By: Mike Collette
When you talk about movement efficiency, the first thing that comes to mind is basic human movement. These are movements that are replicated in everyday life. This is a very simple yet complex beast when it comes to fitness. You see, everyday you sit down and stand up from the couch, chair at work, in and out of your car etc and its no big deal. Now, you get into the gym and all of a sudden we’re looking for simple yet technical efficiency in the squat movement. Right? Head neutral, chest up, knees out, weight towards the back to middle of the foot, good lumbar curve, don’t let the hips dump out etc. These are the cues us as  coaches need to say and see during that movement.
So why is it so difficult for some people? And we are just talking basic Air Squat here!
There are a few reasons why and here are some simple ways to evaluate if this yields true.
1.) Hypertonicity and  tight muscles
When we talk about “tone” of a muscle, we are not referring to how lean you look when you are not flexing. What we are talking about is resting tension in the muscle and fibers. This resting tension inhibits movement. Thats in part when we wake up we stretch for a few seconds, we are essentially are breaking through some tone. Now a way to differentiate between resting tone and tight muscles is to test ROM (range of motion). Nice and simple: active straight leg raise.
-Lay on your back with and raise one leg up keeping your other leg down on the ground, straight, foot flexed and toes pointing straight up to the sky. Raise your leg up and see how high you can  get it. Now have someone give it a little push or stretch. Guarantee, you will get some extra ROM with this passive leg raise. Now THAT is breaking through TONE. Once you hit your end  ROM, in my mind if its not at least 90  degrees if hip flexion, there is some tightness unless their is a previous history or injury or joint issues (impingement, improper joint centration, ante or retroverted hips etc). BOOM.
2.) Motor Control (Master cueing SON!)
I believe that cueing can fix a tremendous amount of peoples movement. The catch is knowing when its a motor control (abilility to control your muscles and movement) or tightness. Now, you can be tight and still have a great squat but you can also do all the cueing you want with someone and they have great motor control but just can move becausee they’re tight.
A few examples that I’ll share when I have a combo of the two is I will start someone holding onto something; TRX, rings, squat rack and have them try to perform a squat. This helps with balance and the coordination aspect. The next thing is I will have them use a box or an elevated surface as a reference point and cue them to sit down stand up. You can increase or decrease the height but you are inevitably looking for hip crease below the knee. What you want to do is mimic the squat pattern that you would see without that reference point or without holding onto something.
How do you learn best? Are you a visual person? Auditory? Kinesthetic?  Whatever it is, you need to figure this out with clients and athletes. How do they learn?
Literally, for some people you can say what to  do and they will do it. For some, you need to show them and they can mimic. Sometimes its a combo of those two. Sometimes, you need take the person and position them over and over and over again. YOU NEED TO FIGURE THIS OUT to be successful in coaching or cueing the squat.
3.)   Previous history of injury or PAIN
Squatting is great for you don’t get me wrong. It is an essential human movement that we need to be able to do. But if your or a client is having pain during their squat, whether its perfect technique or not, STOP. If someone has a previous history of pain, itis, broken down, degenerative issue and its causes pain, do not have them continue. Do what you can with movement assessment, mobility, flexibility, soft tissue work etc and if need be, refer out. The last thing you want is to further injure or hurt someone.
If you are looking for some good references to learn more about mobility, movement assessment and helping with flexibility, Kelly Starrett, Gray Cook and Charlie Weingroff are all bosses in this department. Check them out!