First, a bit about the squat. The squat is no more an invention of a coach or trainer than a hiccup or a sneeze. It is a vital, natural, functional component of your being. The squat, in the bottom position is nature’s intended sitting posture (chairs are not part of our biological make-up) and the rise from the bottom is the biomechanically sound method by which we stand.
Before I list the cues that are important to follow in squatting properly, I want to address a couple of issues I commonly hear. Firstly, it has been stated that when you squat that you should NOT go below parallel. Before responding to this absurd statement I want each of you to sit on the ground with your legs out in front of you and then I want you to try to stand. It can not be done without bending at least one knee past 90 degrees. In fact getting up off the floor in this manner involves a force on a least one knee that is substantially greater than the squat. This is why I will continue to teach full range of motion squats where the hips go below the knees. Not only is it safe, but learning to squat properly is remarkably rehabilitative to cranky or damaged knees. Secondly, we will sometimes hear ‘health professionals’ state that certain people should not squat. This is simply ridiculous. How then, is this person supposed to pick up something that they have dropped or more importantly, how does this person use the toilet. The only reason I can think of for telling someone not to squat is because you do not know how to show them to squat properly. It is true that it is possible to injure yourself squatting incorrectly, but it is also relatively easy to bring the squat to a level of safety matched by walking. We will continue to practise this every class. Below are the cues that will help you achieve mastery of the squat.
HOW TO SQUAT
1. Start with your feet about shoulder width apart and slightly toed out
2. Keep your head up (i.e. do not look at the floor)
3. First and foremost maintain a neutral curve in your low back. This is done by first accentuating the curve in your low back. Next pull the excess arch out with your abs. Maintain this curve throughout the entire movement. This should be hard!
4. Keep the knees tracking over the feet.
5. Keep as much pressure on the heels as possible. (i.e. keep the weight off your toes)
6. Delay the knees forward travel as much as possible.
7. Lift your arms up and out as you descend.
8. Try to keep your torso vertical. Keeping your shoulders back and head up helps with this.
9. Do not let the squat just sink, but pull yourself down with your hips flexors.
10. Only go as low as you are able to without surrendering the neutral curve in your low back.
11. When you rise squeeze your glutes and hamstrings and try to rise without shifting the balance on your feet or leaning forward. To assist with this, on rising, without moving the feet, exert pressure to the outside of the foot as though you were trying to separate the floor beneath you.
12. At the top stand as tall as you possibly can.
13. Use every bit of musculature that you can; there is no part of the body uninvolved.
Lastly, I just want to touch briefly on the contribution that the squat has to athletic performance. The hips extension is a super-critical factor in determining the quality of human performance. Our ability to run, jump, throw and punch are all positively affected by our ability to extend our hips. Optimal hip capacity – power, flexibility, speed and stamina – are not to be had without the squat.
To see a demonstration on any of the workouts posted, click here.