"This is the first of a two-part series detailing everything you need to know about the squat. Part two will be in our December issue."
The vital and versatile squat has traditionally been regarded as the King of Exercises by power lifters, team sports players, Olympic lifters, strength and conditioning participants, core performance athletes and bodybuilders. All of these competitors have entirely different goals within their given sport, yet they all perform some variation of the squat.
Whether performing at the highest level competitively or simply achieving the body of your dreams, you have to perform the squat, but many are most likely doing it completely wrong. Rounding the lower back, not going below parallel, knees caving in and chest falling forward are all frequently seen bio-mechanical problems.
Perform the Perfect Squat
Chest Up, Shoulders Back
Keep your chest up and your shoulders back. You don’t want your shoulders to round forward, but you also don’t want to hyperextend your back.
Begin the movement by bending at the knees, which should track in a line close to the border of the first and the second toe. You want to achieve a full-range of motion.
Don’t Let Your Knees Buckle
While at the bottom of the squat, you should drive your knees outwards. This also holds when you are on your way up back to the full lock out position or extension of your hips. Buckling can cause major strain on the tendons and ligaments in your knees.
Squat Equal To or Below Parallel
Maximum depth for the squat occurs when the hamstrings fully cover the calves. The degree of hip flexion necessary to reach proper depth is very individual and relies on the flexibility of the entire lower body.
Accelerate Out of the Bottom
At the bottom of the lift, begin in a controlled exhalation. The upward concentric phase is essentially a simple motion in which you stand up so that you end up where you started. The ability to stand up fluidly with the right movement pattern is a function of overall structural balance. Drive with the legs and squeeze the glutes during the concentric phase. Keep your chest held high and look straight ahead. Do not look upward at the ceiling or excessively cock the neck.
Improve Your Squat by Warming-up First
I use the following warm ups with all of my clients before they engage in a heavy squat workout—or any lower body based workout, for that matter. Warming-up will help you practice proper squat form, while opening up the hips.
- Wall Squat – 3 rounds x 5 reps
- Air Squat with a one second pause at the bottom – 3 rounds x 10 reps
- Goblet Squat with a one second pause at the bottom – 3 reps x 5 reps
- Walking Lunge – 3 rounds x 10 reps for each leg
- Bulgarian Split Squat with a one second pause at the bottom – 3 rounds x 5 reps for each leg
If you are not familiar with the above warm-up exercises, check out our next issue for full details about each one and for additional tips on performing more beneficial and safer squats. Until then, stay active!