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Does segment length influence the hip, knee and ankle coordination during the squat movement?
Background: The back squat exercise is a common and essential clinical rehabilitation exercise. As a compound movement of the lower limbs the cues to optimal movement technique are complex and difficult to identify. The aim of this study was to determine the influence of lower limb segment lengths on the biomechanics of movement when performing the back squat exercise. Methods: Using 3D kinematic analysis the 28 subjects (male n= 16, female n= 12) performed four sets of eight squats. The four independent variables were: load – (i) body-weight with no external load, and (ii) body-weight plus 50% body-weight external load; and width of stance – (iii) narrow stance equal to ASIS width; and (iv) wide equal to twice ASIS width. Findings: The total squat pattern was different for genders and limb length correlations showed that genders created movement patterns of the lower body in squatting, which may have resulted due to these limb length differences. Males typically lean more forward allowing their spine to create greater movement and depth during the squat. Females utilise the knees and sacrum to adjust for depth, achieve greater hip flexion, and remain upright during the squat. The frequent correlations for limb lengths with the knees in females suggest females utilise the knees as a strategy to maintain synchronisation of the squat. Interpretation: Taller women typically achieved greater knee angles, and taller men achieved smaller hip angles. Males and females do create different movement strategies for the squat movement and coaches and trainers should allow for this in both teaching and cueing of the squat movement pattern.