The squat has been a standard training technique for athletes for a long time, whether they use the squat lift, or perform deep squats. Because it engages a large amount of muscle groups, such as the core, shoulders, back, hips, glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves, squatting might just be the most effective exercise you can do.
As a plus, squatting can improve circulation, digestion and posture, and help you define beautiful thighs and buttocks.
A perfect squat requires a muscular coordination throughout the entire body. And because of its very high metabolic demand, it can help you build muscle and burn fat at the same time.
These are some of the benefits you can get with squatting:
- builds muscle
- burns fat
- better mobility and posture
- improves balance and coordination
- increases flexibility and endurance
- helps you gain strength
The most common mistake when doing squats is that you are actually putting too much pressure on your lower back and not enough on your legs. If you use the bad form, squatting can really hurt your knees and lower back.
Let’s take a look at some common problems with squatting and how we can fix them.
- Standing on your toes while bending – you need to keep your heels on the ground the entire time. Your toes should be free to move while squatting.
- Knee positioning – keep your knees in line with your feet and bring them above your toes at the end of the squat. Keep your knees out to the sides or you could be twisting your knee joints.
- Back positioning – maintain the natural curve in your lower back and don’t overarch it. Keep your chest up and shoulders back.
- Head positioning – don’t look at the ceiling to hurt your neck. Keep you look straight in front, with your chin in a position that a tennis ball could fit between it and your chest.
- Losing balance – if you squat lift and the bar comes over your toes you’ll lose balance forward. The same will happen if the weight moves to your ankles and you’ll lose balance backwards. You need to keep the bar over your mid-foot at all times.
- Descending too quickly – when you add weights to your squats and you move to quickly, you could easily increase the chances of injury. You are more likely to maintain a proper position if you squat a little slower.
- Not warming up – it’s critical that you warm up before squatting, to prepare the joints and muscles for movement. Use glute bridges to open up your hips and any other warming up exercise to help prepare you for movement.
When squatting, technique is critical. A good squatting technique should not hurt your back and knees and should bring all the benefits we mentioned before. Let’s see some of the variations you can do and how to properly execute them.
- The bodyweight squat
- stand tall with your feet hip-wide apart, hips over knees and knees over ankles
- roll the shoulder back and start lowering your body pushing your hips back and bending your knees
- push your bodyweight into your heels
- extend your hands in front of you, with palms looking down, for balance
- keep your chest and shoulders upright and your back straight
- your head is facing forward with eyes straight ahead
- pause for a moment, and then engage core and lift back up in a controlled movement
- Kettlebell, dumbbell, or medicine ball squat
- after deciding on what you are going to use, hold the weight at the center of your chest
- slightly bend your knees and maintaining a good position, drop into a squat
- drop the elbows between your knees to get a full range of motion
- go straight down and stand straight up for the remaining reps
- Barbell front squat
- place the bar in front of your shoulders and grab it with both hands
- keep your hand on the bar and don’t let it roll onto your fingertips
- keep your elbows up and your upper arms as parallel to the floor as possible
- drop below parallel and come back
In doing the front squat, it is very important to keep your elbows as high as you can, because if you let them drop, the weight will pull you forward and out of the correct position making you drop the weights or injuring you.
- The low bar back squat
- step up to the bar, face towards it
- step under the bar and put your hands around it
- grab the bar with a thumbless grip and place it on your rear deltoids
- a narrow grip will help you better with placing the bar in your upper back, but if you don’t have the flexibility for a narrow grip, start out wider, slowly bringing it in as you gain flexibility
- with the bar on your back stand up, tighten your core and step back
- feet slightly wider than hip width apart, butt back, squat down slowly so the tops of your legs are parallel, and stand back up
- The high bar back squat
- the starting position is the same as for the low bar back squat, but this time you need to put your thumbs around the bar in a narrow grip
- instead of placing the bar on your rear delts, place it about two inches higher up so that the bar will be across your shoulders
- with the bar on your back step back, tighten your core and squat down
- due to the placement of the bar, you will need to keep your torso more vertical
Squats are an incredibly valuable tool for building strength and losing body fat, and the benefits we pointed out will benefit every aspect of your fitness.
If you’re willing to learn how to squat correctly, you’ll be rewarded with consistent progress and limited injury risk.