E6 – Diagnosing Squat Weakness with Dr. Zach Long & Coach Johnny B
Have a funky hip shift when you squat? Wonder why you look like a coming out of the bottom of the hole during a squat? Are your glutes firing? Find out on Episode 6 of the Performance Plus Programming Podcast, where Dr. Zach Long and Coach Johnny B teach you how to diagnose weaknesses in the squat.
Topics Covered On This Episode
- Why Evan Williams Burbon is better
- How to eat tater tots and cut weight at once
- The Good Morning Squat
- The Hip Shift During Squats
- The Knee Forward Squat
- Valgus Knee Squats
- How to correct all of these issues during the squat
Programs mentioned in the podcast: Bulletproof Glutes, Bulletproof Back, Squat Cycle, Ankle Mobility Overhaul
The Performance Plus Podcast is a short, actionable podcast that answers common questions from CrossFitters and other athletes. Featuring Dr. Zach Log (The Barbell Physio), Pamela Gagnon, and hosted by Coach Johnny Bouchard each short podcast episode will help you achieve your goals. Whether you are training for a competition or want to get stronger, our step-by-step guide is all you need to take care of your body.
Follow Pamela Gagnon @pamelagnon
Follow Zach @thebarbellphysio and his website
Follow Johnny @coach_johnnyb
Tune in each Friday for a new episode!
Diagnosing Squat Weaknesses Transcript
Coach Johnny B: [00:00:00] well, start to be welcomed back to the performance plus podcast. I am joined by Dr. Zach long today. Zach Howard.
Zach: Doing great man. How is life in Atlanta?
Coach Johnny B: life Atlanta is wonderful. I’m actually, uh, my wife and I just bought a house and new house recently. And we’re like in the process of packing and moving. So, uh, I’m like in a room that’s kind of like completely empty besides me sitting here podcasting.
So it’s kind of weird, but exciting. Yeah. What a congratulations. Thanks man. Thank you very much. We’re we’re stoked. So it’s been a long time coming. We’re getting there. How about you? Has the red Carolina has the life
Zach: experience. That’s great dealing with the fun of the cut right now. So my gymnastics work feels amazing.
The barbell work, not so much. So I did some deadlifts and muscle ups yesterday. Those demos were harder than Dennis had been in a long time. Muscle ups felt [00:01:00] beautiful. So can’t wait to start putting some calories back in though. W what’s the
Coach Johnny B: occasion for the. Are you going to be a
Zach: little extra COVID, uh, keeping the local breweries of floats, so help them out a little bit too much.
And, uh, yeah, it was just in need of a little bit of a, uh, a fix for that.
Coach Johnny B: What did you, what did you use for, did you go to RP? Uh,
Zach: no. So my friend, Billy , he’s a runs company called Unchained diet up in Michigan. So. That’s what we’re running through right now. It’s been, uh, it’s not been terrible so far. We just drop the calories 500 per week or Sunni per day and us to two extra 30 minute cardio sessions.
So not horrible yet. Hopefully. Um, hopefully we won’t have to go a ton further than this, but like we’re tracking every week, weight and waste, and I’m pretty sure that about three or four more weeks, there’s going to be another good cut in another, [00:02:00] up in cardio. Which that one’s going to be really tough.
Coach Johnny B: Oh my God. How many calories are you eating right now? 2350. Okay. So, okay. So you’re not starving. That’s not bad. Have you bought out really?
Zach: Yeah. So fats a lot more calories per uh, per gram. So up your carbs, you can eat more volume of carbs compared to fat. And that way I have more food in my belly. But less overall calories.
Coach Johnny B: What’s your go-to like rice cake.
Zach: I like a little kid, man. I love tater tots. I have Taylor Thompson with my breakfast and dinner.
Coach Johnny B: I met. Is there a lot of bang energy drink and tater tots and your tire right now? I feel like.
Zach: I don’t have bang energy drinks, except for when I teach. And I need like extra goji, but [00:03:00] usually it’s just one column.
