Squats & Lunges
Properly performed squats and lunges will make your body strong and resilient. In this instructional video, three-time XTERRA U.S. Women’s Champion and strength coach Suzie Snyder shows us how to do them correctly so we can stay injury free and become better racers.
“Squats and lunges help with bone density, muscle, and tendon strength, and it’s stuff we just don’t get enough of with straight endurance exercise,” said Snyder. “As triathletes we move forward quite a bit, but we don’t go side-to-side nearly enough so it’s important to include exercises like lateral squats into our workout routine to achieve muscle balance. Especially since XTERRA involves trail running, and having a more balanced lower body and strong stabilizers can help prevent injury and improve trail running strength and speed.”
In the video, Snyder emphasizes the importance of proper form and technique and recommends following these five rules:
1. Heels should remain FLAT on the ground. Having the entire foot on the ground is important for creating a stable base. Heels lifting may be a result of limited dorsiflexion (flexing your toes up toward your shins) or poor motor control.
2. Feet should NOT rotate out AS you execute the squat. Some external rotation is okay when setting your foot position, but your feet should not move once beginning the movement. Outward rotation while squatting could be a result of dorsiflexion restriction, arch collapse, tight lateral hamstrings, and/or tight IT bands.
3. The knees should not collapse inward (valgus), which is closely associated with injury potential. Collapse during the squat likely means the same will happen when running and jumping. Valgus collapse may be a result of tight and/or weak hips and glutes or poor motor control.
4. The hips can (but do not have to) descend below the knees. This topic has been hotly debated; however, research shows it is safe to squat below parallel as long as the other principles are maintained, and mobility allows.
5. The chest faces forward (if there were a mirror in front of you, you’d be able to read the logo/writing on your shirt) but the low back remains in a neutral position with no excessive arching or rounding, which places unnecessary stress on the spine.
Additionally, the lower back and pelvis should not roll into flexion and posterior tilt at the bottom of the squat. Inability to maintain a neutral spine may result from tightness throughout the posterior chain (achilles, calves, back, glutes, hamstrings) or it could be a balance issue.
Progression of squatting exercises:
A great way to increase difficulty from body weight only is by adding resistance in the form of dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, a sandbag, weighted backpack, or other household heavy objects.
To increase difficulty without adding external resistance and emphasize the stability muscles which are especially important in running and jumping, use the following exercises:
- Split Squat
- Reverse Lunge, forward lunge, lateral lunge
- Single leg squat
More Videos in this Series
Suzie Snyder has been the top American elite woman finisher at the XTERRA World Championship for four straight years, is a two-time XTERRA Pan Am Tour Champion, and has won nine majors on the XTERRA World Tour. Before turning pro, the 16-year veteran of XTERRA won the 20-24 division world title in 2004 and four-time age group national championships as well. Find her on Facebook /suzie.snyder.7 and Instagram @suziesny.