flexibility issue with SQUATS

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Dissident
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flexibility issue with SQUATS

Post by Dissident » Fri Aug 24, 2007 2:36 am

So I've been using a smith machine to try to bump up to full squats for a while now and I think I'm ready (mostly because my paranoia issue with squats has gone away) but I have noticed tension in my inner knee. As I move through the squat my left knee will feel some very rough tension on the inside part of the knee (right side). This has only started occuring recently. I've worked on correcting my form (making sure my left foot doesn't move too far outwards) but to no avail.

My theory is that because I'm using the smith machine I'm forcing my body to conform to the straight path which in turn is trying to force my knees too far forward and thus putting too much pressure on the knee because my achilles tendin cannot stretch any further.

Question 1: Is the lack of much flexibility in the achilles tendin area normal? About 15 degrees is the maximum i can stretch it without lifting up my heel.
Crappy text diagram (I can take a picture with my camera phone if need be.. it's 2 megapixels)
/_ 15 degrees max. (/ being the lower leg and _ being my foot).
Question 2 : Would switching to an olympic bar vs. machine fix this problem?

Question 3 : What are the best stretches for improving flexibility in the achilles tendin area?


Thanks in advance,
-Matt J.


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Post by recmatt » Fri Aug 24, 2007 5:54 am

Hi Matt, sounds like you are standing too far back under the bar as you should try to prevent your knees from passing over your toes while squatting. Switching to an olympic bar will only help if you adjust your technique. Have someone take a photo from side-on and check if your knees are in front of your toes at the bottom of the squat, then adjust accordingly. As for stretches try lying on your back with one leg bent. Lift your bent leg off the floor and place a towel around the ball of your foot and pull back whilst keeping your leg bent. That usually works for me.
Hope it helps

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Post by KPj » Fri Aug 24, 2007 6:20 am

I may take some stick for this but I believe Smith machines are a waste of floor space - well, for squats, bench press etc Personally I use one for 'inverted rows' but you don't need a smith machine for those, it's just handy.

It's a fixed line of motion meaning, in basic terms, it teaches bad habits as your stabilising muscles will not function properly.

Anyway, lack of ROM in the ankles is common and a common reason why people get injured squating - because they don't have the flexibilty to do so, although, it's normally the exercise that gets the blame ;-)

I can't really visualise the 15 degrees range you stated but, a good way to measure and also a good exercise to increase ROM in the ankles is 'wall ankle mobilisations' - you stand infront of a wall and bend your knee forward as far as it can go, do it slowly and repeat around 10 times for 2-3 sets each side. To measure your ROM, just see how far you can place your foot away from the wall and still be able to touch the wall with your knee without lifting your heel off the ground.

Theres a video here

http://www.michaelboyle.biz/joomla/content/view/86/60/

Knee pain is normally cause by the knee compensating for weakness or lack of ROM in the ankles and hips as well.

For the time being, I would advise you done lunges instead. Lunges alone may fix the problem. "Reverse Lunges" are supposed to be the least stressful on the knee joint. And, if you are paranoid about form, then you can't really go wrong with Front Squats, reason being, if your form suffers, you will basically fall forward so you kind of have to do them right.

Hope that helps

KPj

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Post by Matt Z » Fri Aug 24, 2007 8:24 am

Try some of the calf stretches listed on this site. In fact, try all of them, and stretch often ... not just before or after your workouts, but throughout the day. Plus, make sure you hold the stretch long enough to do something, ... not just for 2 or 3 seconds like I see some people do.

Also, be very careful with your foot placement when squating on a smith machine. Because the bar is locked into tracks, this exercise is very unforgiving of poor foot placement.

Meanwhile, when you switch to barbell squats, start light and take your time learning the exercise. This will also give your stabilizer muscles time to catch up.

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Post by stuward » Fri Aug 24, 2007 8:53 am

KPj wrote:I may take some stick for this but I believe Smith machines are a waste of floor space - well, for squats, bench press etc Personally I use one for 'inverted rows' but you don't need a smith machine for those, it's just handy.
Kpj, I don't think anyone here will fault you this advise. Ironman even has a cute quote, something about angels crying or something.

I think it would be amazing if a smith machine didn't mess up your knees while squating. It's got to be the most unnatural movement there is.

The advice about not letting your knees go past your toes is dated, at least for convential squats. Concentrate on keeping your back arched, squeeze your shoulder blades together, push your head back and your shoulders into the bar. Keep the weight on your heels, push out on your knees keeping them in line with your toes. There is too much to keep in mind without worrying about stuff like how far forward your knees are. All that does is distract you from the important stuff.


Here's a good article on squats:
http://www.elitefitness.com/forum/power ... 32299.html

Here is the paragraph on Smith squats:

"Certain misinformed and so-called “personal trainers” will have people squat in a smith machine, which is, quite simply, an idea both hideous and destructive. This is often done under the misguided “squat this way until you are strong enough to perform a regular squat” premise. Even if one overlooks the obvious fact that it is better to learn to do something right than build bad habits from the start, there are numerous other factors to be considered. The smith machine stabilizes the bar for the lifter, which does not teach the skill of balancing the bar, balance being important to any athlete, as well as the fact that free weight squatting strengthens the synergists which goes a long way to preventing injuries. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and the smith machine leaves far too many weak links. To say nothing of the fact that free weights provide a greater transfer of functional strength than machines. (23)Furthermore, the bar moves straight up and down, and very few people squat in this manner, which means that the smith machine does not fit a lifters optimal strength curve. (24) The smith machine also requires that the lifter either squats with his torso much closer to vertical than would be done with a real squat, which mechanically decreases the involvement of both the spinal erectors and the hamstrings. While this would be fine if it was done by the lifters muscular control, when the smith machine does this it is disadvantageous to the lifter by virtue of decreasing the ability of the hamstrings to protect the knee joint. Another mistake made, aside from simply using it in the first place, is allow the knees to drift forward over the toes, the chance of which is increased by the smith machine. As was previously mentioned, this greatly increases the shearing force on the knees. This from a device touted by the ignorant as “safe.”


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Post by TimD » Fri Aug 24, 2007 9:11 am

All of what Stuward said, and one more thing. I would advise taking an empty O br and doing this every day, multiple time a day are good too. This won;t really create much loading, but will teach the correct movement, and it is a stretching exercise in itself. Try to goo lower, but don't push it. Have somene watch you, and note the form points Stuward made.
Tim

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Post by Matt Z » Fri Aug 24, 2007 9:59 am

One more thing, because the bar is locked into tracks in a smith machine, smith machine exercises can magnify any exhisting strength imballances between the right and left side.

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Post by Dissident » Fri Aug 24, 2007 12:04 pm

stuward wrote: (23)Furthermore, the bar moves straight up and down, and very few people squat in this manner, which means that the smith machine does not fit a lifters optimal strength curve. (24) The smith machine also requires that the lifter either squats with his torso much closer to vertical than would be done with a real squat, which mechanically decreases the involvement of both the spinal erectors and the hamstrings.
I knew it! I don't think i'll be using a smith machine again any time soon. Thanks for all your responses, my questions have been answered. :-D

edit: I just hit the gym to do metcons and try olympic bar squats. My knee doesn't feel tension, I'm able to keep correct form with ease. Problem solved. :-D

-Matt J.


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