The best movement teaching tools around is the box squat. This exaggerated squat variation loads the hips, uses the posterior chain, limits knee flexion and requires a neutral spine. It’s the first thing we go over during an intro session, and something we revisit with veteran clients when they need a refresher on smooth squat mechanics.
Let’s break it down:
When you set up near the box, take a slightly wider than normal stance. From here, create tension by screwing feet and knees away from each other, engaging your glutes and squeezing your belly. From here, back and down. Start moving your butt towards the box, imagining trying to reach it to the far side. Allow your torso to dip forward, sternum facing the ground. Once you run out of room for reaching back, allow your knees to bend, working to maintain a vertical shin.
The forward lean and vertical shin are the most important parts of the box squat. The vertical shin, shows me if you can control tension in your knee and get the ranges of motion from your hips not your knees. If you’re someone who suffers from any sort of knee issue, this is great news for you. By not letting the knee translate forward, we’re essentially not allowing it to take any load. The forward torso lean is so you can learn what neutral spine position feels like.
If I were to keep upright during the box squat, two things could happen. My knees drift forward, which, we’re trying to avoid. Or I would arch my lower back and get range of motion from spine movement instead of hip movement.
There’s a lot of moving parts on this simple, beginner exercise. If you’re having trouble with your squat or feeling it somewhere you shouldn’t, give box squats a try to regroove your pattern with the exaggerated variation.