For women's fitness, squats are a go-to exercise for building your lower body, including your glutes and quads. But without proper form, squats can be one of the most taxing workouts on your body (especially your knees). Squats, done correctly, are not bad for your knees in any way, shape, or form. On the contrary, squats have been scientifically proven through various studies to strengthen the tissue surrounding your knees, actually preventing injury if done correctly. This post is dedicated to the queen of all workouts -- the squat. Here we'll teach you the RIGHT way to do the most popular exercise to keep you safe and develop that lower body quickly and efficiently.
When doing squats, it's important to remember that this exercise engages multiple muscle groups (which is why it is so effective), so ensuring that your form is top notch is key to a great and safe workout. Mark Rippetoe, author and owner of Wichita Falls Athletic Club, says that:
"There is simply no other exercise, and certainly no machine, that produces the level of central nervous system activity, improved balance and coordination, skeletal loading and bone density enhancement, muscular stimulation and growth, connective tissue stress and strength, psychological demand and toughness, and overall systemic conditioning than the correctly performed full squat."
The first thing to know is that a squat won't look the same on everyone, so those generic ideals of what a squat is "supposed" to look like needs to be tailored to you individually. So take all of these tips with a grain of salt, and work with your trainer personally to decide what your squat should look like. So let's go!
First, it's vital to know what muscle groups you're actually working when you do a squat. You will predominantly work:
- Hamstrings (stabilization)
- Erector spinae
- Rectus abdominus
Like we stated earlier, the squat is a compound movement, meaning it works more than one muscle group. Keep these in mind when squatting.
There are a few key elements to the perfect squat - the hardest part is being aware of what your body is doing while you're working out and constantly checking form to ensure that you are doing the movement correctly. Here are the things you need to keep in mind:
1. Toes at a 5 degree angle
Several years ago, the common method for squatting was to keep your toes straight forward, but as we have learned more about proper squatting form, the fitness industry is now in agreement that your toes should actually point out at about a 5-10 degree angle (remember, it will vary slightly for everyone). This is a much more natural position for your feet to go, and if you've ever watched a toddler squatting you'll notice that this is the natural disposition of the feet in a squat.
2. Spread the floor with your knees
It's super important to not let your knees cave in when you squat. To counter this natural tendency, think of spreading the floor with your knees. The goal is to have your knees press outward on the way down, and outward on the way back up.
3. Flat Feet
One thing a lot of people don't think about when they squat is the position of the foot. You should think of your foot as gripping the floor (your feet are the things that keep you grounded, after all). This will help ensure that your weight is dispersed evenly across the foot, and you aren't creating unnecessary pressure points on your feet.
4. Weight back
When squatting, one of the biggest mistakes that people make is leaning forward, especially if they are doing weighted squats. Leaning forward is a no-go not only because it throws off your balance, but it also puts more strain on your upper body and knees when your weight should be back, engaging your glutes and hammies.
5. Torso Upright, Back Straight
Like we talked about in the last point, your weight needs to stay back. You can do this by making sure that your torso is upright and your back is straight. You want to think of proudly standing with your chest out to make sure that your torso is not collapsing and forcing your back to arch (especially your lower back).
Check out this video to see how it's done!
How to do a Squat by Kaitlin Clements
Those are our top 5 tips for doing a perfect squat! Keep these in mind next time you're in the gym, and let's get stronger together! If you're interested in a more hands-on approach to your fitness plan, definitely check out our new FRBFit program, which gives you daily workouts for less than your gym membership. Enjoy, and happy squatting! xx