I recently found out I’ve been squatting wrong for my whole weightlifting career. I’ve always squatted with a very horizontal back, my rear much higher than it should be - something akin to a bent-legged good morning which in hindsight I can see is ridiculous. I would always squat very deep but my torso would go right down to horizontal and I could feel the weight being supported on the front of my foot.
I know all these things are wrong but I always assumed it was just because I’m fairly tall with long legs and it’s just “one of those things”. I read up about it (on this very website I think) and was told not to worry - apparently it’s a common problem amongst taller lifters with long femurs. I have since learned that that can’t be true - guys like Bret Contreras (6 foot 4) squat properly without a problem.
The other day I asked a member of my gym to have a look at my squat and tell me if it was ok and what I could do to correct it. He first got me to do ATG overhead squats with an almost negligible weight (a wooden pole), keeping the pole directly above my head for the whole movement.
Every time I tried I fell over backwards. I was literally physically incapable. Trying to do a deep overhead squat forced my body to squat properly but it couldn’t do it - I could feel my back working overtime to stay upright.
He then put two 2.5kg plates under my heels and I squatted, ATG, perfectly. I managed to keep the weight on my heels, my back was upright, there was no pain in any of my joints and I really felt it in my legs. I can’t think of any negatives to this method. As long as you’re not competing as a powerlifter (which I’m not) it’s a solution, at least in the short term.
From what I can tell it just changes the angle of your body and allows people like me to keep my centre of gravity in the right place. A lot of people completely lose it at the mere suggestion of elevating the heels to squat but I would argue that those people are just lucky enough not to have had a real problem squatting properly. Or perhaps they were taught the correct form early in their weightlifting careers and so didn’t spend a long time exacerbating the problem by training their body in the wrong way.
This same gym-goer who had put the plates under my heels concluded that my poor squatting technique had been caused by an imbalance of muscle in my lower body - more specifically, I had a weak posterior chain.
So, to fix this, I’m planning on building a stronger posterior chain whilst practising the correct technique with negligible weight overhead squats and, if I can, eventually weaning myself off of the plates under my heels. I’m not saying that popping plates under your heels fixes the problem, but it can’t hurt and, whilst you’re trying to get your squatting technique perfect, it’s a viable alternative.
I’m writing this primarily to offer some help to people who have experienced similar squatting problems, but also to convince the naysayers that it’s not a sin, it’s completely safe, and for some skeletally and muscularly imbalanced freaks like me, it really does help!
Also, as always, I’d love to hear any advice from people who know what they’re talking about or have been in a similar situation.