Article by coach Kris Middleton
When joining a gym, or even for long-term gym-goers, many people want to be able to do the same as everybody else is or can do, whether this be a body weight snatch, run a mile in record time or perform reps of perfect muscle ups. However, as the coaches of CSC will tell you, no two people are the same, so why would they move the same?
Without discrimination to those born with physical abnormalities, humans are intrinsically the same, in that they have two arms and two legs. Yet, no two humans move in the same manner due to anthropometric differences such as the lengths of the limbs and musculoskeletal muscles (James and Bates 1997). Bernstein, (1967)and Higgins, (1977)suggest that there are three types of movement constraints, biomechanical, morphological and environmental.
The biomechanical constraints are those that are governed by the laws of physics such as gravity, the morphological are the constraints that are governed by the anatomical make up of a human such as length of limb, pennation angles (the way the muscle is constructed) and muscle cross section type (Type 1 to Type 2 ratio). The environmental constraints are those that are governed by the surroundings in relation to the human (are you jumping onto a 12” box or a 30” box).
Therefore, strategy selection for how humans move, results in a movement pattern that is unique to that individual at that point in time. Due to this there can be an enormous amount of variability between humans and how they move (James and Bates 1997).
This is why, as coaches, we spend a lot of our time learning how you move and what is normal for you. One of the methods we use to do this is with the simple body weight squat (air squat), as it can tell us a lot from your ankle flexibility right through to your ability to hold your upper body.
Squatting is not only a beneficial movement for anyone that is recreationally active and for athletes when training for sports performances but, is part of everyday life when working or completing an everyday simple task , (Schoenfeld 2010). However, too often in commercial gyms worldwide there appears to be people using the squat in a manner that is loaded beyond what the movement literacy or ability of these people will safely allow, (Kritz, Cronin, and Hume 2009).
Although I have already said that no two humans will move the same, there are certain neurological pathways (the way our brain tells our body to move) that can be harmful to us.
This could be something like knee valgus (where the knees come together inwards) when squatting which can be extremely dangerous for the knee joint due to increased sheer forces that impact the patella, tibia and femur (Kritz, Cronin, and Hume 2009)or how much flexion your torso has when squatting as every 2° deviation of the vertebrae can cause increased compressive stress by around 16% (Kritz, Cronin, and Hume 2009), these compressive forces move away from the spinal column to the surrounding passive tissues (Schoenfeld 2010)that are not designed for taking load.
When completed correctly the squat has benefits for clinical rehab alongside strength adaptations, however, when the squat is not executed correctly the implications are possible muscle and joint damage, spondylosis (Spinal Osteoarthritis) or ruptured intervertebral disks (Schoenfeld 2010).
As coaches we will try to help you move in a manner that is not harmful to you such as scaling a movement until you build up the necessary strength or flexibility required to complete the movement to a prescribed standard. Listening to the coaches will help you to move in a way that will keep you learning, developing and growing and more importantly help to keep you injury free, achieving the fitness goals that you have set.
Bernstein, N. 1967. The Co-Ordination and Regulation of Movements. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
Higgins, J. 1977. Human Movement: An Integrated Approach. St.Louis, MO: Mosby.
James, C, and B Bates. 1997. “Experimental and Satistical Design Issues in Human Movement Research.” Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science1 (1): 55–69. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327841mpee0101.
Kritz, M, J Cronin, and P Hume. 2009. “The Bodyweight Squat : A Movement Screen for the Squat Pattern.” Strength and Conditioning Journal31 (1): 76–85. https://doi.org/10.1519/SSC.0b013e318195eb2f.
Schoenfeld, B. 2010. “Squatting Kinematics and Kinetics and Their Application to Exercise Performance.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research24 (12): 3497–3506.