Our previous post emphasised the importance of reflecting on your exercises using sissy squats as an example. To reach our final stages of progression in overcoming patella maltracking, it is essential to employ the same mentality to weighted squats. Like with the sissy squats, we will try to stick to low rep sets (around 5 reps), to allow more sets and more time for reflecting on technique. There is a lot more to think of with regular squats, so this brief guide will help structure your overall progression:
Starting out with squats, you will likely squat to a high platform, with a wide stance and little or no weight. All three of these areas can be gradually improved upon, but do so in the right order. The first problem to tackle is squatting lower. Squatting to the correct height will activate the muscles we need to rebalance, so it is our first priority. Second, when you are squatting to the right height and activating those muscles, you can start focusing on how far your knees travel. Third, you can work on bringing the width of your stance in, getting closer to shoulder width. To ensure you have the correct squat posture, ask yourself questions between sets such as:
- Are my knees travelling to the outsides of the feet?
- Are my knees travelling the right distance along my feet for my stage of recovery?
- Is my lower back arched correctly?
- Am I keeping my chin tucked in?
- Did I maintain extension of the thoracic spine to keep the sternum raised?
Only when you have reached this stage, with correct overall squat posture, should you start adding weight to your squats. If you add weight to your squats before achieving the correct form, you will only make your knee problems worse.
When you reach weighted squat territory, the exercise can seem more complex, but it should make the questions you ask clearer, as it forces better chest position. As long as you understand the principles of holding the bar correctly during squats, your progress should be clear.
By the time you get to the stage of adding weight to the squat bar, however, you will notice that the questions you ask have a markedly different focus. This is because you will be so far from the initial problems of patella maltracking that the exercises you do take on new meanings. But you don’t want to stop just because you have obtained the ability to lift weight through your knees; when you see what is possible, with the right training and the right mentality, you will want to keep going.
That stage may seem a long way away right now – if you’ve got patella maltracking, it probably is, and it will require a lot of work. But you can do it if you train properly, and adopt the right mentality. You have to: no one else can do it for you.