Here at fitcorp we generally screen our clients with something called the Functional Movement Screen (or FMS). It allows us to see how our clients move, pick out any dysfunction, and/or movement compensations. There’s seven movements screened; the scoring is scaled from 1-3, 3 being the best.

If you’ve been following my posts, you know I’ve been dealing with back pain that’s had me out of the game for months now. I was having a casual conversation with my PT director about it and he asked if he could FMS me.  So, as is the standard he first tested my deep squat.

“It’s a good squat, but it’s not a 3.”

Much to my dismay… I was not a 3.

He had me stand in front of a wall and my squat was a different story. I couldn’t make it past parallel and I felt an immense tightness in my mid and upper back. Generally, not being able to stay upright in a deep squat means youre lacking somewhere in mobilty (usually shoulder, tspine or ankle) or motor control (that’s beyond the scope of this post). What the hell! I am the queen of thoracic mobility and squat patterning drills.

There must be some other factor in this equation.

But to be honest, I don’t know what it is. In most corrective exercise theories, you re-pattern movement from the ground up. So my director gave me some drills to get me to a perfect 3. These included supine leg slides and goblet squat with a bicep curl. The third one was face-the-wall squats. In theory you should be able to go into an overhead deep squat with your toes touching a wall. You may giggle at the thought of that but just wait until you fall over approximately 42 times trying it and then come talk to me.

In leu of this frustration I discovered something cool (I think).

The Cable Assisted Overhead Squat

1. Attach a straight bar at the highest setting possible
2. Start with setting the weight at about 2/3 your body weight
3. Stand in a cable very close to the column (like- uncomfortably close)
4. Rock your weight on your heels and start to go into a deep squat
5. Depending on how tall you are, at a certain point your arms will straighten and the weight will start to assist you and allow you to go deeper
6. Hang out at the bottom, tuck your shoulder blades down and allow your hips to open and feel the stretch in your upper back
7. Now try to move your weight into your mid foot and heel
8. Push through your heels and stand up
Decrease the weight until the movement is challenging but doable
This is your starting weight. Perform 3 sets of 15 every day for 1 week and decrease your weight each week

Ignore Steve being a pain in my arse. =)

As soon as I tried this on myself, I had to experiment with someone else. Just in time a member walked by who I knew experienced chronic back pain. I set him in position, cued and spotted him through the movement. What do ya know, I got him in a perfect 3 deep squat. He expressed what a great stretch it was and how fantastic it felt.

I’ll go out on a limb and say I’m probably not the first person ever to think of this theory; but I just may be the first person to impliment the cable machine. I plan on trying this with a few clients I have in mind (and myself) to see if I can progress them to an perfect 3 unassisted overhead squat. I will report back with results.

Try it yourself and let me know how it goes!

-L