Squatting A Complete Head to Toe Guide. Squats are the cornerstone of your workout, but are you executing them correctly? Take a look around any commercial gym. Shallow, knee-caving pseudo-squats will be seen. That is not how you squat. You may require a few modifications to your squat technique… or a total redesign… to optimise muscle growth and allow a lifetime of injury-free training. Here’s how to set up and perform your squat from the ground up.
FEET: HOW TO SQUAT
Moving up and down in a decent squat isn’t enough. You should consider your configuration. Is this a common blunder? You’re not using your feet. Squeeze the ground with your toes to grip the floor. This activates the muscles in your foot’s arch, which serve as the foundation for the rest of your squat. An inward collapsing ankle is limited or prevented by a robust arch. This can occur as a result of a weak foot arch or a lack of ankle dorsiflexion. If left untreated, a falling ankle will cause the knee to collapse inward, resulting in valgus collapse.
Knee valgus is a typical aspect of your ankle dorsiflexing around your tibia and will not harm your knees. Excessive, uncontrolled knee valgus, on the other hand, might put you at risk for ACL or other knee problems. It can also cause knee discomfort and poor patella tracking. Bone-on-bone constriction or tight calves might cause poor ankle mobility. Before squatting, stretching the Achilles tendon or foam rolling your calves may help to reduce the neutral tension of the muscles and tendons, allowing for adequate range of motion and movement.
Squat shoes with a raised heel or a wedge can also be used to reduce the need for ankle dorsiflexion when squatting to a deeper depth. Instead of cushioned running shoes, consider squatting in a flat, firm-soled training shoe if you don’t require heels. This provides you a better sense of where you are on the ground and makes you feel more solid. Don’t jog in your Chuck Taylors, on the other hand.
HOW TO SQUAT: KNEES
Keep your knees out, you’ve been instructed. This signal may be effective for some people, but it frequently fails to address the underlying reason of inner collapse. Knees cave in during squats for a variety of reasons, including poor foot engagement, poor hip external rotation (discussed next), or just not focusing on maintaining the knees aligned with the feet and hips when squatting. Often, simply concentrating on the knee tracking route is enough to resolve the problem.
Coaches debate the “knees out” cue’s validity, as it can fail with below-parallel squats. Is there a better way? Create a solid foot foundation underneath, then squat while controlling your knees and activating your glutes to externally rotate the femurs and avoid collapse.
Let’s also debunk two knee and squat myths:
1. SQUAT BELOW A 90-DEGREE KNEE ANGLE IS SAFE.
Anyone who tells you differently is either trying to sell you a phoney programme or justifying their ego stroking. At 90 degrees, the connective tissue in your knee joint is under the most strain. Because healthy knees can comfortably withstand this stress, there’s no need to limit your squat depth artificially. If you’ve had a knee injury before, take it easy on the squat depth and stick to your pain-free range of motion.
This rationale is frequently employed to allow people to ego-lift loads that they would otherwise be unable to manage with deeper squats. If you have the hip mobility to enable it, lose the ego and get your squats deeper.
If you’re worried about a knee injury, work within a pain-free range of motion. Shallow squats with extra heavy weight aren’t helping your aching knees.
2. YOUR KNEES CAN EXTEND BEYOND YOUR TOES
Your knees should cross forward past your toes in a standard squat. It won’t make your knees implode. This misconception arose from a misreading of an earlier research that claimed the knee was subjected to increased stress as it travelled through your toes. Instead of knowing the knee’s tolerance to manage stress, people felt it was inevitably negative for your knees. Stronger joints are the result of appropriate joint tissue stress paired with adequate recuperation.
If you have persistent knee discomfort, such as patellofemoral pain, that is worsened by deep or knee-forward squats, try box squats.
Healthy knees can withstand the additional force placed on the joint as the knees cross forward. Maintain a more vertical shin angle by ensuring your weight is put onto your heel and sitting back into your hips, glutes, and hamstrings.
HIPS: HOW TO SQUAT
Hips are movable joints that are sandwiched between two rather sturdy structures: the knees and lower back. Because the knees and lower back are forced to move in ways they weren’t built to tolerate under high load, we commonly see discomfort and damage up and down the chain if your hips aren’t mobile. Injury risk might be increased by an uncontrolled rounded back or knee collapse.
Find the femur-to-torso angle that allows you the most hip movement. A simple hip search on the ground will reveal this. It assesses the passive range of motion of your hip. You don’t have bone-on-bone restriction if you can get into a deep passive squat range but can’t get into one while actively standing and lowering into a squat. You have mobility and motor control issues. As you get further into the squat range, focus on maintaining a level lower back and sturdy knees.
When you push range of motion that you don’t have control over, you increase your risk of injury. You’re begging to get harmed if you can’t control the bottom of a squat with your bodyweight, then you load it severely and bounce in the bottom. However, as you apply a little load, you may notice that your form tightens up. We may also throw out the myth that if your bodyweight squat isn’t perfect, you shouldn’t increase weight. Make use of your intellect in this situation.
After you’ve stacked your feet and knees, externally twist the femur using your glutes to keep the hip aligned over the knee. This outward rotation prevents your knee from collapsing from the front. Glute activation allows for a deeper squat range of motion. You can use a suspension strap squat to offer support if you have the passive range of motion to squat deeper but still have hip constriction while squatting with a barbell. The extra stability often allows you to go far deeper while maintaining a neutral spine.
Lean back with straight arms gripping suspension straps and set up your feet and knees as indicated earlier. Brace your core and use your glutes to externally rotate your hips. With a neutral spine, go into the deepest squat you can. Use this as a warm-up and practise for a deeper squat with improved motor control. The load’s centre of gravity is frequently the problem. When you switch a barbell back squat to a front or goblet squat, you obtain a significantly deeper squat with a solid lower back, almost as if by magic.
Cradle a dumbbell in both palms against your chest for a goblet squat. Use the anterior loading as a motor learning tool until you have greater control of your back squat, or switch to front-loaded squats if the anterior loading allows you to squat more easily and/or without discomfort.
While lifting with a little rounded or stretched lower back isn’t always dangerous, the more muscles encasing your spine are engaged, the safer you are. Maintaining a neutral spine when squatting improves safety. When squatting or deadlifting, your lower back will always experience some flexion and extension. It’s supposed to be that way. We take this into account when we term “neutral spine,” and we want little movement and bracing control. The source of the problem is excessive and controlled lumbar flexion and extension movements when under load.
Because a rounded back is negative, many lifters believe that a forcefully arched back is the cure. This might cause discomfort and agony. Because the position of your pelvis tilts from anterior to posterior at the bottom of the squat, starting with a forcefully arched lower back and anterior pelvic tilt will frequently generate an exaggerated “butt wink” at the bottom. An excessive alteration in lower spine posture raises the risk of injury.
To keep your spine neutral through the bottom of a squat, first determine how deep you can squat while maintaining spinal control.
Coaches disagree on whether or not ass-to-grass squatting is necessary.
More squat range of motion is good for muscle and strength growth, but only provided you’re not injuring yourself. For the finest long-term outcomes, use the range of motion you can manage. Injury-related lost training time is the single biggest roadblock to long-term results. Brace your core with a large breath at the bottom of a squat to promote hip mobility. A forceful breath increases intra-abdominal pressure to protect your lower back, whether you inhale at the top or during the first descent, and whether you exhale on the way up or at the summit.
Your hips are free to move as planned if your core is adequately engaged. When your core isn’t engaged, your hips will compensate by donating stability upward, limiting hip mobility. When we try to go deeper than our hips will allow, we tend to curve our backs to compensate. Start by visualising a large Superman emblem on your chest to maintain your spine neutral. Keep this logo open in front of you, facing the wall.
Although your torso will continue to tilt forward, this cue will prevent you from compressing your chest. After that, secure your ribs and sternum to your pelvic bones. The gap between the ribs and the pelvis, not in a crunch. Engage and brace your abs to do this. Keep your upper back stiff to assist protect your lower back even more. To retract and set your shoulder blades, engage your lats, rhomboids, middle traps, and the complete upper back muscle. This relieves stress on your lumbar spine and prevents rounding while lifting large objects.
SQUATTING INSTRUCTIONS: POSITION OF THE HEAD
There is no such thing as a universally correct head posture. For the most part, staying close to neutral is best. Some people will compress their necks a little tighter to help with core bracing. As long as you don’t limit your breathing, that’s alright. Others may stretch their necks in order to maintain a straight back. You’re safe if you avoid extremes in neck flexion or extension.
Some lifters lengthen their necks while they squat if their squat has more torso lean. Imagine locking (not forcibly tucking) your chin to your collarbones and concentrating your gaze on the floor 10-20 feet in front of you instead of eye level with the wall to keep your head in a steady position.
SQUATTING WITH YOUR HANDS AND ARMS
On a back squat, hand breadth is mostly a matter of comfort, which is determined by shoulder mobility and bar position. Low-bar squats are notorious for aggravating elbow problems and causing discomfort from the wrist to the shoulder. Squats with a low bar are sometimes best done after some shoulder mobility practise. They’re best employed as a one-time tool to train/retain the skill and as a load-maximizing strategy in powerlifting competitions. Excessive low-bar position transfers training volume away from the quadriceps and does not provide appropriate recovery for the arm joints.
Some lifters have the mobility to maintain their hands narrow and close to their shoulders regardless of bar position. Others, particularly those with massively muscled upper backs and delts, grip the bar with their hands spread wide. As long as you keep your upper back tight, this will work.
The elbow position is also influenced by personal choice and shoulder mobility. Stack your elbows behind your hands to maximise vertical thrust for a maximum squat effort. Pushing upward with your entire body, including your arms through the bar, creates a full-body drive. All of your power is directed into your lift thanks to stacked joints and aligned force vectors throughout your body.
OTHER LEG EXERCISES VS. SQUATS
Squats aren’t the only way to gain muscle mass in your legs. They’re tough to beat when it comes to sheer system stress and overload, but they also cause proportionally more weariness across your whole system, including accessory structures like your lower back.
Individual anthropometry (a fancy phrase for body segment/limb lengths) can affect squat efficiency. Squats will not be as successful for a tall squatter with long femurs as they will be for a lifter with shorter femurs. Similarly, one individual may be able to naturally squat deep while another cannot. Because of disparities in hip mobility, this is the case.
Heavy squats may not be enough to properly weary quad muscle fibres before your whole system and lower back get fatigued. Supported Bulgarian squats are a good example of single-leg, quad-dominant exercises. To thoroughly exercise the quadriceps and stimulate new muscular growth, use lunges, leg presses, and leg extensions.
Overloading movements for the hamstrings, glutes, and calves are a great way to finish out your lower-body workout. While squats help build glutes and hamstrings, Romanian deadlifts, hip thrusts, lunges, and other hip extension exercises are more effective. Isolation work for calves is also required.
ASSEMBLYING THE ENTIRE PROJECT
Concentrate on making your sets difficult while gradually increasing the difficulty of your total exercise pattern, weight, repetitions, sets, and intensity. When necessary, take deloads and concentrate on appropriate recuperation, diet, and sleep.
- If you want to improve your strength, concentrate on sets of lower reps (1-5) with 3-5 minutes of rest in between.
- Aim for 7-12 repetitions with 90 seconds to 3 minutes of recovery if you want to grow muscle.