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Beyond the Basics: Advanced Squat Technique Improvement with AlphaPWR Squat Analytics

Manuel Alfaro, Marie Matre & Ola Næss Kaldestad


The squat is one of the most common exercises, but it can also be technically demanding. Poor technique can result in lifting less weight and, in worst case injuries. We've designed this feature to help you better understand the movements in a squat and to focus on your technique. Getting live feedback on how you move is special. We think this screen will help AlphaPWR users pay better attention to how they squat.


Score

This section provides a score of your balance during the hole movement (0-100). When the balance score improves it indicates an overall better performance in the squat technique. The score is calculated from the "area" measurement during the propulsive phase, which shows the space covered by all the Center of Pressure (COP) data points, sort of like outlining a shape. The other metric displayed is duration, which is simply the duration of the whole squat.


COM/COP plots

This section gives you an overall understanding of your squat. Imagine watching a live video of yourself while performing a squat. Seeing your form in real-time can greatly enhance your understanding of the movement. On the top right corner of the screen, we provide this perspective, but with a twist. Instead of your full image, we represent your body as a single point. This makes it much easier to see how your weight shifts during the concentric phase of the lift. The graph on the right is like viewing the movement from the back and the left graph is like viewing the movement from the right side. The thick yellow line represents the movement of the center of mass (COM). The COM is where your body’s entire weight is concentrated. The thin white line represents the COP. The COP represents the pressure point beneath your feet in the squat.

Metrics graphs

We've reserved this section of the screen specifically for the nerds who wish to dive deep into the intricacies of their movement patterns. These graphs display four metrics: force, velocity, power and displacement. This offers a vivid depiction of the COM’s movement in the vertical plane during the squat.There are two metrics displayed on the left side of the screen, mean propulsive velocity and distance (total displacement from the start of the squat).


1. Velocity Curve Analysis: The velocity curve can be a revealing indicator of where an individual might be struggling during the squat. A significant drop in velocity, especially during the concentric phase, often pinpoints the "sticking region" or the phase where the lifter finds it most challenging to maintain momentum. By identifying this region, trainers can tailor exercises and drills to strengthen the specific muscles involved and the specific joint angles, ensuring a smoother, more efficient lift.

2. Force Curve Insights: The force curve complements the velocity curve by showcasing the amount of force exerted at different phases of the squat. For exempel in near maximal lifts, if the force becomes negative, it indicates a deceleration in the movement. This deceleration often aligns with the previously mentioned "sticking region" in the velocity curve. By analyzing both curves simultaneously, trainers can get a clearer picture of when and why a lifter might be struggling.

3. Power Curve Utility: Power, calculated by multiplying the velocity and force curves, represents the rate at which work is done. While it might seem complex, in simple terms, it shows how effectively and efficiently a lifter is using their strength during the squat. A consistent power curve indicates a balanced use of force and speed. If there are significant fluctuations in the power curve, especially during the propulsive phase, it might suggest areas where technique can be refined.

4. Displacement Curve: The displacement curve, when viewed alongside the velocity and force curves, provides a spatial context to the squat. It helps trainers pinpoint exactly where in the squat's range of motion the lifter is at any given time. This spatial awareness is crucial when trying to correlate force or velocity dips with specific positions in the squat.

Practical Application

For trainers, these metrics offer a clear guide to understand a lifter's strengths and weaknesses. For instance, if the sticking region is identified at the halfway point of the ascent, exercises like partial squats or pin squats can be incorporated to target and strengthen that specific phase.


COM/COP graphs

Sometimes, the full story is essential. This section of the screen presents a chronological series capturing the squat from beginning to end. It serves as a visual representation of the weight distribution,providing metrics like the range from left to right and front to back.All the horizontal plots on the screen are synchronized in terms of time. This ensures that the 'bottom' of the displacement curve can be referenced to pinpoint where a potential weight shift occurs during the squat.These graphs show the horizontal movement of COP and COM throughout the entire squat. The x-axis here is time. It can be useful to view these in conjunction with the displacement graph above, this gives insight into which part of the lift problems may or may not occur.The horizontal dotted line is the mean COP value. The metrics displayed are range and range (propulsive). The blue area with white vertical lines on the sides is the propulsive phase of the lift.



Asymmetry left-right:

When examining the COP/COM plots, any noticeable deviations to either the left or right side should be a point of focus. Such deviations can be indicative of imbalances, potentially arising from muscle weaknesses or imbalances in the hip region, such as a weak gluteus medius. Past injuries or habits might also play a role, leading individuals to unconsciously favor one side over the other. Furthermore, if there's excessive pressure or a shift to one side during the squat's ascent (concentric or propulsive phase), it might suggest an asymmetric activation of muscles or potential weaknesses in the primary muscles responsible for the movement. This lateral shift can be a sign that one side of the body is working harder than the other, which can lead to overuse injuries or muscular imbalances over time. By understanding these left-right asymmetries and their implications, you can address specific imbalances in your client’s squat, ensuring that they achieve a balanced and efficient squat form.

