By Dr. Antonio Gurule
Many of us have heard it before. Yet maybe we did not believe it the first time through, but everyone squats differently. Contrary to what the newest certification might be telling you what the “ideal” squat is, we need to do right by our clients and patients by figuring out what the “ideal” position of their squat should be based on their specific anatomical structures.
If you haven’t read this article already, you need to so. The linked article sets the foundation to much of what we are going to cover in this article. Dr. Debell of The Movement Fix does a fantastic job of simplifying many of the anatomical differences we all have that alters the mechanics of how our bodies move, and more specifically how our hips are designed to move. We know that the hip being a ball and socket joint, allows for a great deal of range of motion that we can clearly see through the activities of running, squatting, jumping, and tumbling. But the very thing that makes you “you” and not anyone else, also makes your hips “yours” and not like anyone else’s.
It can be clearly seen how these structural differences can either limit or be advantageous for an athlete when squatting. But the pieces are only as good as the puppeteer that controls the limbs. Other factors that influence how or why we squat differently from one other include experience, strength, and motor control (simply put, how well we can control our bodies).
We are not going to beat a dead horse. Squatting has been covered and there are a number of other articles that reference and debate many of these talking points, but we are not driving that direction. Check out these two picture so we can be on the same page on how the squat and the deadlift are completely different movements.
To continue let us focus on the anatomical differences we just covered earlier in the article. If we know that the “socket” is shaped differently and can potentially be “facing” different directions, we can clearly see how this effects the movement of the “ball” in the socket.
Here is a quick little test that gives a coach or practitioner a glimpse into the shape of the acetabulum. This test can provide us with good information into the depth of the acetabulum, as well and the direction the hip opens. The other important piece of information that we can gather here is a rough idea of the femur head shape in relation to the socket, although this will be expanded with another test coming up.
Notice the difference in positioning between the two athletes above. The athlete on the left clearly has to dive outwards to obtain maximum hip flexion and the athlete on the right stays tighter and closer to her mid line to achieve maximum or full hip flexion.
Two different bodies with two different hip joints!
After we have determined what the shape of the acetabulum is, we are going to build on defining the shape of the femur. If we have our client face down on a table, we can begin to move their bent leg side to side to determine whether or not they have a femur that is slightly retroverted or anteroverted. Consult the video below to make your assessment and determination. Now what does it mean? Let us recall that a joint is comprised of not one, but two separate bones. This interaction and relation is extremely intimate where the structure and shape of each bone influences how each side will articulate with the other, as well as influences the positions and range of motions that can be achieved.
After we have determined what the shape of the acetabulum is we are going to build on defining the shape of the femur. If we have our client face down on a table, we can begin to move their bent leg side to side and determine whether or not they have a femur that is slightly retroverted or anteroverted. Consult the video below to make your assessment and determination. Now what does it mean? Let us recall that a joint is comprised of not one but two separate bones. And that interaction and relation is extremely intimate where the structure and shape of each side influences how each side will articulate with the other as well as the positions and range of motions that can be achieved.
Now what we didn’t talk about is what happens when the hip beings to run out of space due to the different anatomical variations. As the hip begins to go into the end ranges of flexion, the femur will start to approach the acetabulum rim that comprises the socket. As we get closer to this end range with our feet grounded in a fixed position, we often find this position may not be advantageous for our structure. Our pelvis is then forced to tuck under to open more space for the femur to pass through. This in turn will force the lumbosacral joint (lower back) to either flatten out or even possibly round out in the opposite direction.
This is under the assumption the anatomical variances we discussed were limited based on their shape.
As a refresher, deadlifts require high degrees of hip range of motion with limited knee flexion. This hip flexion can often be increased as we are forced to bend our knees slightly at the bottom of our deadlifts to reach the floor. We simply need to alter the current position of the hands and feet to determine the best position that allows for greater flexion of the hip as well as a position that does not diminish performance.
Let us recall the assessment process we went through above and note the position of the foot, knee, and hip in relation to the differences in the shapes of the bones to determine the best foot positions that will allow for the most hip flexion. If we can simply transfer over that hip angulation and location from a lying down position to a standing position we can replicate the “ideal” hip position for our client or athlete.
What might this actually look like?
If we are required to get a great deal of hip flexion, this may mean that a “conventional” deadlift stance might not be the most ideal for your client or patient. A slight change in position may help the athlete succeed not only in lifting numbers, but also success in limiting pain with a wider stance such as the “sumo” deadlift. Or even better yet a “hybrid” that allows the feet to be a little wider than the hands. This wider stance allows the hips to open up based on the shaped of the acetabulum and femur head to maximize hip flexion.
-Health Through Movement-
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