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Video: Eight Ways To Improve Your Squats with Coach Dee

Jan 29, 2021 at 14:33
by TrainTo Ride  
Single leg squat

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:
Views: 3,527    Faves: 3    Comments: 0

Full Overhead Deep Squat and what a "pass" looks like
Views: 3,822    Faves: 3    Comments: 0

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!

Have ankle issues, start here...
Ankle Fixes:
Views: 2,139    Faves: 6    Comments: 0

Myofascial Gastroc stretch
Single leg squat
Myofascial Calf Stretch and after that you hit the Single Leg Squat

Have a knee issue, start here...
Knee Fixes:
Views: 1,646    Faves: 15    Comments: 0

Rectus Femoris myofascial stretch- 1
Rectus Femoris myofascial stretch- 2
Front squat with a low left elbow b c of recent surgery
Myofascial Rectus Femoris Stretch followed up by Front Dbell or Olympic squat

Find a hip issue, start here...
Hip Fixes:
Views: 1,131    Faves: 8    Comments: 0

Deep Glute Max myofascial stretch- 1
Deep Glute Max myofascial stretch- 2
Single leg romanian deadlift- 2
Single leg romanian deadlift- 2
Myofascial Deep Glute Max Stretch followed by Single-leg Romanian Deadlift with Dumbbells

Find a torso problem, start here...
Torso Fixes:
Views: 901    Faves: 10    Comments: 0

Lat Myofascial stretch
Ball Cobra s with reaches - 2
Ball Cobra s with reaches - 3
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.

Want more training content? Check out previous articles.


  • 25 2
 Coach Deez nuts
  • 12 1
 this is good content! Way more funktional and beneficial to get a stronger, faster and safer rider in 2021 than a fancy bike test ! tough I won't miss those either.
  • 10 2
 Coach Dee and enduromtbtrainer was like figuring out how to set up suspension for the first time. you have no idea how bad it was and how good it can be until you committed to the knowledge and program. highly recommend, money well spent
  • 3 0
 Well put @ShowMe357 - appreciate it!
  • 4 1
 Agreed! As a member of Enduro MTB Training you realize from day one that Dee knows how the human body works and moves during mountain biking. That knowledge shows in the exercises and workouts in the program and results on the trail!
  • 3 0
 @provin1327: Thank you! Stoked it's working for you!
  • 9 1
 Never skip leg day.
  • 1 0
 It was a displaced bucket handle medial meniscus in intracondylar notch, torn in white-white zone. Really appreciate your advice. I’m 44 and want to continue riding strong and aggressive with my 4 sons. My surgery was back in Dec 2019.
  • 1 0
 Thanks for the article, Coach Dee! Got a sneak preview of this since I follow you and got notified when you uploaded the videos a few weeks ago. Gave me an opportunity to get started with stretches/self screens. It also inspired me to quit procrastinating and start your program since I'm 90 days out from my first race of the season.

With the overhead deep squat test, as I get below 90 degree knee bend, I start to lose my balance and have to compensate by holding the bar in front of my toes as a counter balance. If I elevate my heels on a 1/2'' sheet of plywood, I can go all the way down with perfect form. Do I just need to be focusing on the ankle dorsiflexion or are there other mobility issues at play here as well?
  • 1 0
 @enduromtbtrainer Brilliant stuff, thank you so much! Training at home right now without much equipment, I've come to realize how strenuous (and effective) some of these basic movements can be if you do them right...

However, I had a slipped disk in the lumbar spine 1,5 years ago, and although it doesn't usually cause pain, I've become very cautious - and maybe overly so? - with some movements.
For example, given that I absolutely do maintain proper form: can I still do those single-legged Romanian deadlifts (light, or bodyweight)?

