The Importance of a Functional Squat

When I mention the word squat, what do you think of? If you frequent the gym, you may visualize a bodybuilder who loads a barbell with the heaviest weights available and then lowers his or her body as close to the ground as possible, with the hope of not collapsing under the pressure of the weight. Or you may think of some popular aerobic-type workouts, where the participants have to perform as many body weight squats, squat jumps, or other variations of the basic squat movement as possible in a short amount of time, with minimal regard for form.

But would you believe me if I said you need to squat to work in your garden? Or, that a squat is essential for helping to lift your young children into and out of a car seat? And you should definitely be squatting to get that bag of groceries from the ground to the counter. Even sitting down in a chair incorporates the basic squat movement. A functional squat is part of our everyday routine – and many of us are potentially squatting with an incorrect movement pattern. Proper mechanics of a squat require stable feet with good arch support, flexible ankles, knee stability, hip and abdominal muscle activation, and a mobile mid-spine. Asymmetries in flexibility, muscle function, and joint mobility anywhere along the line can lead to poor squat mechanics – which may become a source of pain! 1

At Sports PT, we may ask you to squat as part of an evaluation – it is a tool that helps us diagnose what is contributing to pain in your feet, ankles, knees, hips, or back2. If we find any dysfunction, we will retrain your squat mechanics as part of a comprehensive treatment plan to get you moving through the day with greater function. By incorporating a functional squat into everyday life, you may also help to prevent future recurrence of pain (especially once the snow shoveling season starts up again!). So if you are having difficulty or discomfort with daily activities around the house, at work, or with gym or sporting activities, set up an appointment at one of our convenient Sports PT locations. And don’t be surprised if we ask you to show us your squat!

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1. Cook, G., Burton, L., Hoogenboom, B.J., & Voight, M.  (2014).  Functional movement screening: The use of fundamental movements as an assessment of function – Part 1.  The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 9(3): 396-409.

2. Butler, R.J., Plisky, P.J., Southers, C., Scoma, C., & Kiesel, K.B.  (2010).  Biomechanical analysis of the different classifications of the Functional Movement Screen deep squat test. Sports Biomechanics, 9(4): 270-279.