When it comes to weightlifting, we often envision symmetrical movements with barbells or deadlifts. However, the human body thrives on asymmetry. The left and right sides are designed to perform different functions. One fantastic way to optimize performance and biomechanics in the gym is through single-leg exercises like split squats. In this blog post, we will explore various methods of performing split squats, incorporating assessments and adjustments to achieve the most optimal hip positions and overall joint health.
Before diving into the split squat variations, it’s crucial to determine your body’s natural asymmetry. We can use a modified Ober’s test or an add action drop test from the Postural Restoration Institute. This test allows us to identify which side is tighter and which side you struggle with. Follow these steps:
- Position yourself on your side, ensuring that your head aligns with your spine and your hips are stacked.
- Bring one leg up and backward as far as possible while keeping the knee back.
- Slowly bring the knee down towards the ground, observing the sensations.
Typically, the right side feels looser and allows for greater range of motion, while the left side feels stiffer and tighter. Remember, this natural asymmetry is entirely normal and can be addressed through split squats to optimize hip positioning.
Split Squats for Optimal Hip Positions: Now that we understand the concept of asymmetry let’s explore split squat variations to improve hip positions. We’ll begin by focusing on the right side, which tends to shift back more due to our inherent asymmetry.
- Start with a hip-width stance in the split squat position.
- Maintain a shin angle that leans forward slightly, mimicking the gait motion.
- Exhale as you descend into the squat and inhale as you rise, activating the left abs and facilitating glute engagement.
- Focus on pressing off the inside part of the foot (midfoot) to further activate the glute.
Now, let’s shift our attention to the left side, which naturally tends to be more forward.
- Maintain a vertical shin angle on the left side, resembling the stance phase of walking.
- Inhale as you descend and exhale as you rise, ensuring proper activation of the glute and maintaining engagement in the left abs.
- Concentrate on pulling the left hip back while keeping a vertical shin angle.
Foot Positioning for Balance:
In addition to adjusting the hip positions, we can also optimize foot positioning to counterbalance the natural asymmetry.
- Use a slant board to assist with foot pronation and supination.
- On the right side, place the slant board under the arch of your foot, promoting foot flattening and pronation. Exhale on the descent, inhale on the ascent, and maintain a forward shin angle.
- On the left side, position the slant board on the outer part of your foot, encouraging a higher arch and counteracting the natural pronation. Inhale on the descent, exhale on the ascent, and maintain a vertical shin angle.
Taking It Further with Slant Board Angles: The slant board can offer additional benefits by adjusting the angles to target specific muscles.
- To emphasize the hamstring activation on the right side, set up at a slight angle on the slant board. This angle promotes plantar flexion and enhances the engagement of the hamstring.
- For the left side, aim for a bit more dorsiflexion. Position your toes towards the high angle of the slant board.
Incorporating split squats into your workout routine can revolutionize your performance and address the natural asymmetry of the human body. By embracing the unique characteristics of each side, we can optimize hip positions, activate the glutes, engage the core, and improve overall joint health. Through assessments and adjustments, such as modifying shin angles and utilizing slant boards, we can customize split squats to suit our individual needs and enhance our athletic abilities.
Remember, it’s essential to listen to your body and pay attention to how each variation feels. Experiment with different setups and foot positions to find what works best for you. If you require further guidance or a more personalized approach, don’t hesitate to seek assistance from a professional who can perform a movement assessment and tailor the split squat setup to your specific requirements.
Now it’s time to put these modifications into practice and experience the benefits firsthand. Incorporate split squats into your training regimen, focusing on the asymmetry and adjustments we’ve discussed. Monitor your performance and any changes in pain or discomfort. By embracing the inherent asymmetry of the human body and utilizing split squats as a tool, you’ll unlock your full potential, improve your overall fitness, and pave the way for a stronger, healthier you.
Need more help with your split squat and overall movement? Schedule a free Movement Assessment and Fix!