What’s “right” for the squat/deadlift?

What’s “right” for the squat/deadlift?

by Evigan Xiao 15 Feb 2018

Countless instructional videos exist on how to squat or deadlift, and they never fail to mention how important it is to exercise “correct form”. Technique is often looked upon with absolute reverence because not only does it ensure that you’re recruiting your muscles in an optimal fashion, but it also reduces the likelihood of immediate and long-term injuries. As a result, too often do people fall into the trap of trying to emulate EXACTLY what they see being done and how it’s done.

 

When it comes to performing the squat and the deadlift, perfection is more of a pursuit than an actual state. Experienced lifters will know that how they squat or deadlift will have to be tweaked as their bodies change and develop. As such, they are constantly aware of how their movement feels, which is ultimately more important than how it looks.

 

Blindly following an arbitrary standard on how to squat or deadlift precludes two major considerations that carry long-term implications for overall health: individual anthropometry and mobility. A national-level weightlifter squats a certain way due to his/her ability to move through this particular spectrum, but the average person on the street would find it hard to match such a movement and attempting to do so would most likely end in failure.

 

Here are some examples to illustrate this point:

Location and equipment courtesy of TripleFit

 

Location and equipment courtesy of TripleFit

 

In the first set of pictures, you can see how mobility affects both squat depth and torso position. Hip structure also plays role in determining how wide one’s stance is and how much abduction has to occur to accommodate a deep squat. When it comes to deadlifts, one of the most observable differences between individuals is the torso angle and starting hip height. Depending on factors such as limb length and body height, a person may be able to set up either lower to or higher from the ground at the beginning of the pull.

 

Regardless of the differences in form, the positioning displayed in both cases are far from incorrect, and neither one is “better” than the other. The lower back is kept in a neutral and slightly arched position for both the squat and the deadlift, while the shins show a slight forward cant along with the shoulders being slightly over the barbell in the deadlift. The knees are also kept in line with the ankles and the shoulders remain “packed” for both movements. With these requirements being checked off, both lifters are able to lift safely and efficiently.

 

“Prefect” form is what’s “perfect” for you. That is, good technique requires taking your body’s anatomical features into account. What’s important is that the integrity of the movement remains intact (e.g. neutral spine, knees slightly out, braced core, etc.) regardless of how it’s executed. Finding what’s optimal will take some trial and error, and will be subject to change as training progresses. Listen to what your body has to say and make the appropriate adjustments!