Dr. Mike Beggs is a member of Modig Fitness and owner of Highlands Ranch Chiropractic. The following is an article Dr. Mike wrote regarding the importance of mobility, specifically as it relates to external hip rotation during the back squat. Enjoy this article and keep your eye out for more. Thanks Dr. Mike!
The Importance of External Hip Rotation During the Back Squat
Mobility is extremely important at Modig Fitness. In fact, in my mind it is such a fun and exciting topic that it could certainly be covered in depth, thus taking up a lot of time on paper. So I’ll keep this short and to the point for interest sake. You have probably noticed that owner and head coach David has added quite an emphasis on mobility and as such we have been working even harder at Modig. The focus on mobility serves many purposes, with the main emphasis on full and complete joint tracking and muscle firing order prior to the day’s WOD and/or weight-loaded strength training. The goal is to warm-up those muscles and joints that will be used heavily during the workout so as to prevent injury and enable full range of motion. In this article we’re going to talk specifically about mobility as it relates to the back squat and the emphasis of the warm up.
During the warm up, both David and Tara (Modig’s newest coach) reinforce the importance of keeping our feet no more than shoulder width apart and pointed forward (as opposed to feet rotated and pointing outward) and externally rotating the hips/knees/feet slightly outward upon descent. Or to quote David, “keep your feet pointed forward and imagine that you are screwing your feet into the floor.” The importance of hip rotation or screwing your feet into the floor is that it fires a group of predetermined muscles in the squat called the posterior-chain. The muscles of the posterior-chain are the group of muscles that run from your lower back all the way down the back of the leg to the heel and arch at the bottom of the foot. Specifically, these muscles are the External Obliques, Lumbo-Sacral Multifidi (low back extensors), Glutes, Hamstrings and Calves. This particular mechanic of joint tracking and muscle firing order from the midline down is extremely important in stability, and strength under load, during the back squat. All the muscles of the posterior chain work together to produce skilled contractions that extends the hips, knees and ankles.
If the body has tracking issues during the squat, i.e. knees rotate inward, lower back arches forward, body centers weight over the balls of the feet, torso torques to the right or left, it indicates that we have a predetermined neurological tracking pattern. This pattern is something that the brain has adapted to, which results in unstable squat form, technique, and muscle firing discrepancy. The result is potential for injury. If there is indeed a presence of unstable form, technique, and muscle firing discrepancy then rest assured that injury is sure to follow. Injury will most commonly be in the form of, but not limited to, lower back pain above the tailbone, sprain or tear of the supportive ligaments and cartilage of the knee and hip, and advancing degenerative changes of the weight bearing joints of the pelvis, hips, knees, and ankles. Not fun.
So what is the take away? The takeaway is that it is extremely important to establish a learned preset neurological pathway that develops input and output signals to and from the brain to perform a particular dynamic (the squat) with full and complete motion, mobility, and strength. By previously firing the posterior-chain, the body maintains maximal control and stability on the squat descent, and on ascent fires the entire lower kinetic chain (Anterior and Posterior-chains) pushing the feet through the floor to drive the weight upward with maximal strength and complete functional efficiency. For many this will mean changing some bad habits and teaching your brain and body to move in a slightly different manner. This all translates to proper form, technique, mobility, increased strength and stability, and most importantly decrease the risk of injury.