** Before anyone tunes in to this episode of Functional Friday, I would recommend tuning in to Part 1 of the Breaking Down The Squat series here.
One common complaint people have when they are back squatting, or just trying to get into a deep squat in general, is that they feel like they are going to fall backwards. So at that point they have one of two options:
- Fall back
- Round out the low back into flexion.
One modification people can make is to try out what is called a Goblet Squat. The Goblet Squat is unique in comparison to the back squat in that it places the load, or weight, out in front of the body (this can actually reduce shear forces from happening in the lumbar spine). As you can probably envision, if you feel like you are going to fall backward, it makes sense that keeping the weight out in front of you will reduce the feeling of falling backwards. If someone is doing a Goblet Squat, and still feels like they are going to fall over, then this is where I would try out a heel lift. Most likely (although not always) it’s a mobility issue with the ankles or hips, but it could also be a motor control issue, where the person just doesn’t know how to incorporate the movement.
Another option to stay safe while squatting is the Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat (or RFESS). I was first introduced to this lift when reading an article from Mike Boyle (anyone interested in the article, the link is here). In the article Boyle makes some great arguments for the RFESS, including staying out of lumbar flexion, training unilateral vs bilateral limbs, and how the strength gains associated with this lift were anecdotally very good.
With all the good of the exercise, there are a few things that can go wrong. The first would be that tight hip flexors/quads (especially rectus femoris), can lead to anterior pelvic tilt, and thus lumbar hyperextension. The rectus femoris is unique in that it crosses both the knee and the hip, so as the knee flexes and the hip stays extended, it requires a lot of mobility from this muscle. The problem with the end result of lumbar hyperextension is that it tends to disengage the core when we are in this position (in the DNS world this is referred to as open scissors syndrome as depicted below).
For anyone who feels an excessive amount of tension in the quads (rectus) when doing this exercise, they should first start with a regular split squat, and then make sure when they start doing the RFESS that the rear foot elevation is not too high.
** I recommend seeking out a movement expert before performing any of the exercises discussed on any of our blogs/videos.
- Kirk Mason, DC, Premier Chiropractic, Minot Chiropractor