Squatting is one of the hardest movements you can do in the gym. Not only because it is a leg workout and not arms, but because unlike bench press, it takes time to learn how to do it properly and it is easy to hurt yourself while trying to go hard. Squatting is one of the more natural movements, but due to the modern way of living, most of us do not do one outside of the squat rack or sitting down. It’s time to take the “training” outside of the gym and practice the basic squat while sitting and standing back up. Let’s go over some key parts of the squat and get you squatting heavier, deeper, and safer.
The squat starts with a firm stance, if your feet are not flat on the ground then you could easily use your balance. However, when you have all that weight on your back how do you keep your feet flat and not going up on your toes? Try to keep your weight through the outer edges of your feet and heels. You do not want your knees to go inwards, as you are keeping your keeps over your toes/outwards a little, you will also notice that your weight is put on the outside of your feet. This “lock” your feet to the ground and will help keep your feet from moving or you from going on your toes. As you descend in the squat, the bar is going to want to push your upper body forward, this intent will throw your center of gravity off and might put your weight on your toes. Keeping your weight on your heels and outer edges of your feet will help prevent the bar from throwing you forward.
The squat crosses all three joints in the lower body, Hips, knees, and ankles. A firm base is a start for the lift but once you start descending, the knees and hips become the primary joints that are movement. The knees, while they bend, do not do much moving in the sagittal plane. However, they can move in the transverse plane. While descending, push the knees outward a little / keeping them over the toes. Do not let the knees cave in and go inward. This put a huge amount of stress on the outside of the knee and crushes the meniscus. (Learn More) As long as you keep your knees safe you will be squatting healthy for years to come.
Most people when they think of a squat, think of a hip movement. Even most textbooks list the squat as a “Hip Exercises” because when squatting the muscles that make up the hip are massive and are the target muscles. Bros who don’t squat will say that they can’t because when they squat they get “back pain”. Will when you round your back and force yourself to get lower than your mobility will let you, you put your pelvis into an awkward position. When you do this you do a posterior pelvic tilt (hip tuck or butt wink). That is when the hips are excessively tilted forward. This puts a huge amount of stress on the lower back by increasing the pressure on the discs in your lower spine when you add weight to the bar. (Learn More) Deeper squats lead to greater gains in size and strength. Which translates into better jumping and everyday movement when compared to just going partial. But if you have to round to do so, it is not worth it. There is no need to rush to ass to grass. If you can only quarter squat, start there and word on mobility. Don’t throw on too much weight and make the muscles tighter by doing half reps. Remember to maintain a neutral (straight) spine, but not to don’t overdo it. Overarching can damage the small stabilizing joints in your spinal column and cause problems in the long run.
The descending of the squat is only half the lift, it is coming back up where injuries can occur as well. The most important thing to remember when coming back up is that this is a hip movement, meaning that if your hips come up and then you good morning the weight, that is not right. As the hips go up the back needs to not round. Activate your core and keep a good upright position. The hip and upper body should rise at the same time. Remember to active your glutes by squeezing them on the way up. Squats are not easy, that is why not everyone does them. Just like everything in life, nothing worth doing comes easy. The squats are one of the foundations in the gym and everyday life. If you feel that your squats are lacking in efficiency, try practicing your squats in everyday life. When you sit on the couch or toilet, practice a safe descend. The small things will help lead to a better squat in the gym. If you lift with bad form, you don’t know SQUAT!
Check out this video for some more tips: