Tricks of the Trade: The Squat
One of the most useful and versatile exercises is the squat. It is so important to keep the movement skill fresh and to perform in regularly because quite frankly, you never want to lose it. No one poops standing up - and if they do, it's usually involuntary. This is a crass example of how important it is - but its true and illustrates the point quite clearly.
When I worked in physical therapy, one of the most common issues I saw and worked on were older people unable to get up from chair un assisted. We worked on the movement skill endlessly, starting out with baby assisted squats and progressing all the way to sitting in a chair, knee hight and getting up without using their hands.
Let me tell you, it really kills your quality of life to not even be able to stand up without a great help and effort from your arms or loved ones.
Squats are important to do, but not every squat will look the same. Women tend to have a wider squat stance. This is due to the Q angle of the hips and the width of the hips. They cannot take a narrow stance and be able to spread the knees enough to activate glutes. Narrow stance squats with the knees in a more parallel position is quad dominant, while a nice wide, shoulder width stance is more glute dominant. Both are fine movements but the trouble arises when slim hipped male tell women to narrow their feet and squat with wide knees. It usually doesn't work out.
There are a few choice movement cues and thing to think about when squatting under load. Remember to give yourself a break every once and a whole and just squat without load too. We want to make sure that out air squat look as good as our back squats and vice versa.
Bar position - there are three positions for the placement of the barbell: high, mid and low. Most will say there are only two but I am a fan of the mid bar back squat so I’m including it. The high bar is right at the neck meets the shoulder and across the traps. The low bar is about mid scapula, resting on a know or muscle that is sticking out from a squeezed position. Low bar is used to push a lot of weight and adopted usually by people who don;t have much dorsiflexion. Mid bar is somewhere cozy in between. The bar position is another topic for another day.
Weight evenly distributed on feet - after we have found our focus and have engaged the lift, you want to make sure your weight is evenly distributed across the heel, bog toe and pinky toe. Another good cue is to just keep most of your weight in your heels. Both of these ensure you are using your posterior chain to lift the barbell. In weightlifting, we want to avoid squatting on out toes. There is a time and place for squatting on you toes and this isn’t it.
Chest up - you want to keep a big proud chest as you lift. It is important that you do not hunch over our slouch during the lift in any way. Elongate your collar bones. Pretend there is a light on your chest and you are trying to shine it at the wall in front of you - even at the bottom of the squat.
Sit back deep into hips - to initiate the lift, sink back into the hips and stick your butt out behind you as if you are looking for a chair to sit in. you want to move you hips as far back as possible before you initiate movement front he knees.
Knees out- as you descend, press your knees outward and away from you body. Don't try to be a lady in the gym - spread your legs and have your knees track over your toes. Knees caving in is a quick way to get injured. It also will not support large loads. You knees should be track over your pinky toe.
Out the hole - we call the button of the squat ‘The Hole’. Weightlifter actually spend A LOT of time in this position trying to better their squats. I suggest everyone experience the wonder of hold a weighted barbell on their back in a full squat for a full minute. Pause squats and holds are great ways to ensure you squats gets better. One of the most challenging things about a squat is getting out of the bottom of it.
Scoop hips up underneath your ribs - as you come back up, think about scooping your hips up under your ribs instead of just pushing thought your legs. This will give you a little more leverage.
Press upward on Barbell - of your squat get sticky, press upward on the barbell with your hands. With will help you squeeze out more power from the lift and complete it will. It the same amount of weight but pressing upward makes a BIG difference in how it feel going up.
Ugly butt squeeze - to complete the lift, squeeze your butt super hard. Ideally we are keeping tension in our glute during the whole lift but we really don't feel it until the last half of the lift. Also, if your goal is to grow a booty, this is a great move for you.