Coach Johnny B: Uh that’s uh, that’s you’re the first person I’ve ever heard. It has tater tots on their restrictive cut diet. That’s pretty impressive. I feel like you could make a plane out of that. That would be awesome. That
Zach: there’s a, there’s a brand that I bought. I don’t know what the brand is, but the calories per serving is very low throw in the air fryer.
So you’re not getting anything extra on it and it’s pretty good. Awesome.
Coach Johnny B: I got to talk to your buddy in Michigan, man. That sounds great. I eat tater tots and get shredded. Uh, speaking of speaking of food, uh, what is your go-to cheese?
Zach: I’m not a big sweet person, actually. So I love, I love bourbon. So I guess if, if there’s something that I’m going to cheat on, is this going
Coach Johnny B: to be happening?
Um, I’m a chips, salsa and beer. Like if I’m cutting or trying to be good, does three things will ruin me every single time, a specific bourbon flavor that you go for.
Zach: [00:04:00] Um, yeah, bullets, probably my, my usual, I’m going to have more than anything else. I’m not into the fancy stuff. Um, I don’t need to go by like $150 bottle, like
Coach Johnny B: had the guy yesterday, try and convince me that you could blind taste, test Evan Williams against any other bourbon out there, and that you wouldn’t be hard pressed to find somebody that liked the other bourbon better, like the more expensive bourbon.
Zach: When I’ve done some blind taste test, stop regularly been more of a fan of the cheap stuff than the expensive stuff, which is kinda nice. Cause you can go down some serious rabbit holes.
Coach Johnny B: You can, you really, really can’t spend a lot of money. So, uh, well, how bourbon is not gonna help you with the topic today?
Uh, we’re talking about diagnosing. Squat weakness, um, and everything around that. So let’s start with, what are some common problems that you see that are indications of squat?
Zach: So I’d say the one that I probably see more than anything, [00:05:00] um, is the good morning squat fault. So I’m sure a lot of people listening to this are familiar with the good morning exercise.
So it is a hip hinge movement. Essentially. We have a bar on our back and we do a hip hinge and that’s just a really good exercise for strengthening the low back. The glutes, the hamstrings, when we say good morning, squat fault, what we see as somebody squats down and their, their torso kind of stays fairly upright on the way down.
But the first thing they do out of the bottom of the squat is they really quickly shoot their hips up and back. And so their chest will go from being upright to facing the ground. And when we see that good morning squat fall, we’re typically thinking that somebody with weak cloth. Relative to their hips and Labatt.
So they’re essentially moving from a squat position to more of a hinge position, which is the body’s way of moving the load towards where they’re stronger, which in that athlete’s case is the posterior chain. So when we see that we need to get quad stronger, usually, um, The next thing I’ll [00:06:00]commonly say is kind of a weak, low back squat.
And this is very, very hard to differentiate between the two. Like it kind of, even when I see it, like I have to look at the video three or four times to be like, is that really what I’m seeing? And what we’ll see as somebody comes down, there are fast out of the bottom of the whole. But as they hit their sticking point and then their hips start to rise further, essentially their back shrink.
Can’t keep up with the legs. They look very similar. The key differences where that fault kind of kicks in doesn’t happen immediately out of the hole. Whereas they get up a little bit higher and hit their sticky. That person will also have, uh, uh, the person that has a weak back relative to their legs will typically see their deadlift kind of suck in relationship to their legs.
So we talked to a couple of episodes back about your back squat versus deadlift. And your back squat is higher than your deadlift. When most people’s back squat is going to be about 20% lower than their deadlift. So you’re probably somebody that when you hit your sticking point in the squat, you tend to shoot your hips off a little higher [00:07:00] back, loses positioning.
Did you see that with yours? Uh,
Coach Johnny B: yeah. And I see some side to side asymmetry too. Like I shoot it back and then I kind of want to shift to the right a little bit, um, looking, looking for some strength, uh, on a side. So, um, but yeah, it’s a common offender that.
Zach: So good morning, squat is weak quads later kind of hips continuing to shoot up is weak, low back then.
The other thing is a weak glutes are relatively big glutes. Um, and so this one’s a little bit harder to diagnose, but basically when somebody is squats, they’re coming off as they kind of hit their sticking point and you’ll see them reshoot their knees forward. And that’s to kind of try to get another little stretch reflex on their quads.
