Posts tagged squatting
Resistance Band Improves Glut Recruitment During Squat

The squat, and its’ many variations, remains one of the best all around exercises for strength and power development. Its’ utilization of the majority of lower quarter muscle groups also makes it a foundational exercise for patients in our Boulder Physical Therapy practice. The complexity of the complete movement pattern can be a challenge for novice strength training participants and often we utilize modifications in the early training stages to optimize a patient’s mechanics. We have found a looped band around the knees is a great feedback tool to cue a patient into keeping their knees apart. A recent research trial examined the impact of this looped band during a barbell squat.

Foley and colleagues in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy analyzed both healthy trained and untrained participants during a barbell squat (2017). Researchers examined muscle activity and knee mechanics during both a body weight and 3 repetition maximum squat to failure. Each of the squats was examined both with and without a resistance band around their knees. Authors reported increased muscle activation of the quadricep and hip musculature during the squat with the band. Surprisingly, the looped band had a minimal impact on knee mechanics among this healthy population.

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Comparing Muscle Activation During Bilateral and Unilateral Squats
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The squat, and its multiple variations, remains one the best overall exercises for strength and power development due to its’ ability to effectively target the important muscles of the lower quarter. We often utilize the squat in our Boulder Physical Therapy practice with injured patients as a method of facilitating optimal healing and recovery of injured tissues. In addition, prescribing single leg squats is an effective way to reduce side to side asymmetries and muscle imbalances among patients with lower quarter injuries including low back or knee pain. A recent article examined differences between the bilateral and unilateral squat.

Eliassen and colleagues in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy examined participants’ mechanics and muscle activation during 3 conditions of the squat (2018). Participants were asked to perform a bilateral squat, unilateral squat with the foot forward, and unilateral squat with the foot behind them using the same weight for all conditions. The authors found higher muscle activity in the quadriceps and back muscles during the bilateral vs. unilateral squat conditions. Conversely, greater ground reaction forces and higher barbell speeds were found in the unilateral squat indicating greater opportunities for strength and force development, respectively.

The authors recommended utilizing single leg squats for patients in rehabilitation programs including low back pain and knee injuries due to their ability to target the prime movers of the lower quarter while reducing loads on the spine.

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Calf Dry Needling Improves Overhead Squat Depth
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Dry needling is a commonly utilized Physical Therapy intervention which targets taught, tender bands of muscle tissue.  This effective treatment has been previously shown to reduce muscle pain and improve muscle performance and function.  In our Boulder Physical Therapy clinic we commonly see an immediate improvement in muscle length and mobility following the dry needling intervention.  A recent study examined the effectiveness of dry needling on functional movement.  

Lake and colleagues enrolled 30 healthy males into their study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy (2018).  Participants were then randomized to one of three groups: calf dry needling, stretching, or dry needling and stretching.  Each participant performed a series of lower quarter functional movements both before and after the treatment, as well as, 4 days post treatment.  Authors reported a significant increase in overhead squat depth following dry needling of the calf musculature.  This effect is likely secondary to improved ankle bend or dorsiflexion allowing each participant to squat deeper on reassessment.  No significant differences were noted in the Y balance functional testing.

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Influence of Heel Wedge on Squatting Mechanics

Squats remain one of the most effective exercises for strengthening the lower quarter and improving sports performance.  It also is a very efficient exercise in the gym because it targets most of the important leg muscles and works them through a large range of motion.  The downside of a squat is its' difficulty.  Many people struggle to perform a squat properly or perform the exercise with an excessive load sacrificing their form in the process.  Most commonly, people will compensate with a forward lean increasing the load on their spine and pelvis instead of placing the load across the proper joints and muscles.  A loss of ankle mobility also contributes to this forward lean and some individuals have learned to squat with their heels lifted (ex: on a weight plate) to improve their mechanics.  

A recent research study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examined the biomechanics between a flat footed or heels lifted squat (Charlton et al. 2017).  14 trained men performed a weighted back squat in two conditions: barefoot and with their heels lifted by a 1 inch block.   As expected less forward lean was found on the squat when the athletes heels were lifted.  

To learn more about improving your squat performance and mechanics seek out care of a knowledgeable, local Physical Therapist.

Muscle Recruitment Between Full and Partial Back Squat

The squat remains one the best overall exercises for strength development in both healthy and injured patients.  Squatting strength has been correlated with both functional and athletic performance.  Our previous blog posts documented the safety concerns of squatting through a partial or full range of motion.  In short, in a healthy knee there is no danger in completing a full compared to a partial squat.  Some individuals shy away from squatting due to an inability to squat through the full range of motion.  A recent article examined the differences in muscle activation between a partial and full squat.  

da Silva and colleagues examined the muscle recruitment of 15 trained men as they performed a back squat at either a partial or full range of motion (J Strength and Cond Res. 2017).  The authors used surface electrodes over the lower quarter muscle groups to determine their contributions to the lifting movements.  The authors reported higher muscle recruitment for the gluteus maximus, hamstring, and calf during the partial vs. full squat.  The higher muscle of the partial squat shows its' value as both a strengthening and rehabilitation exercise.  

Utilizing the Squat to Screen for Ankle Mobility
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The role of ankle mobility on injury risk and performance has been previously described in our prior blog posts.  These posts have described the correlation between a lack of mobility at the ankle and knee injuries including patellofemoral knee pain and ACL injury, as well as, ankle sprains and achilles tendonitis.  A lack of ankle mobility has been shown to alter knee and hip biomechanics as well as reduce dynamic ankle stability.  A new article reviews the utility of using squat testing as a screening for ankle mobility.

Rabin and colleagues put 53 healthy participants through weight bearing and non wearing ankle mobility measurements as well as squat testing (J Strength Conditioning Research. 2017).  Athletes were screened with both an overhead and forward arm squat to determine their ability to detect a loss of ankle mobility in participants with limited mobility on ankle measurements.  The authors reported high screening utility (sensitivity 1.0, negative likelihood ratio 0.0) for the overhead squat, but better diagnostic properties in the forward arm squat (specificity .84-.88, positive likelihood ratio 3.49-6.02).  Screening athletes first with the overhead squat followed by the forward arm squat is an easy clinical method of assessing ankle mobility.