After six months, I can finally do a squat and get my thighs below parallel to the floor and my arms overhead. A squat is a squat is a squat, right? No. And I had no idea how complex this “simple” movement can be or how frustrating it would be for me to learn how to do one properly. Physical Therapists (PTs) are supposed to be the experts in movement and identifying the impairments or physiological reasons why a person is unable to move a certain way or why pain is evoked with a certain movement. I am a PT. I should have been able to figure this out.
This feat is trivial in a world where ten aid workers vaccinating children against the polio virus were recently murdered. But it does mark a personal accomplishment. Through consultation and dialogue with physical therapists, sports performance coaches, a kinesiology major doing an internship and another trainer, we have examined what made this journey so difficult.
Why couldn’t I do a full squat (and I kept asking myself if it really mattered)? Is it a physiological limitation that cannot be corrected? Is it a flexibility issue that stretching will improve? If I can lie on the floor with my feet against a wall and mimic the desired position, does that mean muscle weakness is the cause? Or is it the pattern of how I have ingrained my body and mind to move that is the limiting factor?
During a recent training session, my coach, Justin Heinle, used rubber exercise bands and verbal cues to modify how I was getting into the squat position; he enabled me to initiate the movement differently and I was able to do the squat almost perfectly. Seriously. No locked lumbar vertebral segment. No tight latissimus dorsi. Glutes aren’t weak.