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03 Tue

Show me your squat

Show me your squat

Written by: Paul Kochoa, PT, DPT, OCS, CKTP, CGFI


The other day, a patient came in to see me, she played tennis and golf and was having some knee pain.  I said, “Let me see you squat.”  She proceeded to show me her squat: back straight, head up, she bends her knees, and lifts her heels up, rising onto the balls of her feet.  She couldn’t go down too low, and she complained of pain in the front of her knee during the movement.

The squat is probably the most basic and functional lower extremity strengthening exercise a physiotherapist can give to a patient.  If the patient is unable to squat correctly and without pain, then they have some serious problems.

Whether you have back pain, hip problems, knee pain, ankle issues, or even scapular dysfunctions, the squat can help you.  It requires ankle mobility, knee stability, hip mobility, and lumbar/core stability to be performed correctly.  The squat itself is a diagnostic movement assessment tool, it’s part of the Functional Movement Screen and the Selective Functional Movement Assessment .  Observing a patient perform a squat can give a physiotherapist a wealth of information about the patient:  How mobile is their ankle? Is their knee stable? How much mobility do they have in their hips? How is their motor control and stability?

The answers are found in the movement itself.  The movement can be assessed in weight-bearing and in non-weight-bearing.  The different positions can lead to information regarding motor control and stability versus a tissue elasticity or joint issue.

The proper way to squat is to keep the heels down, knees staying in-line with the toes, and back straight with a good hip hinge to get down low.  Joint movements are ankle dorsiflexion (ankle flexes up), knee flexion (knee bends), hip flexion and external rotation (hip bends with the knees slightly rotating outward).  The motion can also be assessed with the subject lying on their back with the instructor passively taking the legs into the motions.  The different positions can tell you if you have a mobility problem or a stability issue.

With the patient mentioned above, her mobility through the leg and hip were fine.  She had the range of motion, but what she didn’t have was the motor control and stability.  So she didn’t need any more stretching, she definitely needed more strength throughout the leg and core stability.

Next time you’re in the gym, take a look at your squat.  Better yet, have a movement expert take a look at it: go see a physiotherapist.

If you would like more information, please call Professional Physical Therapy and Training at 973-270-7417.  Our offices our located within the YMCA locations in Madison and Summit, NJ.  You do not need to be a member of the YMCA to visit with us.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

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