3 Tips On How to Optimize Your Basic Squat
As a Physical Therapist this may be one of the questions I am asked most often: "How do I squat, and what should my form look like?" Squatting is a crucial part of our day to day movements, aside from being an important and necessary part of strength and functional movement training. We squat when we empty the dishwasher, sit down into a chair, or lower a suitcase to the floor. Needless to say it's an important movement to understand and be able to move in and out of in order to tolerate both day to day demands and when you're working out!
Squatting requires having mobility across multiple joints: the ankles, knees, hips, and low back. If you have limitations or restrictions in any of these joints you may notice it can cause your squat to feel limited. It's OK, just start where you are knowing that you can always seek out a professional opinion from a PT for an issue that is restrictive, painful, or may require some extra attention.
Squatting Form Set Up and Execution
Stand with your feet approximately hip width apart toes pointing to 10 and 2 o'clock. Think about standing tall from the crown of your head, while keeping alignment between your ribcage and pelvis. This will help to maintain a neutral spine ( a position without excessive curvature into flexion or extension).
While maintaining a neutral spine and lifted chest begin to bend at the knees keeping contact on the ground with your heels as you begin to bend in your knees and simultaneously hinge at the hips allowing your butt to go back and down with you.
IMPORTANT: Squatting should be felt in the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes all while maintaining soft tension in the core!!
Come up from your squat by thinking about pushing up from the ground underneath your heels. This will help activate your posterior chain muscles i.e. hamstrings and glutes, which are often under activated in most people. Think about intentionally squeezing your glutes particularly at the top of the motion. This will help "finish" the motion and help encourage your rib cage and pelvis returning to a stacked position.
3 Helpful Tips
Challenge yourself to coordinate your breath with your squat. Breathe in as you move down into the squat and exhale as you come up. This will give you the added bonus of recruiting more of your deep core muscles!
Try keeping your arms straight out in front of your chest to help cue you to keep your chest lifted! Work to avoid bowing, which will over stress your low back!
Pick a point to focus on in front of you to help maintain a forward gaze. This will also encourage the neutral spine you want and avoid any extra stress on the neck.
Remember, squatting takes practice. Start by trying a couple sets of air squats, this is a body squat, 2 sets of 10 daily within your range of motion that feels good to you. As you get more comfortable you can add weights for static holds or something like bicep curls. The options are endless! Basic squatting form helps to pave the way to getting more confident with your exercise routine, getting stronger, and handling the demands of life :)
Dr.Rachel, DPT, PT
Rachel Aronson, DPT, PT, owner of Core Elements Physical Therapy, specializes in Women's Health and Orthopedics, validating one patient at a time along their healing journey. After receiving her Doctorate from Duke University in 2005, she brings 15+ years of experience in delivering care via a compassionate, kind, and calm expertise. She works with women helping them replete, restore, and thrive by using holistic hands on treatment, movement training, and functional strengthening. Empowering patients to regain hope and ditch fear! When you're ready to begin your rehabilitative journey she's your guide.
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