Friday, September 25, 2015

Alignment for Squats and Lunges

Now who doesn’t do squats and lunges as a part of their workout routine?

Squats and lunges are great multi joint exercises utilizing multiple muscle groups, making them very effective and useful in a variety of exercise programs. Not only do squats and lunges strengthen, but they help with balance, stability, and can even improve your gait. Performing an improper squat or lunge, however, can result in some pretty bad pain. Unfortunately, knee pain/injuries are common, especially in women. Protecting your knees with proper alignment will allow you to get the most out of your exercises. Maintaining good form will also save your back, so pay attention!

1.     Avoid driving the knee forward; keep your weight in the heels!

·       Many have heard to “never let the knee over the toe.” This is a common phrase used by trainers and therapist. What this is really getting at is to avoid forward movements from the knee during the squat or lunge. Pressing the knee too far forward puts an anterior shearing force on the ligaments that support the knee. Try to track your knee over your little toe on the foot, this way you should still be able to see your feet and avoid excessive forward movement.

·       Do not go up on your toes! The weight- especially in a squat- should be distributed into your heels. Toes should be forward. When stepping forward into a lunge, keep the weight in the heel of the leg you are actively stepping with and in the ball of the foot on the trail leg.

2.     Keep your shins over your ankle

·       The goal is to try and keep a somewhat vertical lower leg. While it may lean slightly forward, you do not want the knee to move in a different direction than the ankle joint (ex. knees collapsing inward). The stance can be wide, narrow, or hip width on a squat so long as the knee ankle alignment is correct. For a lunge, look for a right angle from the thigh to the knee to the ankle, keeping the knee in line with the ankle.

3.     Start with a pelvic tilt first then hinge at your hips!

·       The pelvic tilt is critical to avoiding back pain and allowing activation of the powerful gluteal muscles. A pelvic tilt sets a neutral lumbar spine (low back) and from there you can hinge properly at the hips.

·       To hinge at your hips you must push your butt backward allowing the trunk to bend forward thus loading your body weight in your heels. Without a good hip hinge, you put your lower back and knees in jeopardy. The motion is almost like trying to sit in a chair behind you for a squat. A general rule for forward lean is that the hips should match the angle in your lower leg. It also facilitates equal weight distribution between legs when performing a lunge. Make sure to clear your hips once returning to the start position!

Forward Lunge

    Knee tracks over little toe, weight evenly                          Right angles at knee joints, toes forward 
distributed in front foot heel and ball of trailing foot                     shins in line with ankle joints

Squat with Counter Weight

                               Start position for most squats            Pelvic tilt and hip hinge

             Sit back on heels as if sitting in a chair              Full squat, thighs parallel to ground,
                                                                                              back and shin angles match

Follow these basic form tips and you should see improvement in your squats and lunges in no time! If you are unsure if correct form is being used, try performing the exercise in front of a mirror or a friend who can help cue you.

Blog post by Nikki Courtney.