Everything else already went straight into my routine Smile (although with very low or no weight, e.g. for the front squat)
  • 2 0
 I wouldn't do the single leg stuff till you get stability in the L5 because it moves when the ilium moves!
  • 1 0
 @enduromtbtrainer: good point... Thanks!
  • 4 0
 Who’s gonna tell me why this is bullshit?
  • 6 1
 I could write you an essay, but it’s Sunday and people get very protective of their workout choices!
  • 2 0
 @Pinkleg1: I am always interested in opposing views. It would be good if when writing an essay you gave us a bibliography too.
  • 1 0
  • 4 0
 I kid I kid, I was just playing the pinkbike exercise tips meta game where everyone piles in calling bullshit on everything
  • 3 0
 That person who tells you they get all the fitness they need from just the bike. They'll tell you that from the side of the trail as you climb past them.
  • 2 0
 @alexsin: yeah, and you'd better stop and listen when I do buddy!
  • 1 1
 I’ve sadly had to quit squatting. Badly damaged my right ankle 10 years ago so it has limited dorsiflexion however much I try to help it (think the joint was misaligned when it was put back together). That combined with my proportions (long limb short torso) means that I can’t get to depth. And if I stop higher the peak load is too harsh on my knee (which is misbehaving after 10 years of a faulty ankle below it...)

Good exercise if you’re not this broken though!
  • 1 0
 Have you tried doing front squats or goblet squats?
  • 2 0
 @timoped: I think it’s really good advice, like you say, to try different types of squats if one particular move causes pain with correct form. Lowbar squats, for example, are an under rated solution to low back pain and some claim knee relief as well. Front & goblet squats too! That being said, there are people that, much like threehats, should simply avoid the movement. Those people already know who they are. How? Injury/pain from the movement with right form. Coach Dee makes a good point of this at the end mentioning how everyone’s body mechanics are different. Take advantage of those differences and do the right exercise for your body. Squats are the best movement to build your legs but there certainly are other excellent ones.
  • 2 0
 Sorry to hear that @threehats. I hate hearing about surgery mistakes. I'd recommend sticking to limited ROM squats, romanian deads (and all the deadlift breakouts) and if you can lunge, lunges. Oh and keep on all your soft tissue and mobility work now and forever!
  • 1 0
 @timoped: Front squats are even worse! I need to revisit goblet squats but what I’ve generally noticed is that although lighter weights might feel fine, once I video them from a few angles I spot the movement pattern going weird down near parallel.
  • 1 0
 @enduromtbtrainer: I found Bulgarian split squats and lunges were even worse but I’m going to try them whilst holding onto a support so I can stop my right knee falling inwards and the patella then mistracking.

I’ve had a bursa on top of the patella for years now but since lockdown it’s got worse as the pandemic interrupted my gym routine and much of my MTBing (the joys of having a business to keep alive and three small children likewise...) But I think that was because my ankle had got even stiffer than normal - I’ve been working on it for the last week and the knee isn’t feeling as bad (although it still hurts rather a lot when my children bump into it).

Riding my hardtail helps quite a bit because the bumps and drops batter my ankle into submission!

Big fan of deadlifts, they’re the only thing I’m vaguely good at in the gym, got up to double bodyweight, although I’m so lacking in pop (total endurance “athlete”) that a 1RM takes about 10 seconds to get to lockout!
  • 1 0
 @threehats: Make sure you work back into these moves with the priority on flexibility and mobility work so your ranges can open up again.
If your bursa is bugging' I'd have you stay away from any split stance moves till better.
And w/ the deads (etc), same message as above, work back into them smartly and your body will open up for you safely and actually more consistency too.
  • 1 0
 @threehats: try trap bar deadlifts. You can do a "squat the deadlift" motion that is actually fun.
  • 1 0
 @RonSauce: I like the trap bar a lot - on volume work it stops my lower back from being the limiting factor. Sadly don't own one and the gym is shut for now!

