Saturday, September 10, 2011

Breaking Down The Functional Wall Squat (Part 4)

Now that we’ve completed our discussion on ideal posture, we can integrate that study with the application of the Functional Wall Squat (FWS) and its use as a functional assessment.

The goal of the FWS is to reduce stress forces experienced by the body by preserving ideal posture & correct mechanics. By doing this, the risk of injury is greatly reduced during functional activities.

Let us revisit the video of the Functional Wall Squat:

As you can see, the FWS is performed by facing a wall as closely as possible. Once aligned with the wall, the person is to squat as low as possible without making physical contact with the wall. By doing so, spinal posture is maintained, or, placed in an extension bias (the opposite of spinal flexion). In general, spinal flexion (slouching and bending forward) is quite deleterious especially in lifting and squatting activities. This is because spinal flexion combined with external forces places an incredible amount of stress forces on the inter-vertebral discs of the spine. In fact, the most common etiology of herniated discs is repetitive spinal flexion while lifting objects. Thus, the extension bias is a very important tool of prevention to injurious flexion postures and is the preferred posture if ideal posture is not achievable due to limitations in strength or range of motion.

Throughout the FWS itself, one focus on the following:
  • The distance of the sternum and navel is not to shorten as to encourage neutral spine and/or achieve a preventive extension bias.
  • Hip hinging the trunk over the hip joint is acceptable so long as the first condition is preserved and/or spinal flexion is avoided.
  • Accentuation of lumbar lordosis (the “C” curvature of the low back) is encouraged as a preventive measure to protect your spinal discs.
  • Engage Core Bracing: This is done by exhalation during exertion (squatting/standing). By breathing out through your mouth in a whistling manner or the making of a hissing sound through your lips, the external and internal core musculature co-contracts to create a unified trunk which protects the tissues of the spine.
  • Utilize the gluteals: The hips and pelvis is the structural foundation of the spine. A strong foundation makes for a secure building. Specifically engaging the gluteals during the squat is a key element of the FWS.
  • Ensure the knees follow the path of the foot/ankle: One must avoid genu valgum (knock knee) or genu varus (bow leg) and preserve the path of the knee to follow the direction of the foot/ankle. Doing so protects the knee from excessive stress.
  • Ensure the foot/ankle maintains foot forward posture.
  • Keep the scapulae retracted.
  • Maintain Cervical Spine Elongation.
  • Maintain Neck Retraction (Chin Tuck).
The Functional Wall Squat as a functional assessment:
When someone performs the FWS, it is important to note any asymmetry or deviation in posture which may indicate functional limitations in flexibility, balance, and/or strength. The most common deviations are segmental weakness in the spine yielding spinal flexion, and, poor control of lower extremity orientation. Segmental weakness is best identified by a hinge/hump in spinal posture during performance of the FWS. The sharpest angle of spinal segmental dissociation is the weakest functional link in the spine and must be first addressed by Preventive Therapy.  Poor control of the lower quarter is typically expressed with the dissociation of the knees from the ankle/foot path during the squat due to weakness of the hip girdle or ankle/foot. The same logic can be applied to all areas of the body as a functional assessment of dynamic posture during the functional squat. Any areas of weakness, hypermobility, hypomobility, disturbances in balance, or deviations from the ideal posture during the FWS immediately become identified functional impairments which can be effectively addressed by Kettlebell Therapy.

Coming up: Breaking Down The Functional Wall Squat (Part 5). In my next post, I will discuss the Functional Wall Squat as a Physiotherapy intervention.

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