Lift Better: Understanding the Nuances of a Good Squat
In this first part in our lifting series, we want to go through the squat – a functional, universal movement that we believe should be a part of everyone’s exercise routine. Whether you’re young or old, squats are a foundational movement that needs to be done right.
In this article, we go through the basics of the squat, including key considerations for performing the squat along with common mistakes that people make while squatting.
What are Squats and Why Should I do Them?
A squat is an exercise that works the muscles of the lower body. It’s considered to be a compound exercise because movement takes place across multiple joints.
Squats are a great functional exercise because it mimics activities that we do in daily life such as getting up / down from a chair and lifting household objects.
Squats not only help with building muscle mass in the legs and hips, but also help you maintain mobility of your lower body joints including your hips, knees and ankles.
Although people worry about doing squats because of the stress placed on the knees, the opposite is actually true. Squats, when done right, are beneficial for both the strength and mobility of your knees.
Plus squats can help you look better by toning your glutes and may give you a more toned waistline by activating your core muscles.
Pick Your Squat Style
Squats can be done with bodyweight for resistance or you can add weights such as dumbbells, barbells or kettlebells. There are many variations as well – front squats, back squats, goblet squats, pistol squats and even sumo squats. Squats are modifiable for every level of fitness and age.
We like the Goblet Squat because of its simplicity and ability to help you maintain good form.
A goblet squat requires you to hold a weighted object in both hands in front of your chest. Having the weight up in front of your chest helps you to keep your balance and allows you to stay more upright which will help you maintain good squat form.
3 Key Principles for the Perfect Squat
Given that a squat involves many muscles and joints it’s no surprise that executing proper technique of this exercise can be challenging.
1) Bend Through Your Hips, Not Your Back
Squatting requires you to ‘hinge’ your hips as you lower down into the squat. Rounding your back puts more strain on your low back and reduces much needed power when increasing your squat load. This is often referred to as the ‘butt wink’. Watch this video to learn about the ‘butt wink’.
Key Tip: Place a pole along your spine making sure that you keep your back’s natural curve. Keep the pole in contact with your mid back and pelvis throughout the movement. Also keep the space between the pole and your low back the same distance throughout the movement.
2) Get Your Ankles Moving
An important component to the squat is a good ankle bend. Having tight ankles can cause you to roll your arches and knees in resulting poor form and increased strain through your joints.
Focus on keeping your weight centered over your feet. Think of centering your weight over three points of your foot: heel, ball and pinky toe.
Key Tip: Watch yourself in a mirror as you squat to see if your arches or knees are rolling in during any point of the squat.
3) Don’t Be Afraid to Bend Your Knees
There’s a lot of controversy about how much you should bend your knees when squatting. Generally, your knees will not go past your toes if your squat is less than 90 degrees, but this depends on where you place your load. Squatting below parallel (thigh to floor) will require you to bring your knees past your toes.
Key Tip: Pretend that you’re sitting back on a stool while squatting. This will help bring the hips back and naturally allow your knees to track correctly.
Squatting is an excellent movement to do regularly with load. It is an excellent strengthening exercise that serves us well, regardless of where we are in life.
Are you struggling with your squat in the gym? Having difficulty with everyday lifting? Then you might benefit from having your squat and biomechanics evaluated.
Book an appointment with one of Innovation Physical Therapy’s experienced physiotherapists by calling one of our 6 clinics located throughout Edmonton & Sherwood Park including Riverbend, Meadowlark, Belvedere, Namao, Sherwood Park or our newest clinic in West Henday.