The properly executed bodyweight squat is firmly established as an awesome exercise. It builds strength, flexibility, body awareness, and balance simultaneously. But not everyone agrees on the best way to squat. Most coaches agree on the big points, like maintaining a neutral spine and squatting to a depth that engages the posterior chain. But what about the smaller points, like the position of the arms? A recent study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research asks just that.


squat, bodyweight squat, arms while squatting, overweight clients squattingA group of researchers undertook the task of understanding how arm position affects the squat of overweight and obese ladies. I appreciate that the researchers chose this population. Sometimes it seems the entirety of sports research is based on 22 year-old men. But coaches need to know the best way to train overweight clients as well.


The study found that holding the arms out in front of the shoulders (think Frankenstein’s monster) enabled trainees to squat deeper than when arms were held passively to the side. The arms in front technique also did not compromise torso position and spinal stability, so it was a win all around.


The study also found overweight trainees tended to squat to a more shallow depth than normal weight trainees, so the arms up technique is especially applicable to overweight trainees. Overweight trainees did tend to maintain a more upright torso. This could be a learned behavior to protect their spine and low back from injury.


Above all, this study teaches us to be aware that overweight trainees will show different movement patterns than healthy weight trainees. Coaches should be aware of this and be armed with tools to keep training safe and effective for all populations. What techniques have you used to give overweight trainees the best results?


Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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