Runners, mastering a squat movement is one the best things you can do to improve your running ability. Think of learning to squat as learning a new skill that will have immediate transferability over to you on the road, trail or track.
Let’s talk about a good running position. You need to make sure that your trunk is braced, i.e., you’re stabilizing your spine. You also need to be getting movement from certain areas and not compensating through other areas.
You need to be able to do that over the entire duration of your run. Mile after mile no matter the distance or intensity. When you can no longer maintain the proper positions, you risk injury or develop compensatory patterns, that may lead to injury in the future. If that isn’t good enough reason for you, you will also lose power and speed. Resulting in slower times and harder runs.
Here’s where the ability to properly squat comes in. Now, make sure to note that I didn’t say squat 300 pounds. That isn’t what is important here. But doing some box squats or goblet squats or even a bodyweight squat will allow you to spot any mechanical breakdowns that may happen in your running technique. If you always turn your feet out on goblet squats on the last few reps, you can bet that you may turn your foot out when running. Missing hip extension? We can see that at the top of the squat. This, along with many other examples can provide a coach with guidelines to improve mobility or stability in the proper places.
As mentioned earlier, while running, you need proper spinal bracing. If you arch your back to lower yourself on the box, you may be running in an over extended position. That can also show that you don’t know how to properly keep yourself in a strong, braced core position. Proper squatting, with guidance from a knowledgeable coach (there are a lot of people who teach poor squatting out there, be careful who you get advice from) requires you to brace your core to move your extremities, just like running.
By squatting, we can spot potential breakdowns but we can also practice good positions.