pronation (FLAT FEET) caused an increased lumbar lordosis (curve of your lower back) and increased thoracic kyphosis (curve in your upper back), thus putting increased pressure on the bones nerves and discs of the spine.  Another study found that a wider stance will change to torque about the knee and hips, and when it comes to joints you want less torque to keep the muscles and ligaments from tearing.

During the squat motion often, people shift their weight to their toes and you can see when they do this because they’ll almost fall on their face.  But like most things in life you need a balance, the weight can’t be too forward, or you fall, too far back on your heels and you end up on YouTube. Heels must remain on the ground at all times, failure to do so can result in again you guessed it, face first into the mat with a couple hundred pounds coming down.  If your heels are coming off the ground (often a lack of ankle dorsiflexion) you might have tight calves, we’ll go over if this a problem and how to fix it.

Many people do not know what the ankle is and usually refer to the bump on the side of their foot as the ankle.  The ankle is called a hinge joint involving the calcaneus (your heel), talus (bone above your heel), lateral and medial malleolus of the fibula and tibia (those bumps that everyone thinks are the ankle) along with a myriad of ligaments / tendons / muscles.

Back to the old ankle sprain, when we look at muscle, or tendon, under a microscope it has a # pattern to it, very organized, strong and elastic.  But when we tear / damage the muscle tendon ligament it heals with scar tissue, this can happen with both micro and macro trauma, micro usually being day to day activities and macro are the big tears that may need surgery. And when it heals with scar tissue, its heals with scar tissue.   If you have an old scar go ahead and feel it for a minute…….Nasty right? it’s all jangled up, the fibers aren’t the correct pattern, making it distorted, less elastic, and more prone to injury.  That’s why you always hear the old “damn football injury keeps nagging me every time its cold out”.  Well yea of course it is.  Did you rehab it? no you went drinking.   If you did rehab it are you continuing those rehab exercises?  Scar tissue will never, ever, ever be the same as original muscle, it just won’t that’s why you have to keep up with old rehab exercises if it’s the ankle, knee, shoulder, neck, etc.

Depending on the type of ankle sprain (most common external rotation) you get a tear in the ligament and when it heals its longer than what it used to be, ligaments are not muscles. They have very little blood supply and only work as anchors or ropes, they just try to keep shit from falling apart.  Muscles and tendons are responsible for the movement, but since the body is so complexed we must look at everything to truly know what’s going on.

When any of the ligaments get stretched too far they can fail to keep shit together for lack of a better word, everything starts falling apart, the calcaneus (HEEL) can become rotated and get out position with the talus.  This may cause pain, in the ankle, knee, hip or lower back, and may shift your gait / posture.  With the calcaneus rotated, the knee will compensate and further messes up the kinetic chain, because like we said last time, if one thing messes up the rest will either try to compensate or the whole system fails.  Problem though is this results on abnormal wear and tear on the joints, muscular imbalance, and failure of the squat and other basic movements.

Let’s take an example of poor dorsiflexion of the ankle (heels come off the ground during a squat).  When this happens, more pressure gets placed on the toes, causing your knees to drift forward in front of your toes (BAD, we’ll get into that next time), your balance shifts forward putting more and more pressure on the wrong muscles.

TIMBER, if you haven’t fallen forward by now you probably compensated with extra hip rotation or now you’re just doing a good morning instead of a squat.  The point is, everything collapsed because one aspect of the thousands of movements during a squat, was limited by a tight muscle or joint fixation.

Don’t feel too bad, if you haven’t failed you haven’t learned, everyone does it, the important thing is to learn from your mistakes and know how to keep it from happening again. In the scenario we talked about the dorsiflexion may be the result of a tight calf, dysfunction of the subtalar joint, or scar tissue in the ankle.

The only way to know for sure is through a physical examination or orthopedic testing.  My best advice, come to the squat clinic, click here to sign up and we’ll figure out what’s going on, and how to fix it.  I saw a lot of PRs posted after max out day which is awesome, I also saw quite a few bail outs, which is again awesome you pushed yourself, but I also saw a lot of common mistakes that if we just made a minor tweak, even something as simple as moving your hands 2 inches inward, you’d get that 5-10 lb. bump.