EXERCISE INTRODUCTION- THE SQUAT
The squat is often dubbed the king of all exercises. Here is everything you need to know about our favourite exercise.
Call it what you want, but the squat is the best lift for any fitness related goal. Be that; fat loss, muscle tone, total body transformation or sports specific squats are the number 1 exercise to take you there. No matter the type of sport that you’re in, a healthy dose of squats will take your game to the next level. And unlike what most people say, squats are a perfectly safe, if you know how to do them correctly.
In this guide, I’m going to teach you everything you need to know to get started or take your existing squat game to the next level. ALL you need to know, covered from A to Z.
Get ready to unleash the POWER of the squat.
Why squats are awesome
Squats are awesome because they work your body as a whole. Quads, hamstrings, lats, abs, erector spinae … you name it, squats work it. From big muscles to small ones, there’s virtually no muscle that’s left intact after a round of squats. Squats do not discriminate!
I’ve already said this, but whatever your fitness goal is, big compound lifts like squats and deadlifts should be the bread and butter of your workout routine.
The more muscles a lift works, the more demand if placed upon your body.
And despite what people are saying, squats won’t snap your spine in half. Not only are squats safe (when done with good form), but they’re actually good for your health. Here’s a couple of benefits for doing squats:
- Squats increase your cardiovascular capacity.
- They help you strengthen your knees.
- Squats help with the recovery of the injured muscles (light strains).
And here’s a newsflash for you: mother nature designed our bodies to be good at squats. Just take a look at toddlers. Whenever they want to pick stuff up from the ground, they instinctively assume a deep squat position.
Getting started to squat
The setup for the squat is incredibly simple. Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Your toes should be pointed slightly outward – about 5 to 20 degrees outward.
Look straight ahead and pick a spot on the wall in front of you. You’ll want to look at this spot the entire time you squat, not looking down at the floor or up at the ceiling. For a bodyweight squat, I put my arms straight out in front of me, parallel to the ground. Keep your spine in a neutral position. This means don’t round your back, but also don’t hyper extend and over accentuate the natural arch of your back.
Think about where your weight is on your feet – it should be on the heels and the balls of your feet, as if you were pasted to the ground. You should be able to wiggle your toes the entire movement (though that’s not a part of squatting!).
Keep your entire body tight the entire time. Now, breathe in, break at your hip and push your butt back. Keep sending your hips backwards as your knees begin to bend. It’s important that you start with your hips back, and not by bending your knees.
Keep your back straight, with your neutral spine, and your chest and shoulders up. Keep looking straight ahead at that spot on the wall.
As you squat down, focus on keeping your knees in line with your feet. Many new lifters need to focus on pushing their knees out so they track with their feet. So, watch you knees! When they start to come inside the toes, push them out (but not wider than your feet). Think about it like this: if you were to attach a laser to the end of each of your knees, the laser would track between your second and fourth toes. Make sure your knees are out!
Squat down until your hip joint is lower than your knees (what we call parallel). We are looking at your hip joint here, not your thighs. Depending on the size of your thighs, your squat may appear to be less deep than it truly is. You can go deeper than this, however, anything less than parallel is a partial squat.
Once at the bottom, it’s time to stand back up!
Keeping everything tight, breathe out and drive through your heels (keep the balls of your feet on the ground as well).
Drive your knees out the same way you did on the way down, and squeeze your butt at the top to make sure you’re using your glutes.
Remember: keep your body and core tight the entire time. This is important now, but will be especially important once we start adding weight to the equation.
Note: Due to the fact that all of our bodies are different, none of our “perfect” squats will look exactly the same – someone with a longer femur, for example, will squat slightly different than someone with a shorter femur. Also, the majority of the population has some sort of mobility issue (including myself!) that they are working on fixing – so if your squat looks different than the person next to you, that does not mean you’re doing it wrong!
There you have it. Now you have all you need to begin to master the squat. Once you have that down its time to load it. There are many different variations of loaded squats using various pieces of equipment. We will go over these in more detail in a future Newsletter. So look out for it.