Undoubtedly the squat is one of the most important exercises in a strength training program. It’s been called “the king of all exercises” and exercise scientists, personal trainers and strength coaches have preached that when an athlete’s squat numbers are on the rise, everything else is on the rise…which is all spot on.
Unfortunately, every time I step into a gym I notice two things; people either don’t squat because it is such a taxing exercise and they conveniently leave it out of their program, or people that are actually squatting have terrible form. In one case you’re not getting anything out of the squat and in the other case you’re not nearly as much out of the squat as you should and could be.
Have no fear though; I’m here to save the day. Let’s take a head to toe look at the body in order to master the squat.
Stance/Feet – Stand with your feet approximately shoulder width apart or even slightly wider with your toes pointed slightly outward. Keep your weight balanced on heels. Keeping your weight distributed so that it is primarily off your toes is essential.
Knees – When squatting, make sure your knees do not pass your toes as well as making sure your knees do not turn inwards during the decent. Remember your knees do not initiate the movement, they flex as a result of hip flexion, so let your hips guide you through the movement. Furthermore, focus on driving your knees out during the movement, not allowing any knee-knocking.
Hips – The hips are the key to the start of the movement. As you begin your decent, push your hips back as if you were preparing to sit in a chair. It is essential to remember that the squat is initiated with the hips, not with your knees. As your hips are leading the decent, your knees will be forced to follow which creates the knee flexion.
Lower Back – Another key to a correct and safe squat…always remember to keep your lower back tight with its natural arch.
Upper Back – Squeeze your shoulder blades together as much as possible. Keep your upper back as tight as possible throughout the entire movement.
Chest – Try to keep your chest as high as possible throughout the entire movement. Having an excessive bend at the waist so that you look like your chest is flat on your thighs is not what you’re looking for. A good rule of thumb; if you can read the logo on your shirt in the mirror while performing the squat then you’re keeping your chest high enough.
Abs/Core – As you being the decent, push your abs out by drawing s big breath and flexing them as if you were preparing yourself to take a punch in the stomach by Mike Tyson.
Elbows – Keep your elbows pointing directly under the bar.
Hands – Squeeze the barbell with an overhand grip. Play around with your hand placement to find what feels most comfortable to you. Some squatters like to take a very wide grip on the barbell while others like a narrower grip.
Head – Many people miss the boat on head placement. You want to keep your head in proper alignment throughout the entire movement. In doing so, when you are at the bottom of your squat you should be looking down at a slight angle. Many coaches will tell you to ‘tuck your chin’ or even try to make a double chin throughout the entire movement.
Now get squattin’!