By: Stephen Coreano, Personal Trainer
Squats have always been one of the most important exercises in a well-rounded fitness program. In fact, I will go ahead and say it’s one of the most popular exercises nowadays, right next to bicep curls and taking selfies in between sets. You can find a hundred variations of videos online and thousands of “fitness gurus” explaining the importance of squats! Recently, squats have been linked to developing a nice rear end, a shallow motivation but very true.
Today I will take a different stance on squats for the sake of longevity and injury prevention. After all, what good is all that hard work to improve your health if your joints are taking a beating? As a trainer the first thing we learn to assess is someone’s squat to detect possible muscle imbalances. This then becomes a major focal point in how we should program the individual’s work-out routine. How you squat says a lot about your body’s physical ability and limitations. Unfortunately, not all squats are created equal due to society’s sedentary lifestyle. We spend too much time sitting and looking down at screens and that’s affecting our posture and how well we squat. If you lack mobility and squat poorly, chances are you won’t enjoy them or might find them painful. If you are squatting correctly and with the right intensity you will be preventing injury and seeing positive results! Rather than worrying if we will lose weight from squatting or if it will build our “rear end” we should draw our focus on how well we squat FIRST! Here are some tips on how to improve your squats
- Foot placement can vary based on the individual, but the general rule is always shoulder width apart
- The perfect squat calls for your feet pointed straight ahead however the feet may point outward slightly as long as your knees are always aligned with your toes
- When squatting you are keeping your feet flat on the ground and putting your weight on your heels, always driving through your heels on your way up!
- Bracing with your core is extremely important for keep your spine stable in your squat, also it does much more than crunches do for your abdomen!
- Always lead the motion with your hips! In order to squat properly you need to hinge back slightly with your hips! Never lead with your knees.
- Take your time! The more time under tension you have in your squat the better you will control the motion and correct any faulty movement patterns that cause injury
- Take the time to foam roll and stretch your hips! Due to sitting down our hip flexor muscles become tight and inhibit our range of motion. Stretching your hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes, calves, and inner thighs will improve your flexibility making it easier to squat!
- If your shoulder mobility is poor it may affect your squat technique with the barbell, in the mean-time it would be more beneficial to squat with a kettle bell than to load the weight improperly on your spine
- Squatting down to a small box or step as a reference point will help you work on your depth. This will help you build confidence in squatting all the down. A good squat calls for your hips to be parallel with your knees at the bottom of your squat. Depending on your core strength and hip mobility squatting below parallel might be very difficult. Though squatting deeper has its benefits, if it isn’t done correctly it’s not worth it possible injury.
- Try the smart squat! Just recently every club has been given a smart squat exercise board! The smart squat is a tool used to give your immediate feedback on your squat form. Think of it as training wheels for your squat form! If you are interested in trying it out I recommend booking a fitness assessment with a personal trainer!
Ultimately your squat form can either make or break you. Your ability to squat will indicate a lot of limitations in the gym. A great squat will help you improve your strength and posture, that’s why it’s important to continually work on your form. Not sure if you squat well? You should book a free fitness assessment with a trainer at your gym!