Squat Test for Running
The squat. It’s the most basic movement for humans. The squat is what you do when you lift heavy objects. The squat is the basis for the athletic stance where you need to brace yourself for maximum reaction and power distribution. The squat is the basis for how we rested before chairs and it’s the basis for how much of the non-western world still sits at rest. If you can perform a perfect squat you will be on your way to a better running experience. Most runners I meet can’t perform even a basic squat.
I’ve seen it all over the world. In China, South America and Kenya. People waiting for a bus or hanging around in groups in full squat position butt to heels. When they stand up they don’t put a hand down for leverage they activate their glutes, hamstrings and quads to power their body to a standing position. Can you do that?
Adaptations in Kenya
I had the great fortune to visit Kenya to spend 10 days running with and hanging out with the great runners of that country. While there I received a gift from a school where we had donated things they needed. The gift was a squat stool. They adapted a seat for those who had to sit for long periods of time but they didn’t change the basic movement.
Most of the students at the school had one of these they carried with them.
It’s actually quite comfortable if you can get down into a squat position. Again you won’t see students or adults in Kenya stand up from this “chair” using any leverage from their hand. They will use only the strength in their legs.
The Average Age Group Athlete Squat
Here’s a short video on what I generally see from the athletes I work with. I don’t tell them how to squat, I simply ask them to squat. Most bend at the waist to get down which actually puts huge strain on the low back. More importantly is the limited range of motion in the hips. On one athlete their is some and on the other there is almost none. The major cause of this is sitting in chairs, on the couch and in your car. That plus a lack of emphasis on mobility work around your hips.
Do You Need To Squat Butt to Heels
It’s normal when you search on You Tube or Google to find experts saying you need to be able to squat all the way down with your rear end inches from the floor. You will also see the two major running magazines in the USA promoting the Pistol Squat as a great tool for running. All of this is correct but most of the athletes I see can’t come close to an actual squat. My suggestion is work your way to parallel first then when you are comfortable and it feels easy work on other aspects.
Tip #1 Prisoner Squat – This method keeps your back straight and makes it very difficult to bend from you waist. In this method your inclination is to sit down. In a prisoner squat your hands are clasped behind your head and your elbows are flared out to the sides. Your upper back is engaged to hold the position.
Tip #2 – Tighten your Glutes – Prior to movement flex your glutes. Then relax. Don’t release the flex but don’t stay tense either, just relax.
Tip #3 – Use a Chair – If you are new to this, start by using a chair. With the chair behind you, squat down until your butt hits the chair and then return to the starting position.
Tip #4 – Barefoot – Notice that I don’t have shoes on. That’s on purpose. Running shoes with any type of heel to toe offset put your squat at a different angle. Going barefoot keeps you neutral and also will strengthen your feet.
Tip #5 – Cheating – If you are weak your body specifically your legs will want to cheat to create balance. They do this by diving towards the center. If you feel your knees heading towards the center stop. Correct them back to shoulder width or stop and return to the top. Perfect partial squats are better than imperfect full squats. If all you can do is partial then do that until it becomes easy and then progress lower.
Tip #6 – Practice – If you sit for work, get out of your chair often and perform 3-5 prisoner squats. If you sit in front of the TV at night perform 3-5 squats at commercial breaks or program breaks. If you travel for work either in your car or on a plane, stop and squat. On any long drive I do 10 squats every time the car stops for gas. I’ll even pull off at every rest stop and perform 10 squats. On the plane I go into the galley every hour or so and perform 5 – 10 squats. As soon as I land the first thing I do when getting off the jet bridge is pull to the side and do 5-10 squats.
This is not a workout. Using the squat to perform strength workouts is outstanding but to do that you need the basic movement and this is simply the basic movement. Practice your current ability until it becomes easy and then work your way to parallel and finally to butt to heel. Much of your inability to squat is tied up in your core. Future posts will address this neglected part of your mobility routine.
Running is a very pure simple activity. It can free your mind and it can suck. Much of what we do during the day affects our run. Learning to perform a basic squat will make your running feel so much better.