I'm can almost be sure there isn't a person out there that does not know what a squat is, with the rising reputation of the 'Kardashian booty' and the millions of Instagram tutorials that followed, demonstrating the infamous "booty building workout", it's pretty safe to say that the majority would have seen a squat performed as well. I'm sure the same people would tell me the squat is an exercise for the legs and butt, but the reality is, it is so much more than that!
The squat is a compound exercise meaning it is a movement that uses more than one joint to complete. It utilizes the entire body, stimulating and challenging a large amount of muscle groups which in turn increases your metabolic rate, meaning you burn more fat while building muscle! It mimics a tonne of natural movements in everyday life, so in other words if there is one exercise that is most beneficial to you, whether your trying to build muscle, lose weight or just achieve more functionality for everyday life, then i'd have to say the winning exercise would have to be the squat!
So let's take a closer look at this magical exercise and run through everything you need to know to have you getting low like a pro!
- Place your feet just wider than hip distance
- Turn toes slightly outward
- Look forward, keeping neck straight and spine neutral
- Shift your weight to your heels and balls of your feet (technically you should be able to wiggle your toes throughout the movement, but don't add a toe dance to the exercise, there's already enough going on!)
- Engage your core, by drawing your belly button back towards your spine & lower your hips by pushing your butt out like your sitting back on chair
- Keep chest up, head looking forward and spine neutral
- Focus on keeping your knees in line with your toes, if they start to track inside your feet, push them back out so that all joints are in alignment
- Don't forget to breathe! Taking a deep breath in as you lower allows you to utilize more oxygen and therefore exert more effort on the way up by breathing back out.
- Lastly lower until your hip joint is lower than your knee joint, this creates more of a stretch in the muscle meaning more energy must be exerted and muscle fibers recruited to contract the muscle. This is a good thing so watch yourself in the mirror or ask your trainer to tell you when you have reached past parallel until you get a feel for where that is.
Base of the movement
- Okay your half way there, at the base of the movement this is where I need your full attention, whatever you do don't let it all fall apart by letting go, keep your body strong and tight. If at this point you notice your pelvis tucks under this can indicate tight hamstrings and weak core and glutes, and may need to be corrected by incorporating hamstring stretches, core and glute strengthening exercises into your program. If you find your knees have traveled forward past your toes this can indicate dominant quads and you may need to strengthen your hamstrings and stretch your quads. If your heels start to lift off the ground this means you lack range of motion in the ankle joint, which you can start to correct through stretching and foam rolling of your calves. All these things can be easily spotted if you ask a friend or training body to take a short video of you performing a squat.
- Every one knows to squeeze your glutes at the top of the exercise however at that point most of the hard work has been done, so to ensure you are utilizing your glutes through the entire exercise, before lifting back up to standing focus all your attention on contracting your glutes and naturally your hips will begin to straighten and your body will begin to raise back up to standing, only the good news is your have completely targeted your glutes both mentally and physically giving you a more effective exercise and even better results!
- Push up through the heels and breathe out!
- Keep chest up, looking forward and spine neutral
- Drive your knees outwards (not past your feet) the same way you did on the way down
- Squeeze glutes at top of exercise to ensure a full contraction of the muscle
- Keep your core tight and engaged, this is important all the time but especially when you starting adding weight to your squat. If ever you feel lower back pain during a squat, reduce the weight and work on incorporating more core strengthening exercises into your program.
So as you can see there is a lot more to the squat than you think, but don't feel overwhelmed, look at this post and think "information overload!", just take on one point of information at a time and work on that until you get the hang of it and no longer requires your full attention. Then slowly build working on each technique cue until you have mastered every one last on them. It is at that point, when it feels natural and routine to squat with correct technique that I recommend adding extra weight and continuing to challenge yourself.
I always say to people learn how to train smart and you won't have to train so hard, and that couldn't be more true when applied to performing a squat. If you complete this exercise with complete mindfulness, concentration and perform correct technique you may find you fatigue quicker than usual, that is not because you are weaker that is because you are doing it right! I promise the results you receive, will speak much louder than my words ever could!
Now go crank some of your favourite tunes, get your thinking cap on and go get your squat on!