Accelerate the bar upward, you know, not everybody’s necessarily going to have one of these is kind of their rate limiting factor in the squat. But if you see one of those that should kind of bias you more towards where maybe you want to put a little bit of [00:08:00] accessory work in your training to try to catch that weak spot.
Coach Johnny B: What about getting people that get stuck at the bottom or, uh, gets stuck like right at parallel where like, they’ve come out of the hole and they’re not able to keep going. Is that, uh, just like, Hey, you need to do some more accessory work or is that there some underlying causes
Zach: there? Yes. So that’s the bottom position of the squad is going to challenge a couple of things a little bit more.
It’s going to challenge your quads, adductors and glutes a lot more than like nobody misses at the LA. Because the higher up you get the more mechanically, the more of a mechanical advantage position you’re in. So people are typically going to lose early in the squat, somewhere between like the bottom and bottom half of the squat.
To me, I don’t really get a whole lot of information personally, out of looking at where somebody breaks down in terms of the range of motion. It’s what happens when they break down. That tends to give me a little bit more, uh, information.
Coach Johnny B: With, uh, like let’s say a good morning squat. Um, is there any mobility limitations people should be looking for, [00:09:00] uh, to kinda that may be Oz or is it pretty much just, Hey, your quads are weak and you’re trying to shift to where you’re strong.
Zach: Yeah. What the good morning squad is typically just a purely strength-based thing. Now let me make sure that people understand this and differentiate between that in a good morning squat. You’re going to squat down with an upright towards. But then your hips shoot up and you end up really leaned forward.
That is very different than somebody that just leans forward a ton in their squat, both on the way down and up. That is not a good morning squat. That is either just a very forward torso, squat. Like we see a bunch of powerlifters. Or sometimes that’s a squat pattern that results when somebody has really poor ankle mobility, they can’t drive their knees forward.
So in order to squat down, they have to lean forward a lot to make up for those difficult. Uh, what
Coach Johnny B: kind of accessory work? Uh, let’s say, um, I have a good morning squat. Like what, what are some favorite, et cetera, exercises that people can look at and check
Zach: got your Instagram? Probably say my [00:10:00] two favorite to use three favorite use in this situation.
Number one, cyclist, squats, cyclist, squats are brutal. Uh, actually all three of these are brutal and kind of suck, but the cyclist squat, you get your heels elevated. So take like a 45 pound bumper plate. Toes are on the ground, heals up on the bumper plates. So it’s like you’re, you’re in high heels and you’re doing a front.
So basically you keep your torso completely upright and your knees drive really far forward. Really, really works to call. Second would be like goblet squat one and a half. So preferably with Hills elevated as well. You squat all the way down, come up halfway just to the point where you feel like if you go any higher, the tension on your quads is going to decrease, drop all the way back, down all the way up those.
And then the third thing that I, that I prescribed quite a bit is Spanish squat. So it’s a squat where we have a resistance band behind the knees. So that resistance band. When you squat down in the bottom of the hole, you have kind of max tension on the quads. When you get to where you’re almost completely [00:11:00] upright.
The tension, the quads really goes down before the top of the squats now, as hard as the bottom of a squat. And so that resistance band behind the knees basically makes the quads continue to work as we stand all the way up. So it doesn’t let the tension on the quads decrease at any point in the range of motion.
And so it’s that constant tension squat just burns like. All three of those are great exercises, but they all really, really suck to do. Quan burn
Coach Johnny B: miserable, like status day at the office. If you’re doing a super set of Spanish squats and cyclists, that’s just brutal.
Zach: Yeah. Those new minutes combined with would be a really rough day in the gym.
You haven’t done the workout air force across the board. You would talk about this a lot. Killer. I don’t know why. I just randomly thought about that, but oh, fat workout is so bad. I’ve only done it twice. And I. Last time I did it. I was [00:12:00] crawling on the ground. I literally had to crawl to the trash can. Um, that’s one of those workouts
Coach Johnny B: where I don’t know who wrote that.
