The beloved squat. We all know it. We all love it (or maybe not). Regardless, the squat can only live up to the squat name if we don’t use proper form as well as all of its different variations to maximize the full capabilities of the exercise. Honing in on form also helps to prevent injury.
If you think about it, as babies we must learn how to squat before we learn how to stand or walk. As we grow older and fitness becomes incorporated into our daily lives, we must rediscover how to do squats correctly. It’s kind of hilarious if you think about it. If you watch a toddler move, you’ll notice that they execute picture-perfect squats repeatedly. But later on, squats become a more complex movement for us. Are your feet in the right position? Are you getting that depth? Should you add more weight? The squat has many benefits because it will help you get stronger during workouts but also represent a movement pattern that you use in everyday life aka it’s functional. In this beginner’s guide to squats, we’ll explore exactly how to do a proper squat. So, read on to learn.
Why are squats beneficial to include in a workout regime?
The squat is a compound movement. This means that it works multiple muscle groups across multiple joints. The primary muscles involved in squats are your quads and your glutes. As you move down into the squat, your hamstrings and hip flexors have the chance to fire off, too. Don’t worry - the squat doesn’t neglect the knees either. It helps to work the muscles around the knee which helps build strength and prevent injury. Continuously throughout the movement of the squat, your core is incredibly engaged to keep you steady (weight or no weight).
How to do a basic squat - step-by-step squat guide
Before adding weight, you want to get the squat motion down with bodyweight squats first. Form is EVERYTHING. Do not ignore that. So is “ass to grass” which refers to the depth of your squat through proper execution.
Assume the squat stance
With feet shoulder-width apart, position your feet slightly turned out (anywhere from 5 and 30 degrees). This will depend on your particular comfort level and mobility.
Drive feet into the floor
Dial your feet into the ground to help keep your body straight, create stability and engage all of your muscles. This is the best way to keep your knees from starting to cave inward when you squat.
It is a correct assumption that you would be focused on your lower body while performing squats. However, it does not mean that you take focus away from the upper body. Keep your chest up, proud and confident. This will keep your shoulders and upper back from rounding. This could easily overstress the spine.
When you’re ready, take a big inhale in and begin the movement by bending your knees and pushing the hips back. Never let that core work give out and keep it engaged for the whole squat down. There is no need to rush this part of the movement. You want to increase time under tension for your muscles because it will make them work harder. The knees should track laterally above your first or second toe. We’re all made a little different, so focus on restricting movement that will make you lean too far forward since that puts stress on the lower back.
Think of the back of your thighs being parallel to the floor. If you have to say “ass to grass” each time you squat, that’s okay. Some people have difficulty getting parallel because of lack of mobility or injury so do whatever depth is pain-free for you. However, if you’re only able to squat a quarter of the way down, take the time to assess if it’s mobility-related or weight-related. Too heavy is too heavy.
When you’ve reached the bottom of the squat, pause for a second to avoid using full momentum to push yourself back up.
Drive through the heels
Say this 30 times over. Make sure your feet stay planted throughout the squat. You want to use driving through your heels as a way to fire your posterior chain all the way up. Some people can tend to pick up their toes when driving through the hee,l but it is important to keep the entire foot firmly on the ground.
Exhale on the way back up. DO NOT hold your breath.
Come Up Strong
Tuck your pelvis into a neutral position. You don’t need to full force your hips super far forward. Just focus on a neutral position and squeeze your glutes at the top.
Simple squat variations to try
Love or hate ‘em, there’s plenty of different squat variations to try that can be beneficial for your entire body. The best part is that many of these can be used with bodyweight only (killer effective, too!) or additional weight can be added with a barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell, etc. SO MANY OPTIONS!
This is typically known as an advanced move that requires strength, mobility, and balance.
- Start with feet together and extend your arms out in front of you.
- Lift your leg up off the floor and squat down on your right, lowering until your left leg is parallel to the floor.
- Stand up and repeat on the other side.
Close Stance Squat
Are you ready for some quads? They’re about to be on fire.
- Begin with feet in a close stance and toes pointed straight ahead.
- Hinge at the hips and sit back into a squat. DO NOT let your knees cave inward - always focus on pushing them out.
- Stand back up when your knees are parallel to the ground.
For this exercise, make sure you have enough room to go on a short walk. It’s all about time under tension with this one.
- Begin in a normal squat position and continue through until you reach the parallel position.
- Take one step forward and another step with the following leg.
- Try to go for as long as you can without coming up from squat position.
This can be used with bodyweight, but typically utilizes a medicine ball or dumbbell.
- Stand with your feet a little bit wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Hold your weight with a wide grip over your head.
- Keep the chest and head up, sit back into your hips, and let your thighs go just past parallel.
- Drive, drive, drive through those heels.
Weighted Jump Squat
Grab a pair of dumbbells or a barbell.
- Assume a basic squat position with weight properly adjusted onto your shoulders (or position that works best for you)
- And explode up through your toes into a jump.
- Be sure to land softly, immediately dropping back down and then exploding up all the way back to the top!
Perfect Your Squat Technique At The BXNG Club
Here at The BXNG Club, we’re confident that once you step inside our facility, meet our staff, and try a class, your whole outlook on what a gym should be like will change. Come try a free class to see what all the hype is about. There’s no commitment to join, just show up and have fun. We hope to see you soon.
April 09, 2021