Every woman knows that to develop that booty, you need to be doing squats. Believe it or not, doing a safe squat is incredibly difficult. Especially if you have been relatively inactive for a long time. If you’ve been even remotely as obsessed with biomechanics as me (most people aren’t!) then you would notice the ease with which children can maintain perfect posture during a squatting motion.
As we’ve grown up, we’ve done an awful lot of sitting down and generally not being as active as we were meant to be. This has caused mobility, flexibility and stability issues that make it harder for us to move as freely as we did when we were younger.
My experience as a personal trainer has taught me that just because you know the correct technique for a squat, doesn’t necessarily mean you can achieve it! My experience also tells me that most people suck as squatting! But have no fear, for in this article, you will get many tips and “tricks” to help you squat with perfect technique.
Technique in exercises is all about joint angles, and here are the key things to look for in a squat.
- Neutral spine (probably the most important as you add weight)
- Feet slightly wider than hip width apart
- Knees do not go further forward than your second toe
- Straight line from feet to knees to hips (eg., no bowing of the knees or twisting of the hips)
- Thighs parallel to the ground at the bottom of the squat
- Feet stay on the ground (no raising of the heels)
- Angle of the shins is paralell to the angle of your torso
Okay so a lot to look for there! If you follow to following cues, then you usually can’t go wrong (unless you have mobility/stability/flexibility issues)
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart
- Pretend as though you are sitting back on a chair with lots of control (and by control I mean you could stop the movement at any point if you had to)
- Really stick your butt out and arch your lower back
- Pretend like you are trying to screw your feet into the ground by rotating your thighs externally. (eg rotate your right thigh to the right, and rotate your left thigh to the left. This helps engage your hip stabilisers and thus helps prevent your knees from caving in)
- Decend until your thighs are paralell to the ground and come back up to the top
Still Can’t Do It?
If you follow these cues and no matter how hard you try, you can’t get the right technique, then you probably have an issue with flexibility or stability or mobility.
It really depends on which part of the technique your are failing at as to what the fix is.
1. If you can’t keep your heels on the ground
The fix is usually stretching your calf. When you squat, the joint in your ankle flexes and if you are too tight in your calves, you will be forces to push you weight onto your toes.
2. If you can’t keep your knees from bowing in
This could be that the stablisers in your hip joint are not strong enough. If you experience knee pain regularly, then it is highly likely that your hip stabilisers are weak.
3. If you can’t keep a neutral spine
This is usually a problem with tightness in the hamstrings or glutes. When you bend down, it stretches your hamstrings and glutes, and if they are too tight then they will pull on the spine excessively and make your lower back flex. However, the problem it usually more to do with stabilitity.
What I mean is that often tightness is compensating for a lack of stability somewhere else in the body. When it comes to bending in a squat, the stability problem often comes from your lower spine.
4. If your torso is not parallel with your shin
This is usually a lower back weakness. However if could also be a tighness of your thighs.
Follow these guidelines, and if you still can’t squat with proper technique, I suggest seeking advice from a personal trainer or physiotherapist. A squat is a fundamental movement and if you can’t do them properly it could cause other problems down the road.
1. Stretch your calves
There are numerous ways to stretch your calf, just make sure you are stretching it with your knee straight and also when your knee is bent. When your knee is bent, you stretch the deeper muscles of your calf.
2. Work your hip stabilisers
I won’t go into this here, but there are many exercises that target this area. There are a number of pilates exercises that target the hip stabilisers. Some of the best exercises for this muscle group involve exercising on one leg only.
3. Practice bending from your hips
Even just learning the feeling of bending from the hips while keeping the natural arch in your lower back will work wonders. Just stand up straight, bend as far down as your can while keeping the arch in your lower back.
4. Do planks
Everybody hates planks! I won’t deny that fact. But they are so good for your general well being. Planks help you develop the necessary stability in your spine to control your torso during movements such as the squat.
5. Work your lower back
A strong lower back is vital to good technique in a squat. In fact, squats are very stressful on your lower back so you’ll do yourself many favours by strengthening it. Back extensions and many glute exercises will do wonders for your lower back.
6. Sit on a chair
Just put a bench, step or something you can sit on behind you, and practice sitting back on the chair and getting back up. The helps teach you to put your hips back, and will help prevent your knees from going past your toes. You can get a higher step at first and lower it down until you can comfortably sit back on the step with your knees paralell to the ground.
If you do all these things and you still can’t do a proper squat I would be very surprised! Remember to perfect the bodyweight squat before moving on to using weight. You’ll notice your need to better core strength and lower back strength will increase as your start loading the weight on the bar. Good luck! Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions