Firstly, why do we squat? Well, the ability to squat is of high importance due to it being one of the most functional movements visible in everyday activities such as getting something out of a low cupboard and picking something off the floor. Mobility and balance is learnt and improved when squatting, with strength gains being another element of squatting practise. Squats promote growth and strengthening gains in the legs, including the quadriceps femoris ( quads/front thighs), the hamstrings (back of your thighs) and gluteus maximus (bum). Additionally, squats improve your core and stability, strengthening the lower back and knees which is very important for painless functional movement.
How to squat? Your standard squat starts with positioning feet slightly wider than hip width apart with toes pointing slightly outwards. As you begin to squat it’s important to keep your knees aligned with your feet, driving the knees out and pushing down into your heels until your legs reach a 90 degree angle. Once achieved push yourself back up to the starting position before repeating again.
During the movement, it’s important to ensure your breathing follows the movement, this helps with stabilising the core through the movement and keeping your neutral spine. A neutral spine means that everything from the bottom of your spine to the top (your head) stays in as much of a straight line as possible, with no over extension of the lower back or excessive neck deviation which can lead to injury. Therefore, ensure a chin tuck when squatting and core bracing, which has said early can be achieved through breathing, breath in as you lower in the squat and release as you move upwards.
Now that the movement pattern of the squat is established it’s important to recognise what you can do to modify it. Body weight squats allows for the development of the muscles to gain balance and mobility through the movement, once underpinned the strength gains can start being made.
You can add a kettle bell, this is known as a goblet squat, hold the kettle bell up and close to the chest and follow the standard squat motion. This is good for a beginner who’s just established their squat pattern as you can use lighter weights and develop muscles slowly and properly without deviating from the perfect squat pattern.
Adding a barbell for a squat is a development that allows max loads to be achieved. Everything about the squat is as normal however, place a barbell on the squat rack at mid chest height, grab the bar and establish your hand position, depending on your shoulder mobility, wider grip if not so mobile and smaller grip if more mobile. Duck under the bar and get the bar to be resting on the base on your neck, across your traps. Once achieved, ensure your elbows are down and shoulders are not rounded, with a big breath in push the chest up and squat upwards, lifting the bar from the rack and walk backwards to establish your position, this is where you can release your breath to ensure comfort and correct positioning. Follow the same squatting protocol as you would with a body weight squat.
And Voila, my how to on Squatting!
Personal Trainer, Better Body Group, Sevenoaks.