Squats are an excellent lower limb exercise which develops and strengthens the quadriceps, buttocks, hamstrings, lower back, core, gastrocnemius and other smaller muscles found in the legs.
Below, you will find information on what I believe to be proper techniques and important aspects of the squat to help you achieve the best benefits and results. Also, further information is provided to demonstrate correct and incorrect squatting techniques as well as regressions and progressions of the squat. Finally, you must understand that these practices can be potentially dangerous. It is recommended to consult an allied health practitioner before conducting any exercise or fitness programs to ensure that its right for you!
The Squat Sequence
Start and Finish position
These positions are in a firm standing or "athletic" position. You can squat with or without a weight. Have your feet turned slightly outwards, and have them at a shoulder-width distance apart. Angle and width may vary from person to person and program to program.
The Transition - The Eccentric Phase
Utilising a slowed and controlled movement, bend from the hips and lower the buttocks back and down whilst bracing the core muscles. Keep any weight distributed evenly through your feet and focus on the areas of strength in the gluteals and quadriceps. This is to ensure the next phase is balanced.
The squat position is achieved at varying degrees between everyone but should be approximately 90 degrees of the knees or parallel to the floor. Make sure not to bounce at the bottom!
The Transition - The Concentric Phase
Bracing the core, gluteals and quads, lift yourself back up to the top with a strong and forceful, but even paced and controlled movement. Concentrate on generating most of the power through the quads and gluteals whilst assisting it with the core.
Improper squat positions and techniques
Below I have outlined some of the improper squat positions and techniques to take notice of and ensure that you aren’t doing them yourself.
The bar and weight are out of balance and forward of or behind the base of support.
The head drops forward
The lower back rounds due to poor core strength and recruitment of associated muscles
Buttocks and hips are in a very high and weak position
Thighs are too far forward of the base of the centre and are over utilised
Heals are raised off the floor without aid and weight is distributed forward
Bouncing out of a squat
Bouncing out of the bottom of a squat position generates a tremendous and potentially damaging force on the supportive ligaments and tendons around the knee. These forces created from the bounce whilst in the eccentric and concentric phases could potentially drive the femur and tibia apart separating the joint cavity, therefore making it vulnerable to injury. These forces within the knee joint, the ligaments and tendons are forced to withstand the immediate stresses. If the ligaments are not strong enough and/or the forces are too great, an injury may occur.
Key areas of injury from this are the patella-femoral tendon, the fibular collateral ligament and the lateral meniscus.
Variations are great for a regression - if you're finding it hard, or progression - if you're finding it too easy. Some variations include:
The Front Squat
Bulgarian Split Squat
With these tips and techniques, I hope I have provided you with a safe and positive way forward on achieving results on your fitness journey.
If you feel that you need help fixing up your squat, get in contact with the Discipline Fitness Coach, today!