How to perform squats ?
The squat is one of the most loved, and most hated movements in any form of fitness or exercise. There is very good reason for this as a properly executed squat can work wonders for your overall strength, conditioning, fitness and muscle building, but it is also a challenging and tough movement to pull off. It is a movement that targets specific muscle groups, especially those in the quads, hamstrings and glutes, but it is a complex exercise that engages everything from ancillary knee stabilisers to shoulders and traps.
Squats have often been falsely associated with causing problems to knees, hips and lower back, but in fact, they are are brilliant exercise in stabilising and reinforcing those joints if done correctly. The form of a squat is very important to get right as it is an exercise where different parts of the body need to work together.
However, the squat is a natural movement of humanity, not a movement that has been developed by a coach or trainer. The functional movement of squatting, and getting up from a squatting position, is used all the time by humans. When sitting, lowering oneself to the floor, getting up off of chairs, picking things off the ground; these are all function or variations of a squat. As such, it becomes quite obvious why it is an important movement to perfect and utilize in day to day life.
What is a squat?
In essence, a squat revolves around a hip extension movement, and this is why it is such a fundamental movement not just in crossfit and exercise, but in functional movement. The hip extension forms part of most of our movements, and as such, a solid and built up hip area is a vital thing to have in building a good, and strong, body.
To have a strong, powerful and athletic hip extension is the basis for most any movement in crossfit, in fact, it becomes a necessary component of lifting and gymnastic movement as it forms a power core to explode from.
How to squat?
- Make sure you have a solid base with your legs just about under your shoulders, you can also keep your toes pointed out a little.
- Focus your eyes and head on something in front of you in order to keep your spine in a good shape. This will also help get your spine into the right sort of curve for squatting.
- Use your core and abs to also support your spine as you tense your midsection for added support and strength at the top of the movement.
- The first movement is to push your backside out, and then let it naturally move towards the floor as the rest of your body follows.
- Make sure your knees stay over your feet, they must not roll outwards, inwards or even in front or behind your knees.
- Your strongest point on the ground should be your heels and it should feel like you are taking all the weight towards the back of your feet.
- For the air squat, lift your arms up and out in front of you for balance, but if you are squatting with a bar, you will hold it in certain ways depending if it is a back or front squat.
- Keep your chest up and proud and the rest of your midsection long.
- You reach the bottom of the squat when your legs go slightly beyond 90 degrees at the knee and your hips fall just below your knee.
- On coming up, squeeze and engage your hamstring and glutes to move in an upwards direction, not forwards or sideways.
- Return to a standing position, locking out your hips and knees, and using every muscle group you can on the upwards movement.
- Also, make sure you are pushing out the outside of your feet when coming up in order to keep stable, it should feel like you are trying to separate two plates underneath you with your feet.
This is the basic air squat, where there is no additional weight involved and your arms are used to balance as you go down and come up again. The air squat has an important role to play in squatting, but it is simply there for perfecting the movement. There are other variations of the squat that use this same basic principle, but with a weighted bar either in the front or the back of your body.
Mistakes in squatting
Squatting is a fantastic movement that can help all sorts of weaknesses in functional strength as well as crossfit ability, however, if performed wrong, there can be some serious repercussions.
- Not going deep enough – A good squat, or even a complete squat in terms of crossfit competition, requires the athlete to go at least parallel to the ground with their hips. It is at this stage that the entire mechanism of a squat is engaged. If you do not go deep enough, you miss out on the hip extensors being fully engaged and rely too much on quad dominance.
- Rolling the knees inside the feet – This is an issue with the knee stabilisers as your knees try and come in underneath the body rather than forming a broad strong base. Again, this negates the work of the knee stabilisers and puts to work to the quads.
- Dropping of the head – The head is always the first thing to go when there is a lack of focus, or a lack of strength, it can be the first sign of the core weakening and the spine curving in – rather than a good concave shape. The squat is also an exercise for the upper body, so the head dropping can be from weakness in the back and shoulders.
- Losing lumbar extension – Lumbar extension means keeping the spine long and stretching it up with the weight on your shoulders, if this starts to go, it can be indicative of a weak core, as well as tight hamstrings, not letting the back be supple enough to fully extend.
- Heels off the ground – When your heels start coming off the ground it usually means that you are letting the weight collapse you forward and can be linked with losing lumbar extension, it also is a cheat to let you engage the glutes too much without driving through the hips.
The squat is one of the most fundamental movements there is. If performed correctly, and trained regularly, it can assist in bettering a range of other movements as well as general, functional strength. There are different variations which affect slightly different areas of the body, from the front squat to the overhead squat, but the general movement is a key one to everyday functionality and power.
The Back Squat
The Back squat involves going through the same movement of an air squat, but placing a weighted bar across the shoulders, behind the neck. The reason for this is to add extra weight to the squat to improve strength in the key muscle groups, as well as the stabilisers. By adding weight to a squat, muscles such as the quads, hips and back are forced to bear more load and work harder, but other areas such as knee and hip stabilizers, as well as the core, have to work much harder to maintain the weight.
How to Back Squat
In a similar manner to the air squat, prepare yourself in front of a racked bar.
- Step underneath the bar and let it rest evenly across your shoulders.
- Grip the bar slightly outside of shoulder width, in line with your feet.
- Lift the bar off the rack while keeping the hear forward.
- Step back from the rig, push the chest out and keep looking forward.
- Take a breath in and begin the squat movement by first pushing out the hips and buttocks.
- Lower down through the hips and knees while keeping the torso rigid and in a front on position. It is important to engage the core her in order to keep the spine in a good position with the chest facing forward.
- Drop to parallel with the tights to the ground, hold for a second, then start to extend upwards.
- Keep the weight back on the heels, and push up and outwards on the side of the feet.
- Extend back to a fully standing position and re rack the bar.
The Front Squat
The front squat is usually considered harder as the wight and the burden is carried in front of the head and neck, meaning more core stability and strength is required.
Again, the set up is the same, and so is the movement, however, the bar is positioned across the chest, underneath the chin and on to the front of the shoulders. It is important with the front squat to stabilize the bar with the arms by placing the hands underneath it, out side the shoulders, with the palms facing up. This form also requires the elbows to come up and through as high as they can, preferably to 90 degrees again, in order to support the bar as well as aid in the stability of the core. When sinking into a front squat, it is vital to keep the core strong as the body will want to collapse forward with the weight situated in front of your body.