Asymmetry back-front:

It is also important to pay attention to any excessive forward or backwards movement. A pronounced forward shift, particularly evident during the eccentric phase or at the squat's deepest point, often signals poor ankle joint mobility. In such scenarios, when the ankle joint is at its most extended and lacks the necessary flexibility, this leads the individual to press predominantly with the front part of the foot. This compensatory action results in plantar flexion moments, causing the COP to shift forward. However, it's crucial to analyze the entire squat motion, not just specific phases. Different shifts at various stages of the squat can indicate distinct issues. For instance, while ankle mobility might be a significant factor influencing shifts at the squat's bottom, other phases might reveal imbalances due to muscle activation or strength differences. By examining these shifts throughout the squat, you can pinpoint specific areas of concern for your client and provide guidance accordingly.


Addressing the asymmetry

If your client faces technical challenges in evenly distributing weight, there are effective strategies to address this issue. One approach is to adjust the stance by positioning the feet wider apart, which can help promote better weight distribution. Alternatively, consciously pushing the knees or the foot edges outward can also aid in achieving a more balanced load. Leveraging the toes and heels as anchor points for stability can enhance overall stability during the movement. This activates the hip external rotators and abductors, ensuring better alignment and stability. It's also beneficial to emphasize the importance of maintaining even pressure through the toes and heels. This ensures a balanced squat and reduces the risk of tipping forward or backward.


Enhancing Performance:

To further enhance squat performance, consider incorporating balance training into the regimen. Improved balance can lead to better control over the squat movement, reducing side-to-side wobbles and ensuring a straight bar path. Additionally, addressing weak muscle groups through targeted strength training can lead to a more powerful and efficient squat. For instance, if the analytics suggest weak glutes, exercises like glute bridges or Bulgarian split squats can be beneficial. Similarly, for weak hamstrings, Romanian deadlifts or hamstring curls might be the way to go.


Distance

This section is taken from the (regular) Squat screen's report view and displays the vertical displacement of COM for each squat in the current set.You may notice that the squats get less deep during a set or that the depth varies a lot between repetitions. The intention of this section is to provide you, as a trainer, with the ability to monitor squat depth effectively, ensuring your clients perform each repetition correctly and maximize their efforts.Always instruct the client to go to the same depth on each repetition.


Continuous Monitoring and Feedback:

The strength of the "squat analytics" module is that it allows for continuous monitoring. Regular use ensures that you're always working with up-to-date information on your client's performance. It's good practice to schedule periodic assessments to track progress and adjust training plans accordingly. With the data from the module in hand, you can design a tailored plan that addresses the client's specific weaknesses. As their performance evolves, so should the training plan, ensuring continued progress. It's also worth taking the time to educate your clients about these metrics. An informed client is more likely to be engaged and compliant with the training plan. And always remember, as they improve, the resistance or complexity of exercises should be increased gradually to ensure continued progress.


Practical examples

Let's consider a scenario where a client is performing squats. By analyzing the COP and COM movement graphs, you can identify if the lifter is maintaining a consistent balance throughout the exercise. If there are abrupt shifts or deviations in the COP and COM patterns during the propulsive phase (as indicated by the blue area), this could signal potential form issues or muscular imbalances. You can then use this information to provide targeted feedback or adjustments to the lifter's technique. This can be done by providing unilateral exercises to balance out the muscular differences or by specific mobility exercises if you find immobility in certain joints or muscles to be the issue. Consider the same client as in the example above. As the client progresses through their sets, fatigue gradually sets in, affecting their form and technique. As a trainer you should keep an eye up for such changes in the later repetitions of a set. If there is a significant shift in the COP and COM patterns, particularly towards the back or front, it could signal that fatigue is causing the client's form to deteriorate. This shift in technique may increase the risk of injury or compromise the effectiveness of the exercise.


Case 1. What is a good technique?


The client has an overall score of 92, which suggests that they demonstrate a balanced squatting technique, moving straight up and down without any significant forward-backward or side-to-side deviations. It's important to note that this score is derived solely from the concentric phase of the squat, which is the upward movement. This balanced technique is evident in the two plots located to the right of the score. These plots show two straight lines, indicating a consistent movement pattern without any unusual deviations. Now, focusing on the back-to-front graphs: At first glance, it might appear as though there's a slight lean backward. However, this perception is influenced by the dashed line, which represents the average position of the entire squat movement, encompassing both the downward (eccentric) and upward (concentric) phases. In reality, what we're observing is the Center of Mass (COM) shifting slightly forward during the concentric phase. Nevertheless, these minor deviations shouldn't be a cause for concern. Achieving perfect symmetry during a squat is nearly impossible. When we consider the "ranges" of 2.95 cm and 1.99 cm, these deviations are well within acceptable limits. In conclusion, based on this analysis, the client's squatting technique is commendable.


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