That’s not whatever, but like for a minute, they’re like, everybody was like, oh, you gotta do their force workout. I did it with a lot fam Olympic swimmer and he did the whole thing and I think eight minutes or something. And, uh, Literally didn’t get off it around for a while. Like his quads were like seizing afterwards.
It was great. Yeah.
Zach: I won’t do it again until I actually forget what it’s like. Let me say what it is for those that are listening 20 thrusters at 95, 20 similar to left high poles, 20 push jerks, 20 overhead squats, 20 front squats, but at the top of each minute, and you have to do for. So the penalty part of it makes it way worse.
Cause you’re going to hit that time where, you know, like I should probably rest, but if I rest, I’m not going to get the work done in this minute and you push it a little bit further and it, yeah, it goes bad. Well, thing on that
Coach Johnny B: [00:13:00] workout is like, how fast are you going to do this thrusters at the beginning?
And how well can you recover the rest of that workout? Heart from a heart rate standpoint to do everything else. And it’s just, yeah. Sprinting through squatted movements with a 95 pound barbell is so much fun
Zach: time. I did it. I did 20 thrusters minute one, the
and then the wheels. And then it was 2 cents for everything else. Yeah.
Coach Johnny B: That’s, that’s a fun word. I’m going to do that later today. Now that sounds like a great idea. I’m a huge fan of like, just going with it. I’m going to let you guys know how it goes to the next podcast. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that workout.
Good flashbacks act. That’s it. It’s a good workout. Uh, would that be good? Good rehab. You need to make your quad stronger to fix your good morning squat. Just do the air force
Zach: workout. Uh, probably not. That’s going to be more quad endurance, more so than, than pushing. Um,
Coach Johnny B: let’s talk about another [00:14:00] problem with C quite a bit in the gym setting and that’s the valgus knee fault.
Uh, that is. How often should we be looking at just general motor control awareness, uh, of it versus, Hey, you have something going on there, weak glutes or whatever?
Zach: Um, yep. So the August means like somebody squatting down their knees come inside of their toes and it kind of stays in on the way down in the way up.
And, and sometimes that creates some knee or hip issues. So a lot of times we’re going to cute individuals away from that. Um, the queue is typically things that make you activate your glutes more like drive your knees out. Or we put a resistance band around somebody’s knees and have them try to push their knees out to the band.
So a lot of times when things like that work to improve the valgus positioning than we are thinking, like, yeah, some glute accessory work, some, you know, monster walks. Um, R and T split squats for that band, trying to pull the knee and things like that would be valuable for that [00:15:00] athlete to do put a lot of times I find that that, that cue doesn’t help certain individuals, especially when that happens because of ankle mobility issues.
So if your ankles are stiff quite frequently, you might have the ability to keep your knees driven forward and out as you descend down into the squat. So if I cue somebody, drive your knees out, when we see that valgus. And it doesn’t improve, then I’ll do some testing of their ankle mobility and see if that’s more of an ankle issue.
But it’s usually one of those two things. We’ll clear it out.
Coach Johnny B: So let’s say if you’re a coach in a gym and you run into one of these problems, uh, one, what’s your triage, like let’s say somebody’s good morning squatting during a five-by-five of back squats at 80%. Um, how do you realize that? Uh, and then at what point do you just.
Not pot, but say like, Hey, the, these are you’re at this point right now. We need to not load this. You need to be in the gym separately, uh, working on these weekends.
Zach: [00:16:00] So I actually like when we find these breakdowns, like I want to lift heavy enough at points in the year where we see where these technical faults show up.
Because when we see the fault, we know what we can do to really push performance. So I want to see that good morning squat show ups, then I can then say, all right, we saw things start to break down and you did that five rep max test. Now we know that for you twice a week, go in some of those goblet squat, one and a half Sen as a finisher after your wad would be a great way to push your performance further for even faster.
Um, really like when do we stop somebody from that sort of testing to me, it’s like, when does it not pass the eye test? Like, I want to find some of that breakdown, but at what point does it just start with. Ugly and like, you know, your stomach kind of turns a little bit when you see it. That’s when maybe we pull off of that movement and, um, stop them from going any heavier up.
But we’re still glad that we found where that stuff starts to break down so we can do a better job with our programming in the future.
