The day after Christmas, it was “squat day” at The Gym. Members worked up to heavy sets of 3-5 reps, focusing on form and technique, then immediately jumped over a bench three times to develop explosive strength.
While you may not realize it, squatting is a common everyday motion. You squat when you sit. You squat when you drop something. You squat when you pick up your child. It’s a movement we do many times over, every single day.
Generally speaking, weightlifters agree that that the squat is one of the most important – if not the most important – exercises (Westside Barbell). It’s also one of the easiest to do incorrectly, resulting in the development of bad habits that can lead to reduced performance and even injury.
When doing a squat, there are a lot of pieces and parts to keep in mind. Here are a few things to remember to ensure you’re squatting correctly:
- Keep your back straight. Rounding your back puts unnecessary pressure on your back which can lead to pain, sprains, and more.
- Set your feet around shoulder width apart, and turned out to about 45 degrees. This may vary a bit from individual to individual, but this is a solid place to start.
- Plant your feet. Ground yourself into the floor. Raise your toes and you’ll lose your balance backwards. Raise your heels and you’ll go forwards.
- Push your knees out. As you descend, push your knees outward. This does a few things. It helps maintain stability and reduces the risk of twisting the knees. It also makes space for the belly to clear and to break parallel.
- Send your butt back, like you’re sitting down in a chair. This motion engages the glutes, and keeps you from being quad dominant.
- Squeeze the bar. This causes your arms, shoulders, and upper back muscles to contract, increasing support for the bar and making it less likely to move around your back. Be mindful that you aren’t resting the bar on your spine!
- Breath at the top. Take a big breath before you begin your descent and hold it on the way down. Don’t blow out once you reach the bottom of your squat – you will lose tension and stability. Your chest will collapse and you may lose some control of the bar and/or lean forward, losing some of your strength.
A lot of components go into a correct squat. The above tips are just a few cues you may hear from our coaches who work with each individual on their form and technique in every training session.
For more information on proper squat form, check out this article from Westside Barbell.