When I first started getting into strength training I kept hearing the word squats quite a lot. Although I had a rough idea of what a squat should look like. I didn’t know the proper mechanics of how to do a squat. Why it was such an important movement, and went about squatting with improper form for quite some time.
WHY IS THE SQUAT SUCH AN IMPORTANT EXERCISE?
Well a squat is a movement pattern that almost everyone unconsciously do on a daily basis. In many third world countries people use a squatting position to just relax and stay there for hours at a time.It doesn’t matter if you’re 1 year old or 100 years old you still have use for a basic squat.
But most people heard that statement before. So the big question is what exactly is happening in our body biomachanically when we squat? The squat trains our hip extender muscles( the muscles in your hips that helps you push yourself up) which in turn helps us improve a-lot of activities we do on a daily basis. Some of the activities that include hip extension are walking, sitting, running,jumping, walking up stairs, picking up something from the floor and the list can go on and on. So you can see the big picture here, weather you are a professional football player or someone with a 9-5 job. You preform some sort of hip extension every day, and training and strengthen those muscle that allows you to preform hip extension will greatly benefit you and prevent injury.
Here is two really good example of how people unconsciously squat everyday
1. Keep a neutral spine and head position– A neutral spine mean to maintain the same spinal position as if your you were standing upright.
2. Do full depth squats. It is a common misconception that you should squat to a 90 degree angle because if you squat lower it will place excesses force on the knee joint. The problem with this is that our knee joint is biomachanically made to squat beyond a 90 degree angle. A good example of this are olympic lifters .Have your ever seen an olympic lifter squat with a excessive amount of load to a 90 degree angle? .
3.Keep your feet a little wider than shoulder width and turned out to about a 15-30 degree angle.If you can do a squat with your feet straight and maintain correct form you should because it will help you generate more power. The only problem with this is a lot of people don’t have appropriate range-of-motion to squat deep with straight feet, but it is something you should be constantly working towards. The alternative is to squat with you feet slightly turned out which will help give your femur clearance allowing you to gain a better range-of-motion. The angle it is turned out will vary with everyone. So find the angle that you feel the most comfortable in between 0-30 degrees.
4. Keep the weight in the middle of your feet( right in-front of your ankle) and keep your feet glued to the ground.- You might think why keep the weight in-front your ankle and not in your heels? Well the cue to keep the weight in your heels is a beginner cue, because most people come up on the ball of their feet. Telling them to place the weight in their heels helps them keep their feet flat on the floor without confusing them. But in reality the way gravity pulls on your body, your center of gravity goes right in front of your ankle. The other thing is one of the most common faults I see happen, most people come onto the ball of their feet. This could be just a motor control issue or could be range-of-motion problem.
5. Screw your feet into the floor and shove your knees out.-Just as with a car, if it has more torque, it will have more power. Your body is no different, screwing your feet into the floor help you create torque in your joints which will help increase your power. When you are squating pay careful attention that your knees are not collapsing inwards. Try to shove them out.
Suspension bands : Suspension bands such as the TRX will help decrease the amount of weight your hip extensor have to push up and distribute it to your upper body( your hands hold the bands ). The goal is to slowly decrease the amount of weight distributed to your upper body by trying not to use the bands as much. I usually like to cue people to decrease the amount of finger you grip the bands with. For example: instead of using your 5 fingers to grip the band, remove your tumb and use only four fingers, slowly decrease the amount of fingers used until you can preform a squat without the bands.
Using a chair or any flat elevated surface : One of the thing we do everyday that require some degree of squatting is sitting. So a great way to work on squating correctly is to use a chair, start with something that is a regular kitchen chair hight and slowly try to lower it until you can get full depth with perfect form. A great equipment to use is a stepper, most of them have additional attachment to make them higher or lower.
Stretching and rolling out trigger points – You might think how is this a regression? Well if your hip extender muscles( Glutes, hamstrings, Adductor magnus, longus & bervis) are tight, trying to squat is like stretching a dried rubberband.