“I like my weights heavy & my squats down low”
It is fascinating to see folks lifting heavyweights in the gym and doing the most in-demand move—The Squat.
Often referred to as the king of all exercises, the squat is popular for a good reason. A full-body fitness staple, the squat works several major muscle groups in your body—glutes, hips, quadriceps, hamstrings, and core muscles—thereby helping you build muscle, burn fat, and gain strength. What more can you ask for from a single exercise?
Nevertheless, nailing a perfect squat is often a challenge for many. The possibility of hurting their knees when doing squats scare some people away while the difficulty is what makes others shy away from this amazing exercise.
The good news is, squats aren’t hard to perfect and doing a proper squat will keep your knees safe. But before we dive in,
Why should anyone add squats to their workout routine?
Squats are one of the most functional movements a fitness enthusiast could ever do in his/her life. By banishing sloppy squats and perfecting the movement you will get to tap into a wide array of benefits. Here’s why you should be squatting all your life.
- Improves your muscle mass;
- Regulates glucose-lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity;
- Improves blood flow to the genital organs;
- Squatting enhances your mobility for daily-life tasks;
- And, helps build strength, power, and mobility in your entire lower body.
But, what muscles do squats work?
Being a compound movement, the squat engages nearly every muscle in our body—meaning, the movement uses multiple muscle groups and joints such as your hip and knee joints. A simple bodyweight squat recruits almost every muscle in the lower body and core, primarily the muscle around your hips and knees, which include hamstrings, quads, glutes, and hip flexors.
Throw in a dumbbell or barbell into the equation, and you would be working the muscles in your upper body—your back, shoulders, and arms. No muscle group is left out with this stable movement as they work in sync with the core muscles to help you do a perfect squat.
So, how can you nail a proper squat?
Humans are genetically designed to squat. In fact, we have been squatting right since we were babies, but as we grew older our squats started losing their perfect form, thanks to the modern-day furniture and technology.
Here’s how you can take your squat back to perfect.
- Stand with your feet a bit wider than shoulder-width-apart
- Push your hips back as your knees keep bending
- Get as low as you can. The ideal squat depth is when your hips crease lower than your knees
- Make sure your feet are flat and pasted to the ground, your spine is in the neutral position, and your chest is up
- Finish at complete hip and knee extension and get back up to standing
Wow, there you have a perfect squat! Nevertheless,
Make sure you avoid these common squat mistakes
Getting your form right while squatting is sometimes hard, but absolutely important to properly activate your glutes and avoid injuries.
Here’s a list of common mistakes we all make while squatting:
- Letting your knees cave in or go too far forward
- Lifting your heels during the descent
- Breaking your spine from its neutral position
- Dropping head or shoulders and curving forward
- Keeping your squats short
- Shifting your weight on toes/knees
So, how can you fix the mistakes and get better at the movement?
- Ensure that your knees track in line with your toes
- Lower your weight into the heels and not away from them
- Stop looking around and keep your eyes focused on a point straight ahead
- Puff up your chest and keep your shoulders in line to not lose your form and prevent injury
- Aim to squat till your thighs are parallel to the floor
- Place your feet correctly—hip-shoulder width apart
Now, let’s learn to squat deeper
Squatting deeper is one challenge most people might come across at some point in time in their workout journey.
Here are a few tips to break that barrier and squat your heart out:
- Work on increasing the ankle joint and hip joint mobility & stability
- Practice calf stretching
- Do more of core strengthening exercises
- Pick up the right stance based on your mobility
- Practice sitting in a squat position for a longer duration
Alternately, try this hack:
If you find squatting deeper to be challenging, consider getting some support or cutting down the range. Once you are confident, move on to add some weights or try different variations of squats like bar squats and single-leg squats.
However, if you suffer from conditions like osteoarthritis or have undergone surgeries related to knee, hip, or ankle, we recommend pushing yourself not much harder. Stick to the easier versions or totally avoid them.
Also, it is advised to get a green flag from your physician before commencing any kind of exercise that might work your body. It will help you make sure that you will have a hassle-free workout experience.
The best thing about squats is that almost everyone can do it irrespective of age or gender unless you have a medical condition that prevents you from doing it. So, now that you know how to nail the perfect squat why not add some squats to your next workout?
Credits – Himani Bisht