I love squatting.  I want you to think a little bit differently about it for this post.


All my clients do it during our course of training because of its applicability to everyday living, and its translation to vertical jump performance for my volleyball athletes. We all find ways to naturally squat as we have to (or should do), every day when we get down and up off the toilet. For me, I’m all about optimizing that squat pattern because I have dealt with lifestyle clients and athletes who have sore knees, and squatting causes them problems. Since I do love squatting so much I had to find a way for them to squat without pain.


Traditionally, to prevent the knees from turning in, a valgus angle, during squatting we put a miniband or tubing above the knees to cue the glutes to fire and stabilize the ball in the socket. This should allow for adequate tracking on the hip and knee, thus reducing knee pain. How I want you to think a little differently about squatting is to take where we create the change in alignment one step further back to the pelvis. I’m talking about the acetabulum, or the socket.


If the ball and socket are not in optimal alignment, then you can guess that over time there will be some issues with the movement pattern of squatting, or knee bending of any kind. Whether the injury develops chronically over time, or happens acutely with one bad landing from a jump, the problem stems from that malalignment. How we can realign the acetabulum is by a huge player called the ischocondylar adductor magnus (IC adductor).


If you look at the IC adductor pelvic attachment point you will see that it attaches on the ischum bone, inferior and posterior to the other three adductors: adductor longus, adductor brevis, and pectinius.





The cool thing about IC adductor is if you stabilize the femoral head (ball), by standing and engage the IC adductor, the pelvic outlet abducts. If the pelvic outlet abducts, the pelvic inlet will adduct. This process will shift the acetabulum and let the femoral head seat more optimally in the acetabulum.


Let me clarify why we put the miniband around the knees to engage glutes. If the pelvis is anteriorly rotated, this causes valgus knee angles, and the pelvic inlet is likely also abducted with a pelvic outlet that is adducted. IC adductor reverses this position. Working along with hamstrings to correct the pelvis in the saggital plane, IC adductor helps correct the position in frontal plane, and now we have a more optimal alignment of ball in socket. As we squat, we can now facilitate better use of the entire quad, especially vastus medialis, which is always seemingly the weaker quad muscle, which in turn helps the knee to track straight and act more like a hinge joint, as it should. Not only that, on the ascent portion of the squat, the glutes, especially glute max, is positioned to fire more optimally. Glute max is huge player when it comes to transverse plane control. So now you have all three planes working in optimal alignment.


I have gone away from using the miniband and started using a 25 pound plate on the ground that the client puts their feet on either side. I use the cue of squeezing their ankles together, which should give them the feeling of the back of their inner thigh engaging: IC adductor. Along with IC adductor, cue a bum tuck before squatting (hamstrings), and clients now have to functionally control their pelvic position throughout the entire squat. There should be no change in the lumbar spine of either flexion or extension. During the descent the ball is externally rotating in the socket as the socket is internally rotating on the ball, which is where we want the movement to occur.


Clients who have absolutely hating squatting because it causes knee pain are now squatting pain free, and feeling how easy it is to squat into a deep position. They feel their entire quad working, rather than just vastus lateralis, and they can better feel their glutes on the ascent as they “crush a walnut between their butt cheeks”, one of my favourite cues.


On a side note, those females with pelvic floor issues are likely lacking IC adductor control, more likely on their left side. This type of squatting with the IC adductor engaged can help those pelvic floor issues, though it will be some work to functionally control that pelvis all the way into a deep squat. More on that later, should you show desire.


Send me your pictures of cracked walnuts from your amazingly strong glutes, or just leave a comment. I hope you enjoyed a different approach to squatting.


Jon Rowe, BKin, CSCS, CEP

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