First of all what is a squat?
Well a squat is quite simply your knee straightening and bending as you lower yourself down – also called knee flexion. Muscles involved here are the hamstrings and the quads (primary muscle) and some calf activation. Great example of a barbell back squat from the weight training guide website show below
Ok so what’s good form when it comes to a squat?
There are many opinions on what way you should be standing, feet turned out, feet straight yada yada yada ….. but the main thing to understand here is that it needs to be comfortable for you – not everyone has the same hip structure! For sure there are some basic principles that everyone has to learn about the squat but what it comes to your stance go with your flow. Please take as much time as you can to perfect good technique when you squat – your joints will thank you for it in the long run
1: As a general term stand feet shoulder width apart, all of the functioning joints in a line – ankles/knees/pelvis/ribs/shoulder blades/neck
2: Keep your core engaged and your back in a line and drop the hips straight down – this can be tricky for someone with poor ankle mobility so use you could use a trx rope or an aid to lower yourself down so you can practice
3: Knees out! Drive them out as you go up and down – allowing them to cave in will cause problems when you add any load at a later stage
4: Your weight should be on the heel and back of the foot and not your toes (heel doesn’t come off the ground)
5: While keeping that neutral spine (not arched or bent inwards) drive up through your heels, extend at the hips and squeeze your glutes (bum) as hard as you can
Boom you’ve just smashed a squat, now give me 50 more!
So what are the benefits?
There are bucket loads – I’ve added some below:
- You can do them anywhere – check out @kaisafit – she literally does them anywhere, really I mean anywhere. This also means they are free – you don’t need a gym so you have literally no excuse, even if you have one leg you can learn to do pistol squats
- Squat exercises use multiple muscles (tis a compound exercise) so burns fat and strengthens your legs in one go.
- Your glutes (bum) will thank you big time. This is one of the best exercises you can do but to be honest glute exercises require an entire post to themselves. In today’s society we are a lot more sedentary and our glutes tend to switch off as we watch tv, drive to work, sit in front of a computer etc so be nice to your glutes and hit them with some squats. By the way the main man @bretcontreras1 knows what’s up with the glutes!!
- Increase flexibility and mobility – watch a kid pick something up – they don’t bend over, they drop the hips and squat right down. Could you do that now? No? Then start squatting and practice as much as you can
- There are many variations so you’ll never get bored. e.g. back squat, front squat, goblet squat, pistol squat, squat jumps, sumo squat, dumbell squat – hit google and you will find a stack
There are loads of great researchers out there looking at why squats are a great exercise when learnt to do correctly, some of their points and information I’ve used above – Bret as I’ve mentioned above is all things glutes and Sivan Fagan a fitness educator are 2 that I particularly like but as I said there are loads of good ones out there.
Now stop reading this and get your squat on
Adam is a Belfast based personal trainer operating in Mount Merrion