In a recent workshop, a physical therapist was having us perform squats by taking our butt all the way to the floor, arms stretched overhead. When one of us was off balance and could not perform the squat, he would place a wedge under either the person's heels or toes. What was he doing? Should the person be performing multiple sets and reps with the wedge to correct the problem?
The overhead squat is one of our assessments tools. When performing the overhead squat, various imbalances become apparent by an individual’s movement patterns. In this instance, referring to the scenario listed above, the individual could not squat down all the way. There are various reasons why an individual might not be able to complete a full squat. From tightness in the hips, to restrictions at the knee and/or ankle, the source of the problem had to be identified. If the individual lacked dorsiflexion at the foot/ankle complex due to a tight soleus, this would restrict squatting motion. By placing a wedge underneath the individual’s heels, it was allowing the individual to stay plantar flexed which would take the restriction off the knee and ankle, possibly increasing range of motion. If the individual is then able to complete a full squat, we can attribute the restriction to a tight soleus. The wedge was used to help identify the imbalance, but it is not a tool to rectify it. In order to correct the problem, the individual would have to stretch the soleus to allow for proper extensibility of the foot/ankle complex, which would, in turn, help the individual complete a full squat.