Are you at risk for a run injury? Try this self-assessment.

With many of my personal training athletes, I use the overhead deep squat as a movement pattern to assess limits within the body. I have posted the video of this exercise/movement so you can perform a self-assessment.

The ability to perform the Deep Squat requires an optimal body weight squatting pattern and a poor performance of this squat can alert you to some stability, mobility and asymmetries within your body that may lead to run specific problems.

The Deep Squat is used to challenge bilateral, symmetrical, functional mobility and stability of the hips, knees, and ankles....ALL very important for running injury free.

In this video, I use two power balls of four pounds each. Using weight is NOT neccessary and NOT recommmended. Just hold your hands overhead, trying to keep them straight and overhead as much as possible. This is not an exercise, but a movement pattern assessment. Do not use heavy weight.

Try this out and lets us know how well you perform - E.

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Comment by martin klein on December 3, 2010 at 7:39pm
Dear Ford
I am trying to improve my deep squat technique and performance. I am interested in your comment that 'twisting stretches would make such a difference', and wondered if you were able to describe, illustrate or demonstrate these, or any other stretches or exercises that you have found helpful.
Regards Martin
Comment by Mark Lofquist on November 16, 2010 at 11:18am
at my local crossfit gym, they always say 'runners are the worst deep squatter' - i try to prove i'm an outlier :)
Comment by Steven Horwitz on November 14, 2010 at 7:15pm
I love the deep squat as an assessment tool. Unfortunately, few people, especially distance runners, are able to do this properly. We are all born with the ability to do this movement, just watch any toddler squat down do pick up something or draw with chalk on the ground. In the Western world, we lose this ability due to all the sitting we do and maybe even due to the fact we sit on toilets and no longer must squat over holes in the ground.
I suggest filming yourself from the front and side while performing the squat. If you have an IPhone, purchase the Slowmo app for $0.99. While watching yourself in slow motion you can see where the problems are quite easily.
The biggest problem is that most people's knees buckle inwards and do not stay aligned over the toes. This can be corrected by "spreading the floor" with your feet and driving your knees apart. Exercises like seated band abductions ( and band walks ( are very helpful.
Read Dr. Stuart McGill's work on hinging at the hips - the squat movement is a movement of the buttocks backward, never a movement down. Driving the buttocks back and pulling with the hip flexors are two great cues.
Working on your squat will pay big dividends - it will help prevent lower extremity injuries and make your more efficient and faster.
Comment by Bob Dannegger on November 3, 2010 at 5:10pm
Hi Ford.
I hope they can help you reach your goals. Self-diagnosis is very difficult and getting professional help is worth it if you can afford it. If you don't mind, what was your total score on the screen and what did they say was your worst test that they are working on
Comment by martin klein on October 22, 2010 at 12:20am
Thanks Eric for the advice and great website to share ideas and information. Totally agree to keep things simple if possible.
Comment by Eric Orton on October 21, 2010 at 1:06pm
Hey Martin - Please do not make this as complex as Gray's scoring system. My post was meant to raise awareness to this important movement and to give runners a simple and easy indication as to where they may fall with respect to athleticism and imbalances. You can make your own determination as to how difficult or easy this movement is for you. I have had runners score very high with "the system" and still be very deficient in very important areas.
Thanks Bob for the great response.
Comment by martin klein on October 21, 2010 at 12:51pm
Thank you for the comprehensive explanation and information. The assessment and scoring seems quite complex to the uninitiated. Will investigate the link to FMS that you have kindly provided.
Regards Martin
Comment by Bob Dannegger on October 21, 2010 at 12:24pm
I'm fairly sure that I commented on this subject shortly after it was posted but don't see it in the older posts. I will try to clear up some of the confusion about the test. Although Eric may not agree with his source, it is a takeoff on the deep squat test from Gray Cook and DR. Lee Burton’s FMS (Functional Movement System). The FMS is a 7 step tool used to assess fundamental movement patterns. The deep squat test is the first of the seven movements. Here is a description of what it is designed to test.

"The deep squat is a test that challenges total body mechanics when performed properly. The deep squat is used to assess bilateral, symmetrical, functional mobility of the hips, knees, and ankles. The dowel held overhead assesses bilateral, symmetrical mobility of the shoulders, as well as the thoracic spine."

If you go to this link and download the FMS scoring criteria PDF you can see the other tests as well as how the test is supposed to be done and scored. If you look at the deep squat test in the video you will see that it is a bit different from the video. The major difference is that the feet are spread wider than shoulder width and the feet are externally rotated. Those both make it easier to squat and may well be correct form for an actual squat but miss some other clues. For example, externally rotating the feet makes it easier to prevent pronation and the resultant valgus collapse at the knees (knees bend in toward the middle). E.G. if your dorsiflexion is insufficient and you try to squat you have to get the motion somewhere so letting your feet pronate feet gives you more range of motion at the ankle.

The way the FMS works is that all 7 movements are scored and then a specific criteria is used to decide what corrective exercise should be pursued first. The criteria is:

1. If the movement causes pain you get a 0 and should see a sports medicine professional.
2. Next is any assymetrical movement scoring a 1
3. A bilateral movement scoring a 1
4. Imbalances with a score of 2 and so on.

Note that the screen is hierarchical which means that if both test 6 and test 7 score a 1 then corrective exercises for test 7 are assigned. Only one segment of the test is worked on at a time because fixing the worst problem often fixes many problems. A score of 14 is considered to be "passing" regarding the risk of injury while performing your sport, in this case running. However, it doesn't guarantee freedom from injury nor does a score of 21, just that the higher the score the lower the theoretical risk.
Looking at the deep squat test in isolation doesn’t necessarily lead to any useful information about what the potential problems it might cause and what to do to fix them. Here is an example.
Let’s say that in doing the test you fall forward as you approach parallel and your knees collapse towards each other and you pitch forward. So your score is a 1. What causes it? How do you fix it?
It could be caused by a lack of dorsiflexion, weak/inactive gluteus medius, tight shoulders, tight hip rotators, kyphotic thoracic spine, tight quads, etc.. Suppose that you can get a 2 with your heels on a 2x6 as well as get 2s on all the other tests. In that case your lack of dorsiflexion may be the cause and if you don’t fix it you will probably get a foot of lower leg injury sooner or later. However if you never do the other tests you never know what else could be wrong. You can also have a problem with tightness in your shoulders or thoracic spine that could lead to other problems down the road or a weak glute medius that could eventually lead to an ITB or other leg injury. Although there are many assessment tools available, most of them test range of motion or isolated movement patterns and not integrated fundamental movement patterns.

If you have trouble with the deep squat I suggest you go see a certified FMS screener. You can find the nearest one at
Unfortunately not many runners know about this or have access to one. I have been certified for almost a year and have screened several runners and the ones that score less than 14 tend with asymmetries tend to be more injured than the ones that score higher.
Comment by martin klein on October 21, 2010 at 1:03am
Hi Tina
A big journey starts with a small step. Hopefully you can pick up little pieces of information (shared experience) that will help you on your way.
Comment by tina verraes on October 21, 2010 at 12:51am
Dear Martin,

Thank you for your comment. I understand the purpose of the squat a little more. My squat gives me a message that I have an inbalance somewhere. Yet, what to do with that information ànd understanding what exactly it means, is still unclear. I miss a little coherence on the site. I get fractions of information, but I was hoping for a little guidance that starts from zero and helps building up. But maybe I don't get the whole idea of the site?


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