Squats, love them or hate them they are an essential foundation movement that we as humans are required to use every day. Even those who don’t do leg day at the gym will probably squat at least 30 times a day without realising it. It is called sitting down and standing up. Now of course, this movement differs from the one performed in a gym as like with everything, we have found the “path of least resistance” and made sitting down and standing up super easy. How? We generate support and power to get up or balance ourselves as we sit down through the use of our hands.
When working with a new client, squat assessments are always the most telling way to identify whether achieving the intended fitness goals are going to be easy or not. It allows the trainer to identify more than a handful of muscular imbalances and movement pattern dysfunctions. Now, squats like anything can be corrected but it takes patience and movement pattern dysfunction understanding from the trainer and dedication to “squat therapy” from the client. Here is my quick fix list of how to start moving properly.
1) stop putting your hands down when you sit down and stand up – this really is a basic movement. Learn to stand through recruiting the muscles in your legs properly. That means no hands on the chair, table or your legs. Get both feet flat on the floor and drive up through your whole foot. Not through your toes, not through your heals, your whole foot.
2) learn how to make your knee follow the line of your toes. This takes conscious control at the beginning (like with everything) but eventually it will become an automatic movement that is correct. For most women our hips are wider than men’s, so when we stand with our feet close together our knees naturally rotate inwards. So when learning to squat (or simply sit down and stand up properly) allow your toes to turn outwards just a little bit. This will stop your hips from becoming over tight.
3) learn how to foam roll – this is essential to learning movements correctly as foam rolling releases muscle/fascia tension which cause tightness and movement dysfunction. It is also a sure fire way to help reduce the risk of injury. Watch out on the blog for continued updates on foam rolling and mobility training.
4) perform mobility training as part of your warm up – I particularly love the advice that you can get from mobility WOD, courtesy of Kelly Starrett. Click on this link for an amazing and relatively quick fix to help prepare your hips for squatting successfully http://youtu.be/HgEgIGE2ZI8
5) learn how to goblet squat – goblet squats are performed by holding a free weight, normally a kettlebell, In front of your body at chest height. When performed properly, goblet squats really help to open up your hips which means you will get a better range of movement. Holding the weight in front of your body allows your butt to drop lower whilst you keep your chest up, you will therefore instinctively recruit more core muscles, especially if you normally squat with a decreased angle between your chest and the ground. To perform the goblet squat. Stand with your feet in a shoulder width position, toes turned out slightly. Hold the weight close to your body so that your elbows are pointing down and out. Lower yourself into a deep squat so that your elbows are inside your knees, focus on pushing your knees out and using your elbows to pry them open.
6) learn to do wall squats, facing the wall – stand facing the wall at a foots width (as opposed to a foots length) away from the wall. You should be in a shoulder width stance again with toes turned out ever so slightly. Hold your arms outstretched above your head and place your hands against the wall. This is the only part of your body that is permitted to touch the wall. Lower yourself into a deep squat with your hands remaining against the wall but not allowing your head or torso to touch it. Focus on driving your knees out in the same line as your toes, driving your chest up (as opposed to tilting it towards the floor and bringing your head into the wall), and keeping your arms as vertical as possible. As you master the squat in this position, edge your feet closer and closer towards the wall until you can perform a deep squats with your toes touching the wall.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many more things that you can do to ensure a good squat technique, however, these 6 pointers will get you well on the way to less restricted or unrestricted movement and a strong squat movement which will see you recruit your glutes as well as your legs and core thus helping you achieve your weight training goals faster and more efficiently.
Remember, quality always comes first!