Tips For A Better Squat (Part One)
Noted as one of the top exercises for your body, and recognized as a staple for most strength programs among all sports. Squatting is performed for various competitions and displayed as a feat from both the local to international stages. From an aesthetic standpoint, squatting has been set as a trend among males and females. The ability to condition your legs, and more specifically your glutes, has become an additional important aspect for the fitness community.
Squatting technique can certainly improve that, if you prioritized it. While squatting promotes many benefits, those benefits come from having proper technique. Solid technique for squatting certainly isn’t adopted overnight. Usually years of training help to build a solid foundation in the squat, much like any technical lift. However, if you are lacking confidence in your technique, here are a few tips for novice to experienced lifters to help support your big lift! I am looking forward to building off of this piece, and there is so much to cover. For now, here are the first five tips to encourage proper squat technique.
Warm Up (And Recovery)
Having a proper warm up can be promising to a successful squat and weight lifting session. Just taking the time to elevate your heart, get the body warm, and prepare the body with a dynamic routine is a great way to start. Next, get acclimated to the weight. Begin with a progression of body weight squats, working through squatting with an empty bar, hit a few warm up sets, and then on to your working sets. This will also help you decide if you need to deviate at all from what is prescribed for your working set percentages. I highly encourage individuals to avoid squatting under a load if they are experiencing any pain with a body weight routine.
Your recovery is just as important. Prioritize your nutrition, especially with calorie amounts and quality of food. Best complimenting your nutrition is rest and adequate sleep. Your means for recovery should match your expenditure.
2. Improving Mobility
An increased range of motion through your squat correlates the benefits obtained from the exercise. Meaning, the lower you go, the better. No, its not bad for your knees. The restriction of movement of your body is. So much of your body is involved in the squat. Mobility is needed from your upper body to best position and grip the bar. The position you are able to maintain with your upper body is critical to the load you can sustain. Establish a routine that works specifically on squat mobility, which includes hip, ankle, and knee mobility. If your squat is lacking mobility, chances are other lifts are lacking mobility. Adopt a routine that you can do daily after a lift or promoted as active recovery.
3. Drop the Weight
There are a few different scenarios that come to mind that make this tip most applicable. The first is if the weight contradicts your technique. If you start to notice your back rounding during any moment of the lift, it would be a suggested to reduce the weight and maintain form. Next, would be fatigue management. If you are having a difficult time recovering, either from the current workout, or from a previous workout, it would be highly suggested to reconfigure your working percentages to ensure the best path to recovery. And the last scenario would be from a rehabilitation stand point. When expectations versus reality collide, do what's best for your long-term training. Time after time, I have seen individuals rush their rehab process, only leading them back into injury. Do yourself the big favor and gain some patience and get back to ground zero. You’ll thank yourself. Enjoy gaining a better technique in the process and the opportunity to lift even more.
4. Adjust Your Stance
Can easily be fixed. But, once it’s fixed, you need to be consistent with it. It may feel uncomfortable, or unnatural. Long-term, using a correct stance and positioning will help keep you. Your squat set up, and stance should always be the same. Try to practice this as often as possible. Your set up helps to establish the routine of completing the lift successfully. Try this when finding your squat stance:
- Feet should be about shoulder width apart. From here, you may be able to tweak your stance where you may be a tad wider or more narrow. Shoulder width is kind to recognize for most everyone.
- Toes should be pointed slightly outward with pressure applied throughout the foot, from the heel to the big toe.
- When you "sit" in your squat, you knees should be pointed outward. You'll notice that the knees begin to go in the direction of where your toes are lined up. This will lead into your hips having better mobility, and the opportunity for a deeper squat. A deeper squat brings more benefits.
- Try with body weight and focus on keeping more of an upright posture with your upper body, and going deeper as you practice sitting between your knees.
5. Squatting More Frequently
Seems obvious, right? More practice with proper exercise technique is the key here. However, this is not a recommendation to squat everyday. This is more of a recommendation to practice more squatting to become more comfortable. For most, we are can become unmotivated towards things we may not easily excel at. Feel encouraged to get better. Work on transitioning your “weaknesses” into your favorite exercises. Look to add different variations of squats into your leg day routines.
Squatting, much like dead lifting can consume a whole workout session and provide whole body benefits. Take advantage of this lift, and go back to the basics. I am excited for you to initiate these tips, if you haven't already. I look forward to hearing about your earned progress!