@enduromtbtrainer if you have any bright ideas on how to get a prepatellar bursa to go away, I'd very much appreciate them! I'm at the point where I'd rather not wear kneepads because the bursa contact irritation bothers me way more than the fear of crashing...
  • 2 0
 @threehats: Well... that's a hard question to answer. It involves a lot of soft tissue work, joint pumping, myofascial stretching and maybe a doctors intervention to begin with. I'd say to start working on the mobility aspect and get training again to it can get circulating again, seek out a good sports chiro or D.O. in your area.
  • 1 0
 I can’t wait to put these in use.
I have horrible mobility issues!
Over head facing wall squats help, but I seek these 4 are going to help smash it.
Mahalo @enduromtbtrainer
  • 2 0
 Yes @bullshooter LMK how they help!
  • 1 0
 Thank you coach Dee for sharing your knowledge to all those still riders who are dreaming about scrubing!
  • 2 0
 Haha, you're welcome!
  • 1 0
 Overhead squats are the bomb! No reason to not go for cleans once you can handle solid weights overhead.
  • 1 0
 Very practical and helpful exercises. I have a patellar femoral knee issue right now.
  • 2 0
 That can be a glute medius/mininus weakness issue; A TFL tightness issue or lower IT band where it attaches onto the pattella, Stretching the vastus laterals, peroneal group, anterior tib, lateral head of the gastroc (calf) and strengthening of the VMO are all helpful along with self massage to find and work on trigger points and adhesions that you'll find around the patella, outward.
  • 1 0
 @enduromtbtrainer: So, basically stretch and loosen the outside muscles on the leg and strengthen the inside muscles on the leg. Makes sense. Good advice. Thanks.
  • 1 0
 @tacklingdummy: yes that's always a good start Smile
  • 2 0
 Love these, could listen to Coach Dee all day, but gotta get to work
  • 1 0
 Haha, thanks Robert, keep at it!
  • 1 0
 What would you advise for someone that lost 60% of their meniscus in their right knee from a bucket flap?
  • 2 0
 Keep away from bucket flaps?
  • 1 0
 Which side of the knee? I'd say make sure your hips, thigh and lower leg muscles are all in their correct tension. Watch the adductors, medial calf and medial hamstrings as they'll probably be tight, stay hydrated, eat clean, get good sleep.
  • 1 0
 @enduromtbtrainer: It was a displaced bucket handle medial meniscus in intracondylar notch, torn in white-white zone. Really appreciate your advice. I’m 44 and want to continue riding strong and aggressive with my 4 sons. My surgery was back in Dec 2019.
  • 1 0
 I’ve not been allowing my knees to go past my toes when I do any type of squats based on previous advice. After watching your videos, it seems I should reevaluate. I’m missing something with what I have been doing, maybe that is part of it.
  • 1 0
 @Deepinthemaw: You are on to something and would encourage you to do it! If you want to be able to keep your heels down while DH'ing, then one way to train them to naturally do it is to use the normal dorsiflexion range of motion your ankles are designed to have by using them properly in the gym. There will be a period where you will get sore in different place so go slow!
  • 1 0
 @enduromtbtrainer: Awesome advice! I was scared I would do more damage with that much of my meniscus missing. There was definitely more pain when I experimenting going past that threshold. I’ll go slow and easy, but work it out.
  • 1 0
 @Deepinthemaw: you bet, be smart Smile
  • 1 0
 Thank you PB and Coach Dee. Those are awesome!!
  • 2 0
 You're welcome @mybaben, hope they help!
  • 1 0
 huhuu, all fitness center are closed..
  • 1 0
 Hugely beneficial. Learned some good things, thank you for this!
  • 2 0
 Hope it helps!
  • 1 0
 smartly presented. inspiring. had to add the overhead squat to my dailies.
  • 1 0
 Thank you! They are good ones, just go slow into them Smile
  • 1 0
 Who put a Michael Scott quote on the wall?
  • 1 0
 Haha! That's what she said
  • 1 0
 Lucky I passed first go ????????
  • 1 0
 Yes! In my experience only about 10% of people are able to do that, nice work!
  • 1 0
 Love this!
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