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I've read squat tips in this site and others, but I can't really figure out how to reach the posture in figure A. Mine is more similar to figure B. It seems physically impossible to get my hips and feet so close.

My idea is to stop increasing my squat weight until I get the right form. Is it only a matter of time and repetition?

The exercises I'm doing are ankle flexibility (like doing the alphabet), moving my hips in a circle, and try to do a weightless squat with my arms pointing forward for balance (I can stand in the squat position for a few seconds).

This is broken

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    I recommend checking out the 10 minute squat test videos: youtube.com/watch?v=46EDDftgFZI. There are also a lot of other great squat resources from K Starr if you do a search on his channel for hips/squat/ankle, etc – Daniel Jan 25 '13 at 19:02
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    This answer describes the flexibility work that helped my squat. It's still a work in progress. Personally I kept the weight moderately low but squatted a lot until I had something between A and B, then I just ramped up the weight. – Dave Liepmann Jan 25 '13 at 19:15
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    So, repetition of the movements did help you achieve a greater flexibility. I guess I'll keep doing them. – Luciano Jan 25 '13 at 19:18
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    What's wrong with B? It looks exactly as prescribed by Starting Strength? – user4644 Jan 27 '13 at 7:10
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    @VSO translate.google.com/… - see the fourth section. There actually is research that seems to relativize this. – Paul K Sep 20 at 6:01
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First, you have to decide which squat you're doing, low bar or high bar squat, because high bar squats allow a more upright back while the low bar makes you lean forward more like figure B, which as Kate mentioned, is the way Starting Strength teaches. I personally low bar squat myself, where the bar, my shoulder blades, and my midfoot form a straight vertical line. You should check out starting strength by Mark Rippetoe and learn how to squat. As for ankle mobility, there are plenty of stretches, but I would also consider weightlifting shoes for a stable ground to push against and a built in heel that makes squatting low easier.

  • Weightlifting shoes may be a good idea. Right now I'm doing this exercise at home so I'm squatting bare foot. Still, you are saying that figure B is okay with a low bar position, but what we were discussing here was that position B is still a bad form and we should all reach enough flexibility for a position A stance. – Luciano Feb 12 '13 at 14:35
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+50

There is a fair amount going on here.

First, the notion of a "correct" squat is open to some interpretation. Nobody would say C) is correct, but B) and A) are debatable.

For instance, if your goal while squatting is to hit the quads, then A) is more correct than B). Notice how A) has a greater knee bend. The butt is closer to the heels:

squat knee flexion comparison

If your goal is to hit the posterior chain (low back, glutes, hamstrings), then B) is more correct. Notice how much more vertical the torso is in A). In a squat, your low back doesn't get much work if it's not moving!

squat form comparison lower back

Similarly, if your goal is to lift the most amount of weight, then you typically want to go with the trunk-more-leaned-forward approach, as it involves more muscle mass = greater lifting ability.

This is why people can back squat more than they can front squat. A front squat is more upright, thus more quad dominant and less posterior chain dominant. Furthermore, it's hard to lean forward in a front squat- you'll lose the bar!

front squat back squat comparison

Credit: Starting Strength.

I've been using green and red lines for good and bad, but note how this could all be reversed.

  • For someone with knee pain history, a squat with more knee bend may be less correct for them.
  • For someone with a low back pain history, a squat with more trunk flexion may be less correct for them.

           Structure

Injury history is one way of individualizing the squat. A lesser appreciated element is bone variation.

Perhaps most well known is lever lengths. Notice the difference:

lever length comparison femur torso squat

When you have long femurs relative to your torso, it's harder to stay upright. Those femurs push your hips back as you go down. Leaning the torso forward is an understandable compensation: if you try to stay upright, you're much more likely to fall backwards.

This is a big reason olympic weightlifters have short legs relative to their torso. Yes, short legs means not having to move the bar as far, but it also means an easier time staying upright. (Remember, if you fall forward in a front squat -which is the position of the catch in a clean and jerk- you're much more likely to dump the bar.)

We can take this further. Notice how the more low back oriented squat involves more hip flexion. The knees are more into the chest:

squat comparisons hip flexion angle

(This is especially true if depth is kept constant. Notice how the right image is not squatting as deep. If you squat the same depth and allow more trunk flexion, you get the trunk even closer to the knees.)

Well, just like not everybody can do a split, not everybody can bend their hips the same

For example, if a person has a deep hip socket, the head of thigh bone will hit the hip bone sooner:

                     hip impingement squatting

This is one version of femoral acetabular impingement (FAI). If someone is getting pain in the front of the hip while squatting, such as a pinching, this is typically the cause. Often, they are running out of room. The bones are colliding.

Conversely, shallow hip sockets means it's easier to squat deeper / bend your hips. Ballet dancers are notorious for shallow hip sockets. But...more mobility isn't always a good thing! Ballet dancers are notorious for hip dysplasia. Or think about someone with chronic shoulder dislocations. When the joint isn't as snug in the socket, it's more mobile.

There is even more to consider. The more upright squat necessitates more ankle flexibility as well.

                                                  ankle movements up and down

ankle comparison squat

This is also why olympic weightlifters will wear shoes with big heel lifts. By elevating the heel relative to the toes, you plantarflex the ankle. Thus, you now have more room to dorsiflex before hitting your terminal ankle range of motion. Just like the hips, try to dorsiflex the ankles too much, and you'll start feeling a blocking or pinching, from the bones banging into one another.

However, the hips tend to be the primary concern when addressing "correct" squatting. Here's more info on how they can vary person to person:

  • Hip retroversion- We've only been talking forward and backward motion. This deals with rotation.

  • Hip adaptation limitations- This is a big one. The first reaction to this kind of information is always "Ok, how do I change this? What do I stretch?" The point here though is this is structural. Much like our height, once it's set, bone doesn't really change orientation.

  • Understanding trade offs- How these structures can be beneficial.

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