“Bro, your best looking squats come when you widen your stance…try squatting like a fat guy.” A Training Partner
Preface: I’m a firm believer that every clients first session with a trainer should be a assessment. I also believe the assessment process is an on-going thing, that every movement serves as an assessment (including the “Hi, How are you today?” question) and that assessments need to be matched to the clients ability. I continually educate myself in these matters and consider myself to be mindful of the information I am taking in.
Secondly, I’ve met a number of fat guys that have rather narrow squat stances.
If only 35 out of 870 Orthopedic physical tests performed by Doctors have high clinical utility, what are the odds that the various physical tests performed by the garden variety personal trainers will have a greater level of utility?
Screening Heresy. Just over two years ago I removed the Overhead Squat Assessment (OHSA) from my assessment toolbox. I’ve come to believe that it is a test that nearly everyone is going to fail, and only a small percentage of all my clients will ever be doing overhead squats.
Athletic people…Middle 98% of all clients…Unathletic/Injured People
I credit Dan John as the influence behind this continuum. There are essentially two groups of outliers; The athletic types (which I will define as those that actually compete in something) and the unathletic types (down to those who have difficulty, or cannot pass simple screen tests, and can temporarily include the post-rehab athlete.)
I have several friends that are very good lifters, some having set competition records and others with high relative/absolute strength. These individuals can express their athletic abilities in various speed ranges and in complex lifts requiring different mobility/stability/flexibility/strength/speed demands. They are not reflective of the average.
The only ones that could likely “ace” an OHSA are ones with Olympic Lifting backgrounds (Oly or CrossFit) and if performed unloaded, significant Dance,Yoga or Calisthenics experience Further, even if they aced the OHSA, things change the minute the barbell is loaded.
If the athletic end of the continuum is challenged by this movement, how do you think the other 99% are going to fare?
If the clients goal included learning Olympic Weightlifting, then I would refer them to a trainer that specializes in such, but not before they developed a decent ability to squat and deadlift first. Loaded movements have a way exposing issues, and if I can correct the pattern to the individual I believe they can enjoy longer and safer training years.
The OHSA is sometimes performed while holding a dowel or PVC pipe. I regard it as a very unnatural movement and I don’t believe everyones structure can perform it to that exact standard. By imposing it, I am setting some people up to fail.
“But the OHSA breaks down all the muscular imbalances the person has.” I used agreed with that line of thinking at one time too…then I started reading a lot more books, attending a lot of courses and working with broader variety of people, including the bottom and top 1% (People that need assistance to sit and stand and well-qualified athletes.)
I’m not alone in my observation that a good number of trainers don’t know how to coach the squat, and that there are some that believe the OHSA Squat and a Barbell Squat are identical in nature, or don’t realize that no two people squat the same.
How certain are we that what we are seeing is a muscle imbalance, and not a structural issue? Or perhaps the person lacks the kinesthetic awareness to perform a squat with their arms overhead?
Does the person ever sit on a toilet? If yes,That means they can squat to some degree. Their supposed inability to squat can be checked several ways which can help determine if it is a structural issue, a psychological issue (fear of falling on their butt), a motor control issue or a mobility issue. A muscle imbalance is not always my go-to answer. Matter of fact, I consider muscle imbalances when other things have been ruled out.
The presence of pain in the squat (or any screen for that matter) means they are going to see the Dr to get it checked, even if I can get them to a pain-free range.
Their feet externally rotated or their knees caved in while they tried to squat? Try widening their stance a little. Notice that by improving their form things magically improved. Most squat variations require a degree of external foot rotation, by limiting the contribution of bodies lateral muscles you increase the odds of knee valgus.
Credit: The Movement Fix. Due to our unique structures we all squat differently. For example, I squat like a Fat Guy. Does standing partial squats on a Bosu sound like something that would change my structure? No! But I would get better at doing partial squats on a Bosu.
In my opinion, coaching proper movement is the best corrective exercise. A historically sedentary individual is not going to have the physical, technical or kinesthetic awareness to realize all of the non-optimized moments within a given exercise. This is where the educated and qualified trainers can shine.
Fact: At the veteran level you are more of an educator than a trainer.