We all know one of the most essential 'primal movement' patterns of the body is the squat. It is a crucial move that every person needs to be proficient at. Squatting is one of those "must-do" moves in life that we all need to be good at doing to live a fully functional life and improve as a mountain biker on and off the bike.
Most thorough trainers will assess the overhead deep squat abilities of any person that comes to see them. I do this and include a self-assessment in all my online programs so riders can see exactly how they squat. Being able to assess any movement helps you, and us trainers, to understand where there might be weakness(s) in joint mobility, muscle flexibility, posture management and stability.
For the squat, the main joints that should be 100% functional are the ankle, knee, hip, thorax (or ribcage), and scapula-humeral joint. If any of these five are compromised, the squat will show evidence of a modified movement. And truth is, no matter your opinion on 'how' squats should be done, form/style always depends on each persons area(s) of weakness and unique physical features such as torso length, femur length, and lower leg length. These will determine what a persons squat will look like and can guide us specifically (including using screening results and review of client history) on what type of program needs to be implemented to optimize their squat move.
Let's flesh this out a little bit by using the example of an ankle injury...
Remember a few weeks after you tweaked an ankle and you were finally able to walk on it? You probably found it difficult to be able to fully dorsiflex your foot (moving your toes toward your shin or shin towards your toes) like is needed while in a proper downhill position. In fact, I'd bet when you tried to squat, this lack of ankle dorsi-flexion may have found it's way up the chain where, in order to compensate for the loss of range of motion in your ankle, your brain had you try to bend your knee more, or maybe shifted your hips, or perhaps flexed your trunk more, etc., etc.. Ever notice those types of changes in your movements? If not, don't worry as these compensations are created at the sub-conscious level which is why it is difficult for us to sometimes recognize or even feel that they are even happening. This type of patterning happens all through the body and is mostly associated with protecting the injured site.
So today we'll stay focused on the overhead deep squat test which is a great way for you to assess how well you move. So I encourage you to try the screen, evaluate yourself honestly and click on any of the pertaining videos to learn how to stretch, then strengthen the specific area of issue.
Remember, this is strictly about trying to find an area of weakness in your body and providing you with a few ideas to begin to address that area. Like I said above, everyone squats differently due to the whole ability of the body to move, length of lower limbs and trunk, and injury history.
Introduction of the Overhead Deep Squat and what the "fails" look like:
Ok, what'd you find? Many of you may have more than one issue, it's VERY common, so go to the video that will help you with what you found and start doing those fixes. HOWEVER! For mountain bikers, I recommend all of these moves in each of the four sections so use them all!
Myofascial Lat Stretch followed up by Ball Back Extensions with Arm Circles
One last thought... to restate what I said above, everyone moves different based off their anatomy they were born with, their injury history, whether or not they were athletes from middle school through high school and how well they were coached during their growing years. So I hope you consider these when you evaluate your own squat and look into how you can get better!
Coach Dee is an ambassador for @yeticycles and trainer to many worldwide. He's used his MTB training programs to win two championships as a Masters racer in the @BigMtnEnduro series and has a program to help you whether you are a weekend warrior or pro racer, click here to find a program to fit your exact needs.