In the last blog I talked about how squatting is important for your health. Today I want to help you be better with your squat form. Squatting involves multiple joints and muscles to complete the task. You want to make sure that you are moving with good form, having improper form can lead to tight muscles, joints, and even injury. I would like to help avoid this and get you to work on squatting well. I mentioned this before, you will want to work on mobility in your ankle and hip joints. The quality of your squat form will be highly influenced on the mobility you have in your ankle and hip joints. Within your warmup, incorporate mobility drills for these joints.
Everyone will be a little different with their form, but generally you will want to make sure your feet stays flat, knees are tracking over the toes, and keeping a neutral spine. This should be the case every time you squat. Now let’s get more specific, and this will take some trial and error on your part.
- First step is finding your feet ‘position. Start with putting your feet about shoulder width apart. You will want to angle your feet about 20-30 degrees out. Once you have your feet in position, you will want to create tension and screw your feet into the ground. Imagine you are opening a pickle jar with your feet, but your feet are not moving. This creates stability in the feet.
- You will want to brace your core next to stabilize the low back. You will start by bracing the core, act like you’re about to get punched. Once you are braced, take a breath into the belly while brace. This will create abdominal pressure, creating more stability. This is important when doing many other exercises, learn to properly brace the core.
- Once your core is braced, now you want to slightly hinge at the hips, at the same time you will bend the knee to lower down into a squat. Keep the core braced and keep the corkscrew tension in the feet. Don’t hinge so much your chest is parallel with the floor, you want to remain upright. Here is a tip I like to use with all of my clients. Get yourself a box, ideally 12 inches and squat down to that. Record yourself and look at your form, and look if your butt winks underneath you. If so, you will need to find a way to raise the level. I like using 10lb plates and use as many as you need to keep good form all the way down. When you squat down to the box, make sure you are just tapping it, not sitting down with your weight.
- The whole time you are squatting make sure your feet stay flat, and the knees do not collapse, meaning caving in. When you are in the bottom position of the squat, push your feet/heel into the ground, keep core braced, and stand tall.
You might have heard, Don’t let your knees over your toes, or squats are bad for your knees. I will say that’s rubbish, and that squats are great for your knees as long as you keep them from caving in. If you go full range of motion, you will be strengthening the muscles, ligaments, and the surrounding tissue of the knee joint. As long as you keep the feet flat and stable with knees tracking with the toes, your knees are safe. It is better for the joint to go full range of motion, strengthening that joint in that range of motion than it is to not move it. You will be setting your body up for failure if you do not go full range of motion.
The squat variation you use will change your form slightly for your upper body. Great example is the goblet squat vs back squat. Goblet squat you are holding a weight in front of you off your chest. Common fault of this variation is that your upper back will collapse, so you have to work on extending your upper spine. The barbell back squat, the bar is on your back across the shoulders. The bar on your back will immediately make your body want to arch the back. The weights in front of you will help you stay more upright, and the bar on your back will force you to lean more forward.
The squat variation you choose to do will make you move a little differently, and if you have some dysfunctional mobility issue, the barbell back squat would not be the variation for you to start with. Ideally, you want to go through a progression of squats, while working on your dysfunctions.
Here is a progression of squats I would recommend:
- Goblet squats
- Single arm rack squats
- Double arm rack squats
- Barbell front squats
- Barbell back squat
As you can see the barbell back squat is last on the progression list. This is because this is the hardest variation to maintain good form. If you are new to squatting, putting a barbell on your back is the last thing you want to do. You want to make sure you are having good form, working on getting better and better with your squat and getting stronger. Watch out for these common form issues while squatting
- Heels lifting off the ground
- Feet collapsing inward to the ground
- Knees caving inward
- Excessive forward lean
- Excessive arch in low back
- Collapse of upper back
- Hips shifting to one side
Highly recommend recording yourself while squatting and any exercise you want to get better at. You will be able to focus on what your body is doing and look back at it and compare after time. You will be surprised at what you can find when you watch yourself perform an exercise. Take it slow and be mindful of how your body moves and feels.