Why Developing the Squat is so Important

When working with athletes we should be looking to assess and develop the squat. This is even more important when working with younger athletes as periods of rapid growth will change their ability to adequately perform the squat and this does not always return.

So why does it matter? The squat is a fundamental movement that has an important role with both injury prevention and performance. The more effective you can squat the greater the potential you have to absorb or generate force, taking away excessive strain or generating that extra force that makes the difference in getting past that defender.

Currently there is noticeable segregation in how we consider and approach injury prevention and performance enhancing skills, however, the foundations of both elements are the same! You need to have the basic strength, range of movement, and the ability to perform basic movement patterns to achieve both successfully.

The next section will show how prevalent the squat position is within the game of soccer. Being a physical therapist first, I must talk injury prevention. The ACL injury gets a lot of press due to its prevalence within youth sport. One of the most important injury prevention interventions starts with the squat. An ACL injury is the result of the inability to absorb force while landing or changing direction. Most sporting programs devote more attention to generating force with sprinting and jumping drills, however, we decelerate 2-3 times more frequently than we accelerate. To absorb force or decelerate requires strength through coordinated flexion of the hip and knee, the squat! Failure to do so results in movement compensation and an increased risk of injury.

Why not test yourself or your team?

If your squat looks a little different than the first picture (Picture 1.1), then you have a great opportunity to improve. Record a squat on your phone and see if it resembles the first picture. People will vary slightly as we are all made different, but if your squat could use some work, it could be the best thing you do this year to improve your performance and decrease the likelihood of injury.

Feel free to send me your video so we can talk about your squat


Imagine the scenario, you are taking your defensive line up to the halfway line, the ball is lost and suddenly the ball is behind your defensive line. You need to rapidly decelerate faster than the attacker (note the effective squatted deceleration
position in picture 2.1) and recover to defend against the attack. The inability to achieve a squatted position will result in a slower compensated movement strategy and a slower recovery. Often compensation is seen using a straight leg deceleration position and an excessive heel plant which is the movement most associated with an ACL injury

The cut! Both 90 degree and 45 (2.2 & 2.3) are more frequently acknowledged to be a cause of injury. And although the classic squat position is not so obvious, this movement requires the absorption of force via ankle knee and hip while maintaining balance through the trunk (a squat!) before exploding out of that position in another direction at a greater rate than your opponent. Often it is milliseconds that defines getting past your opponent or losing possession. A more obvious example of the benefits of the squat position not pictured here is the vertical jump. Getting into that low squat position helps you to maximize ‘triple extension’ and jump height meaning being able to push from the ground and extend (straighten) hips
knees and ankles to maximize force generation and therefore jump height before absorbing force through a squatted position. Limited squat means a limited ability to generate force

Final example is shielding the ball (2.4). If you are protecting the ball from a bigger defender, you are going to have to get your center of mass low to the ground. Maintaining an upright position will mean you will get pushed off the ball. The bigger the defender and the more pressure you are under will mean the
lower to the ground you will have to go. If you do not have the ability to squat then you will be unsuccessful in this scenario.

1.1 A good demonstration of the squat with good knee and hip flexion with slight forward lean
1.2 Common compensatory pattern. Excessive trunk lean with the inability to get into a deep squat position.
1.3 Collapse of the knees towards each other, often a sign of weakness around the hip and ankles.
1.4 The inability to get low into the squat position, potentially avoiding weaker hip extensors.


2.1 Effective deceleration by absorbing force through a squatted position

2.2 Deep squatted position of right leg
2.3 Ability to utilize a slightly squatted position to explode left will make the difference in getting past a player
2.4 The greater the pressure the greater the need to squat low

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