The squat is quite a natural movement. We kind of squat to sit in chairs every day, or when we want to grab something from the floor.
But not all of us get to master it correctly. Today’s guide aims to teach you the steps to a good squat and the different levels you can achieve, plus some tips to assist you to improve it progressively. In the end you can find a section with the mistakes to avoid. Let’s get to it.
STEPS TO A PROPER SQUAT
- Extend your arms in front of you, parallel to the floor (this helps with balance, but it’s not mandatory)
- Embrace your core and maintain your spine neutral, keeping your chest high. It helps If you think of pulling your shoulders back.
- Take a deep breath into your stomach and go down. Think of starting with your hip and pushing your butt back (always start in your hips and not your knees). Just like if you wanted to sit on a chair. As you do this, then begin to bend your knees.
Now going up:
- Always keep your knees in line with your feet. Do not let them point inwards or too much outwards outside the end of your feet.
- Squat down until your hip joint is lower than your knees, which is commonly called the parallel squat (more on the possible lengths here)
- Now you go up. But I want you to forget about the normal things that everyone says like drive through your heels or keep the balls of your feet in the ground. Instead I just want you to focus on going up by driving your butt straight up. Imagine someone pushing your pants from the back up with a string. By doing this you are going to put your weight automatically over the whole foot instead of shifting it to your toes. The rest will fall into place.
The last point is especially important, as it makes a huge difference on how you perform the squat. It will improve the movement power and the whole mechanics of it. Remember, it is the mind that controls the body.
Incremental range of movement in the squat
Besides the mistakes to avoid in the squat, there are no wrong squat ranges. Keep that in mind the next time somebody tells your squat is not good enough because you don’t go all the way to the bottom!
The maximum range you can go depends on many factors, like your strength and flexibility. It takes time and practice to get there, but all ranges are acceptable and even have different purposes, depending on the person and their objectives:
How to improve your squat
Here are some ideas to help you get there:
The assisted squat is one of the simpler ways of starting your squat journey. It’s really just a helping hand, as all the main points of the squat are the same as above.
You simply hold on to something (a chair for example) to help you progressively go lower in a safer way. You still must maintain a good control over your body, and you should rely as little as possible in the chair. The chair is there only for when you are about to lose control or fall back.
USING A COUNTERWEIGHT
If you don’t like the chair option, you can use a small weight to help you counterweight your body and prevent falling back.
Select the smaller weight you have (even a bottle of water can be used), hold it with both hands close to your chest and then you perform the movement.
Remember, the point here is not to increase the difficulty of the movement with the weight, but the exact opposite. By using a small weight, you will have more balance and be able to go lower.
GET SOME HEELS
The last option is to get some height on your heel, by putting something below the back of your feet. This will help you go lower specially in the case you are not very flexible.
You can then reduce the height progressively, little by little, until you don’t need anything at all.
Although you can improve the squat by training it directly, you can boost your progress by adding some stretching exercises to your routine, that focus on exercises like calf stretching and knee to wall for example.
Simply add some flexibility training to the end of your workout and you will start to see improvement.
Mistakes to avoid when squatting
As I told you in the beginning, doing the squat right is not so much a question of range, but avoiding some key aspects that can harm your body.
Here are some examples of mistakes to avoid at all costs. Excuse the faces, some are actually hard to execute! (It has a lot to do with also your body structure and habits.)
- Do not place your feet too far of your shoulder length, neither too narrow. Although there are squat variations that require that, to master the range of motion you should keep the “normal” width.
- Do not point your feet front. The movement is more natural when pointing a little outwards.
- Do not keep your back round. This way you are not correctly engaging the core
- Do not point your knees too much inwards or too much outwards outside the end of your feet. Doing that puts the wrong kind of pressure in your joints
- Do not think of pushing the balls of your feet when going up. That way you will not have the full engagement of your hips in the movement. Think on your hips
- If having trouble balancing your body do not keep your hands close to you, straighten your arms instead.
A last note. Do not worry too much about the fact that your knee surpasses your feet. That is usually referred as a mistake, but it actually depends a lot on your body measurements, like how long is your leg and how big your feet are. If you are following all the recommendations that is a non-issue.
Keep strong. Get to the top.
Check out other beginner guides:
The Fitness Coach behind coachM. Extremely focused on the path ahead and someone who will make you accountable for your progress.
Always concerned with the proper form, as no results come from half done exercises. But the mind comes first, because it is the one that controles everything.