Coach Johnny B: [00:17:00] Uh, let’s correlate some programming or performance plus programs to, uh, some thoughts. If I have a good morning squat, the best program for me is.
Zach: So the best program for you.
We don’t have one that that’ll work for that. Um, specifically, no, you got to do some extra quad work, everything else we do. So let’s say you think you’re a bit more of a glute weakness, then you’re going to do Bulletproof glutes. If you think you’re more of the back weakness, Bulletproof back builder, or if you’re somebody going into like that valgus positioning and the cue to drive your knees out, doesn’t help when we’re thinking it’s more ankle mobility, limited ankle mobility overhaul would be the program to look at.
Oh, actually, you know what? We have the squat. Um, I always forget about this program. We have the, um, squat, uh, the two day a week squat plan squat cycle. It’s a six week squat cycle that is very heavily biased towards quad boating. That would be.
Coach Johnny B: Yep. As you say, there’s a lot of, I feel like there’s a lot of, [00:18:00] uh, even in this squat mobility overhaul, I know we’re not talking about mobility at all right now, but there’s a lot of these Spanish Watts are involved at heels, elevated spots.
Zach: think both how many programs do you have there that the creators have forgotten the broke out. We’ve read so many programs.
Coach Johnny B: We don’t know what our programs are anymore. I got one more fault for you and then we’ll be done. But if I’m a. If I’m turtle, shell guide, you know, this guy, where’d he come out of the bottom of the squat and everything rounds forward.
Is that another instance you thinking low back strength, uh, thoracic strength, like what’s your, what’s your thought on that? So we’re
Zach: talking about
Coach Johnny B: the, but week. Uh, yeah, like, but link, but spinal is accompanying it. So like just everything’s
Zach: going. Okay. Um, so that could be so many different things. And a lot of times it could be ankle mobility.
If you don’t have good ankle mobility, you’re then gonna have to rely more on your hip mobility for squad down. Then sometimes if you don’t also have good hip mobility, that’s gonna [00:19:00] result in your buddy to say, well, we don’t know how to get there. And so it just rounds forward to get down there. So we start by checking out ankle and hip hop.
Um, and if mobility there is good, then we probably need to work on both motor control and just technique in the squat as well as some back strength throughout the
Coach Johnny B: entire spine. Fantastic. Any, uh, anything else you want to add about squat weakness? Is there a common problem you see clinically a lot things that, or pieces of advice you want to give people?
Zach: No, those are the three. Three or four major faults that I see. And again, I like to get up even in the clinic and the physical therapy clinic, I like to have people squat heavy enough that we find that breakdown. And that is good because it then tells you what you need to do to really accelerate your performance.
And when you find those breakdowns and you use a really well-written program or plan to attack those weaknesses, that’s when things start to really, really accelerate, like you might find that you’re gaining, you know, five pounds on your squat every two months. But then if you identify the weakness and really [00:20:00] attack it, and you might find that over the next two months, instead of gaining five pounds, you throw 20 extra pounds on the bar.
So get after those weaknesses, don’t let them hold you back.
Coach Johnny B: The old, uh, the great thing of CrossFit is we find weaknesses and then we beat them to death as much as we can. So I’ve got a weakness, beat it to death. Uh, well, cool man. Thanks for all the help with our weak squats. Uh, if you guys out there, uh, have we squashed.
Try to use some of these guidelines to help you fix it. So again, weak glutes, check out Bulletproof glutes. We quads. Uh, the two day week squat program is a great, great way to accessorize and build that up. Um, weak, low back use the Bulletproof backfielder program. And if you have crappy ankles, you have an ankle mobility program.
And then we have enough of other programs. We probably forgot about that. You know, if there’s another issue we’re unaware of, we probably have a program for that to, uh, make sure you follow Zack at the barbell physio on Instagram. Follow up performance plus programming on a scram, uh, [00:21:00] and, uh, DMM, if you have any weird things that we’ve never seen before.
Cause I always feel like there’s some flaw out there that like is just, you know, the white whale of all problems, where I want to see stuff. Send us, send us your word videos. Awesome. Thanks a lot, guys. We will see you next time. Have a great day.