09 May Fixing the Quad Dominant Squat
One of the most common conditions I treat is patellofemoral pain, which is just a fancy way of saying anterior knee pain around the patella. While a variety of factors can play into the development of patellofemoral pain, the majority of athletes I treat for these consistently show a quad dominant squatting pattern, where they preferentially use their quads to perform a lift over the hip muscles.
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I’ve previously written on how the push press can be a great tool for analyzing athletes for muted hip function. Performing a 20-rep max push press can provide quick insight into an athlete who loads the gluteals versus the quads. Fixing the Quad Dominant Squat
A similar pattern can be seen during a squat. Those demonstrating a quad dominant pattern will tend to push their knees forward either during the initiation of their squat or at times, those athletes can also be seen re-shooting their knees forward as they hit the sticking point in their squat.
While there is nothing wrong with strong quads, getting these athletes more effectively loading their hips while squatting (and all other movements) will make them stronger, more explosive, and overall more resilient.
It is important to note that breaking this habit is a long-term progression. The following three suggestions are a step in the right direction but fixing the quad-dominant squat will take lots of slow, tedious work.
Make sure the athlete starts with a neutral spine. While this may seem obvious as coaches always remind their athletes to keep their spine and pelvis neutral, athletes demonstrating an overextended spine with anterior pelvic tilt tend to have difficulty maximizing glute activation.
There are many drills and cues to do this from regressed floor exercises like the 90/90 breathing drill below to focus and cues during performance of the lifts.
Glute specific activation work should also be incorporated before each workout. Recent research has shown that isolating the glutes before working out improves the nervous system’s ability to recruit them during more “functional” tasks.
Again, there are a million different ways to do that but one of the most basic is a sidelying clam. I, however, don’t like the standard sidelying clam and prefer this foot on the wall variation which I find gets the glutes working quite well.
Movement Pattern Retraining is the final key to fixing the quad dominant squat, and it is also the hardest! This is where the months of steady work comes in! A variety of cues and drills will need to be employed here but one of my absolute favorites is eccentric isometric goblet squats.
By holding the weight in the goblet position, there is an anterior shift of the athlete’s center of mass. This allows the athlete to sit back and load the hips more. Combine that with the slow, methodical technique work of an eccentric isometric and you’ve got one killer movement pattern retraining drill!
To perform the eccentric isometric perform a 2-7 second negative with a 2-5 second pause in the bottom of the squat. Throughout the entire movement focus on maintaining a neutral spine, sitting back on the heels, and hitting perfect positions throughout the squat.
For more drills to improve your squat, check out “Master The Squat” available now!