Being able to perform a proper squat protects a person’s knees and lower back in every day life, allows them to lift heavy objects (at home or in the gym) without getting hurt, and is a building block for more complex exercises.
While we perform a squat movement nearly every day (getting up and down from a chair), it is often performed incorrectly in workouts.
Let’s briefly talk about WHAT a proper squat should look like…
How to perform a proper squat
Feet are hip width apart
The movement is initiated with the hips, not the knees
Knees stay over shoelaces, not past toes
Heels stay on the ground
Chest stays up and back flat
The lower legs are parallel to each other as well as to the torso (chest is not leaning too far forward)
Tips, cues, assessments, progressions, and a video to master the SQUAT, once + for all! #fitness Click To Tweet
How to assess the squat
The Bend and Lift screen (with arms at side) asses lower extremity mobility and stability, upper body stability, and core stability/strength.
Once someone can properly bend and lift (or squat), you can progress them to an overhead squat.
The overhead squat is much harder.
Any difficulties in a movement is usually due to an imbalance in the body – muscles are either weak or tight.
There is the exceptions that a person has a past injury that prevents them from achieving full range of motion or their body is just built a certain way that it does not allow them to achieve a movement “perfectly.”
Below are some common difficulties people encounter when performing squats, the possible muscle imbalances, and corrective exercises.
Common difficulties with squats + how to fix them
Heels come off ground – stretch the calves, strengthen the tibialis anterior (shin) and intrinsic foot muscles with single leg movements or balance exercises on a BOSU.
Corrective exercise – Wrap a resistance band around a pole or the trainer can hold it while exerciser holds onto handles and leans back into the squat. Foam roll the calves before the workout – tight calves are usually the problem here.
Knees cave in OR come past toes – stretch the hamstrings and adductors (inner thigh muscles), strengthen the gluteus max and medius and core with hip bridges, band side steps, birddogs, and planks.
Corrective exercises – 1) Place a small ball between the knees while squatting to prevent knees from caving in. 2) Perform squats with a stability ball against the wall and focus on SLOWLY initiating the squat with the hips, not the knees, while letting the ball guide the body down into a squat.
Chest collapses forward – stretch hamstrings and hip flexors, strengthen gluteus max and core with hip bridges, birddog, and planks.
Corrective exercises – 1) Perform squats with heels on something slightly elevated, like a half foam roller. This re-aligns the body’s center of gravity, forcing the exerciser to shift their weight back, which will help keep the chest up. 2) Try turning feet slightly out – this should allow hips to drop a little lower more comfortably.
Common difficulties with squats and HOW TO fix them! #fitlife #sweatpink Click To Tweet
- Initiate the squat with your hips, not your knees – poke your butt out behind you a little bit at first, then drop down into a squat.
- Shoulders should be back and down – scapulae fixed against back rib cage.
- Keep your hands by your shoulders as you squat to keep chest up.
- Stand tall with a proud chest.
- The shoulders and hips should move up and down at the same rate.
- Shins should stay relatively vertical.
- Spread the floor apart with your feet.
- Knees stay over shoelaces – wiggle your toes wile down in a squat (if your body shift back, then the knees were too far forward).
- Stand a couple inches in front of a chair and sit back into the squat as if sitting onto a chair with broken glass on it.
- Your lower legs should be about parallel with your torso
- Drive your heels into the ground as you push up from the squat.
- Hips and shoulders should rise at the same time.
- Finish the squat with a butt squeeze at the top.
- If you are having trouble squatting low, widen your stance a little and slightly point toes out.
- Knees should always track in the same direction your toes are facing – picture yourself skiing.
- To get in to a deep squat, think of a catcher in a baseball game and drop your butt between your knees.
- Anterior loading the squat will force you to engage your core to maintain balance.
Love these coaching cues?
Download the free ebook of 101 technique tips (like above) for challenging exercises such as dead lifts, planks, kettlebell swings, pull ups, and push ups.
Once an exerciser can properly squat down just below their knees, they can move onto mastering an overhead squat.
Then you can add uneven surfaces, squats with rotations, squats with weight, single leg squats, and power moves like squat jumps, box jumps, depth jumps, etc.
Training principles to keep in mind
Progressing an exercise and workout routine allows clients to build self-efficacy and long-term adherence.
The principle of overload states that muscles gradually need more resistance than before (about 5% increases) to build strength.
The principle of reversibility states that you will lose strength at 1/2 the rate is was gained if you do not continue working out.
And it is important to note that there is a point of diminishing return where genetic limitations leave little room for further improvement. This is the perfect opportunity yo add new exercises that require new neuromuscular responses and motor-unit activations.
For example, if a person has reached their squat 1 rep max and just cannot lift anymore, without injuring him or herself, they may find a challenge in single leg squats and box jumps.
How to teach and learn a proper squat #sweatpink #fitness #fittips Click To Tweet
What is your favorite exercise?
Did you find these cues and tips helpful?