Re-learning proper squatting technique in further detail

My recent article and the subsequent comments presented show some of the difference in opinions when it comes to squatting. I appreciate the responses and discussion and would like to clarify a few things.

First off, to clarify, I DO teach people to squat with their backs rounded, not extended. I have learned these methods form the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) and once I incorporated these techniques, I found my athletes/clients were healthier. Even if you do not agree that the spine should be rounded, most would agree that the back should NOT be extended or arched. An extended back clearly increases your risk of back injury.

Let’s separate 2 parts of the article. First, the picture at the end (below) shows a deep squat with the back rounded. This is an excellent position to learn how to squat properly. It allows you to stretch when you incorporate deep breathing and extended holds. I would not place a heavy weight over her head in this position, but if she was using a vest or dumbbells, she could perform squats.

When you perform a squat with a bar on your shoulders, you should not extend or arch your spine. If you do you will likely injure yourself.  As you descend, I advocate dropping your hips so that your back rounds, exhale fully, then maintain a rounded back when ascending. When you exhale fully and breathe properly with your diaphragm, you will allow your transverse abdominus and internal obliques to fire correctly. You will have a symmetrical pelvis. With back extension or an arched back, you will have an anterior tilted pelvis, overactive erector spinae and Psoas/ hip flexors, and will not fire your core stabilizing muscle. This increases the stress to the low back.

A rounded back does not increase the risk of injury, an extended back does. The first 7 minutes of the video does an excellent job showing how much the back should be rounded. In the video, they call it a “neutral” spine, I call it rounded. Regardless of what you call it, the technique presented in the video is what I advocate. The video also posts incorrect techniques in which you can clearly see the back arched.

Some people are not going to change their opinions of squatting, but if you are on the fence try this experiment: if you can perform a deep squat, look in a mirror, fully arch your back and rise up.

Then perform the same deep squat and round your back (you may need to drop your hips and/or reach forward to achieve this) while you exhale fully. Now rise up with your weight through your heels and use your glutes. If performed correctly, you will likely feel less stress on your back when your back is rounded.

The methods I present from PRI are not mainstream, but I encourage you to consider how we began squatting with a rounded back as toddlers and how most people around the world squat every day to live. Why as we age and add weights would we suddenly attempt to reverse this? 

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