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Mastering the squat

by Jane
(Denver, Co.)

I have a client who is 30 lbs. overweight and cannot execute a squat. She cannot lower her glutes enough so continues to move forward with knees over the toes. I have tried all I know with using a chair to practice etc. She also complains of pain in her quads which takes three to four days to recover from even using little to no weight during our squat attempts. She walks for exercise three to four days a week. Is there something going on mechanically that I need to know? She is frustrated and I do not know how to proceed. PLEASE HELP!

Comments for Mastering the squat

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mastering the squat
by: jean-marc(spain)

hi, have you try to put a small support under the heels? it helps to start to be able to squat properly....


Squats should not hurt
by: Amanda

Hey there... Sorry to hear your clients knees are hurting. A squat is a basic everyday movement and an important thing to be able to do when we are old, trying to get on and off the toliet!

A great helper is to have her do squats with a stability ball behind her against the wall. Keep in mind, you want her to be able to squat to help her in life, so also try a wide plie squat and her her pretend she is picking something off the floor and putting it on a shelf above and in front of her. Remember primal pattern movements made by cavemen... those are the squats and lunges we all need to master for proper everyday movement. A great source is Paul Chek's book "How T Eat, Move and be Healthy".

Lastly, unless you are training her for olypmic lifting, don't train her to do that type of squat. Good luck!

You should not start doing squads with a unfit overweight client
by: LC

You are hurting your client!!

You are putting a lot of of stress on her knees.

She is not ready to do squads because of the lack of overall strength.

You can start with a conditioning program in which you can use isolated exercises to help the client to gain some overall strength. After the client has more strength and stability go for compound exercises (including squads).

Good Luck


Single Joint Before Compound Joint Movements Please
by: Jeff Moore

Hey there,
Read your problem. A squat assessment should always be done before you train your client as this will help you design a program that fits. Most if not all untrained clients do not have the leg or core strength to do a squat with proper technique. Single joint open chain exercises should always be done in the first microcycle of a program with these individuals. Tightness in the involved muscle groups must also a be addressed and worked on. Also working muscles through full range of motion is important. Start with Leg Extensions for quads, hamstring curls for the obvious. Work into leg presses for hip flexion. A seated leg press is a closed chain exercise that is similiar to the squat. Work on core strength and in about 6 weeks your client should be ready to perform basicesquats. Assess your client for weaknesses in an unloaded squat. Joint issues,tightness in muscles etc.,work on those areas first. Assessments are a very good way to show your clients improvement, even if they don't lose a lot of weight. You and your client will be alot happier about it. I hope this helps

single joint vrs. compound
by: Amanda

Although I appreciate the 'single joint before compound joint' argument, no one in everyday life lays on their stomach and brings their feet to their butt. We do not operate as humans in a single joint capacity, so why train that way? Your client is already squatting when sitting and she is bending, lunging and squatting when picking things off the floor. If you train single joint strength only, your client risks lumbar disc injury because she is not strong globally.

You absolutely need to do core work with her, but not sit ups, or advanced stability ball work. A great basic is to get her into quadraped and have her do naval to spine, holding up to 10 seconds EVERY DAY. That way, when she does any type of squatting (or any bending, lunging, pushing or pulling), her brain will know to turn on her transversus prior to the compound movement.

Single joint strength machines are a neat invention, but a hinderance to actual daily movement.

RE: The squat
by: Daniel

It sounds like you and your client are looking at a flexability issue in reguards to being able to perform the squat. Have you attempted any type of flexability assesment with her quad muscles? It sound that the pain in her quads is from over stretching and straing the muscle group. try to have her attempt a quad stretch to see were she is at and then try to improve her flexability, then you can start a body weight exercise squat routine to work on form and flexability. After some progress is made start adding moderate amount of weight. Also incorperate lunges with boby weigh to work hipflexor flexability and strenght. And al this is just my opinion.

Response Part 1
by: LC

Here is my suggestion

First you need to fill out a health form history to know if your client has any other health issues before engaging in the program.

Second you need talk to your client to see their goals and time they have or want to accomplish their goals. You have to set realistic goals and explain that to your client.

Then do testing with your client.
After testing the client and making the program accordingly, don't forget to include all the 5 components of fitness: Cardiovascular, Strength, Endurance, Flexibility, and Body Composition

The rest is up to the CPT to put everything together.
About Isolated vs Compound exercises

When A client is unfit and that overweight not all exercises are safe. I did not say you should not include squats at all. I clearly said, first start by helping the client to gain some overall Strength. Once your client has more overall strength. You can move to squats or any other exercise more safely.

For Jeff Moore:

I agree with you about assessing flexibility. Also every program is different because of the different clients fitness levels and goals. According to the information Amanda mentions about her client, the client is in a bad fitness level. For this reason I suggest to start to work her overall strength first. Where you can correct some muscle imbalances, weakness and tightness.

Also the work out should include the 5 components:Cardiovascular, Strength, Endurance, Flexibility, Body Composition

You also mentioned squatting as a test. Of course it can be done as a test when starting a program BUT doing squats as a workout at the beginning of a program with an individual in poor conditions is a different thing. The client won't be hurt by the test but will be hurt by the workout. If the client is complaining of pain in the knees it is not a good thing. She should feel her muscles and not her joints.
And by the way the program is different with every client and every trainer.

Response Part 2
by: LC

For Amanda:

I suggested to START with isolated exercises. I did not say DO IT FOREVER.
If that person cannot squat once after practicing. She needs some serious work to do before getting there.

It's like putting someone who does not know how to swim in a pool.

That's why I suggested to start a conditioning phase first(the time depends on the client progress). Where you can correct some muscle imbalances, weakness and tightness.

Then she will do good.

By the way, I love squats. It's one of my favorite exercises.

About the machines:
Everything has its use. No matter if you use bands, free weights, barbells, stability balls...etc.
The machines are not a crazy invention. They can be used for so many things.

I see you like to use functional training with your clients that's great but every client has different goals and you cannot train all the clients the same way.

What about a guy who wants to increase muscle size? Functional training won't work as efficiently.

As I mentioned before every client has a different goal and every CPT makes the program different accordingly.


Can't squat
by: Anonymous

If you can't squat, you're wrong that you're doing this everyday. I know because I couldn't do one. What we do is use our upper body to support us in a squatting situation. The toilet? We fall on it, we push ourselves up from it. I've been training for over a year, have some significant knee issue and my trainer says I have the strength now but now it is in my head. So now, most days I can do one but some days I can't quite make myself. I need to know I want fall. But I can tell you that it really is possible to not be able to do one, whether it's physical or in our heads.

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