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Squat check & when to progress to pike / pancake?


daniel108

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Hi there, 

First of all, I really appreciate Olivia's recent post about sticking to the squat and shoulders before getting onto the other "big 3" positions.  That was not at all obvious to me, so many thanks to Olivia for that. 

So that also leads the to wonder, when is the right time to progress and start trying the pike?  

I'd also really appreciate any feedback on the quality of my squat.  In these pictures, I'm actively trying to pull my chest up and my knees apart.  I could go down lower, but then my form would collapse.  Or I could squat a little higher and untuck my pelvis more.  image.thumb.jpeg.fae7839c8f809020593be52cc7dbf73f.jpegimage.thumb.jpeg.e26fa8673b3ef1beb01ac865b89f62c4.jpeg

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@daniel108: excellent form. A side note: it is perfectly OK to have the lower back round a bit (and even more) if it is bodyweight squat form you are interested in. With weighted squats, the weight would get you deeper immediately, and if you can hold this form, it's textbook. And in the single-leg squat, everyone rounds their lower back (to get the balance point forward enough).

Re. when to progress to the Pike program: If you can do all the small component exercises in this program, at least with some facility, please start the new program whenever you'd like.

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@Kit_L: thank you so much for your feedback and for the clarification about the lower back position.  

I've found the biggest point of challenge to be the knees that want to collapse and come in.  Is the key here to focus on strengthening internal hip rotators?  Or is it better to focus on activating the internal hip rotators through the adductor-stretching exercises in the squat program like the diamond pose / squashed frog / cossack? 

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22 hours ago, daniel108 said:

Is the key here to focus on strengthening internal hip rotators?

Opposite: strengthen/activate/become aware of the external rotators. The easiest way to do this is to put a band around your knees, and as you squat, press the knees apart to where you want them to be against the band's resistance. This is very commonly done in the Olympic lifting world, and it works a treat

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Ok, that would make more sense! Strangely enough I’m only just starting to develop an awareness of the sensations involved when internally and externally rotating through the hips.  Until now it felt like the same area was being activated on the outer hip with both movements. But I think that upon paying more attention I’m starting to identify some subtle differences. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

As I’ve been reading, it seems that the piriformis is responsible for external rotation of the hip when the hip is neutral, and also internally rotating the leg when the knee is bent. So I’m starting to wonder if this particular area of weakness which I always feel on the outside of the hip (eg pancake / straddle / during internal hip rotation exercises) is actually the piriformis muscle? And if so, perhaps it would benefit from some kind of strengthening exercise (in addition to stretching)?

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Daniel, the further you go into this, the more complicated it can become. Try the band suggestion I made above, and you tell me if this is effective for you. Anatomists are not squatters, for the most part, and there are three other external rotators in addition to p. Try the band, press out with the knees to keep the band under stretch as you descend; recheck before ascending, and in a week or two, report back. This action will strengthen all the external rotators. It's as much about activation as strengthening, too.

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  • 1 month later...

@Kit_LThe banded squat exercise hits the spot. Is it recommended to let the strengthening exercises go after some time once you’ve learned how to activate? 

And more broadly, in your previous message you spoke about activation and strengthening. My working framework is that through awareness we learn how to activate, and activation is the ability to use those muscles that you’ve become aware of. Does that reflect your perspective? 

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@daniel108

On 8/26/2023 at 4:01 AM, daniel108 said:

Is it recommended to let the strengthening exercises go after some time once you’ve learned how to activate? 

The activation part is the main part. What we have found is that once a needed muscle is activated, it tends to stay activated—and they are strengthened via the main exercises, as the major groups get stronger. Keep an eye on the knees: if they start to collapse in again, reduce the weight, recheck with the band exercises, and keep going.

The second question is harder to answer. What probably is not clear is that the soles of the feet are the main determinant of how the body uses its nerves and muscles (the proprioceptors are concentrated there, and in the hands). If the knees track straight, then weight is more evenly spread over the insides and outsides of the feet (this has to be if the knees are tracking straight). The external rotators' forces oppose the adductors' forces (again, geometrically this has to be the case if the knees are tracking straight), so that the glutes, hamstrings, and quads can act on the knees (and feet) and the rest of the body. My feeling is that once the body learns how to use itself more efficiently (like tracking knees in line with ankles and hips) then it prefers to do this because it is energy efficient. Efficient movement is both a pleasure to the eye (as Plato noted long ago), costs the body less, (and feels better!). 

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