Let’s get to know squats!
Do a squat and I will tell you how much you know about your body movement – however simple it sounds, and believe it or not but it is so true. Everyone knows how to squat, one could say. It is not complicated, is it? You just go down with your butt and then up, a squat is done. Up and down, up and down, that is what you have to do in order to sculpt your gluts and fit into your summer dreamy bikini – right?
If it was so easy, everyone could do it… Thus, it is not only about going up and down. People say that everyone can run, too. That is also not entirely true. Let’s say yes, anyone can run but not all of them will do it correctly; the same goes with squats, the same goes with all the bodily movements and exercises. The key and a golden means here is a proper technique. Have a look then on how to squat properly.
First of all, forget about taking a shiny bar with proudly looking weights before you learn how to do it without all this equipment. We do not want to say that squatting with extra weight is bad – but it is bad if you do not know how to carry this weight. Therefore, what we suggest for the beginning, is so called air squat. Nope, it is not a squat performed up in the air; it is the simplest form of squat that one can ask for.
Second, for the weight, do not think that dropping a bar equals no weight – have you forgotten having your own kilograms, your best weapon to get fit, your equipment at hand, always available and ready to be used? In the era of omnipresent gyms and fitness studios people tend to forget that great workouts can be done even at home, requiring just some space and your body weight.
So, come back to the air squat. It is the most basic form of squat and after you master it, you can easily perform other variations of squats, still without taking any additional weight. Find some space and place your feet next to each other on the ground. In order to find a right set up for your feet, think in terms of the following letters: “V”, “A”, and “W”. Start with “V” having your feet close to each other, then move them on the side like if it was “A” and finish with “W”; in principle it is supposed to be more or less your hips’ width. It should be all very natural, not enforced; so feel comfortable in this position and do not think of any strict requirements because there are no.
It is important because badly positioned knees are to-be-injured-knees and injuries are the last thing we want to get from exercising… So, your knees should not be crossing an invisible line of your toes (this is where we come back to just mentioned heels – if you do not keep them on the ground, your knees will cross the magic line), otherwise a pressure of your body weight is going to be put directly on the knees. This is about a movement back and forwards; the second thing is about sideways – try to keep the knees as much as possible in a straight line with your feet, so they do not go inward or outward. Usually people tend to go inside with the knees and in this way they overstretch IT band which, after repetitive movements, might cause a discomfort or, in a worst case scenario an injury.
So, keep the knees position in mind all the time; it is crucial when it comes to actual squatting – since we have not started yet discussing how to squat… It might seem to be too descriptive or too complex but at the end these are the things to be paid attention to and once your body internalizes those habits, it will become automatic.
Moving up to the actual squatting… Your feet in “W” position, your knees aligned with the feet, not about to be going on the sides, your heels glued to the ground and… squat. How? The movement comes not from the knees but from your butt. Imagine that there is a stool you want to sit on and just perform motion. Squat as deep as possible, without elevating your heels up. Do not worry if it is a half of a squat – a range of the movement will improve with time and practice and what you should be concerned about for now is a good technique. So squat as if you wanted to sit down, and then when you want to come up, the move should come also from your butt or pelvis as well. It is better to perform coming up from squat in a dynamic mode, then you can really use your pelvis – as if you wanted to shoot it forward. So, again: butt backward, knees do not cross the toes, heels on the ground, only as deep as possible, then come up with quick move forward with the pelvis.
The best is to do it in front of a mirror – you can test out either front or side view, in this way you can control both the knees (front view: your knees are not moving on the sides; side view: not crossing the toes) and your back – which we have not mentioned yet.
Back should stay straight in each and every position; it is certainly easier to control when being upright but do pay attention that it applies also, if not especially to a moment when you are down in a squat. This you can control very well when seeing yourself in a mirror, as we have just said above. It should feel natural, do not try to overarch your back this or that way; try to keep the position from the moment you start squatting. It is important not only for the body weight squat but also for the weighted squats – with some extra stuff on a bar badly positioned back is going to hurt which is not the best sign…
We got feet, knees, butt, pelvis, back… what about your hands? That is one of the common questions asked when it comes to squats. Since squats are a lower body exercise, it is a question of what to do with your hands rather than how to use them (unless it is a weighted squat and it comes to holding a bar). Well, it is actually up to you and your comfort but usually what you see is keeping them along the body when upright and joining them together in front when you squat down. In this way, when going up, you can help yourself with a movement of straightening arms and stimulate dynamic movement of your pelvis. If you really want to control your back and make sure that it stays in a right position, place your hands on the back of your head and then try to go down – you will immediately feel a blockage on some point of going down; it is definitely harder but it is also harder to overarch your back then.
So, to sum up: as you can see there are some things which have to be kept in mind when performing a squat, a proper squat. Try it yourself, with your body weight before you even think of taking some bar and adding extra weight on. Remember, the best equipment you can have is at hand, it is your body and its weight. It is a weight you carry every day so start being aware of that and use it correctly. It does not mean anything if you are able to put dozens of kilo on your back if your heels are being elevated or your knees go inwards. You will just hurt yourself without even knowing it… Patience is a golden rule here, do not get overexcited by looking at the others proudly walking in a gym and putting extra plates on their bars after each rep. Well, you do not have to go to a gym to get your workout done. For squatting you just need some space… and preferably a mirror.
Feet, knees, butt, pelvis, back… that is all you have to be aware of. These are parts of your body, parts of you, so take care of them and cooperate, use them in a correct manner and they will thank you on some point; especially your butt which is greatly shaped during squats.
After you master a proper simple air squat you can look up at the other variations – be it more dynamic (like squat jumps or squat jacks), static (squat hold, L-sit against a wall) or staying in the same way (sumo squats etc.). Then you could think of taking some bar and some weight more than your own body weight… But remember, first master the basics, know how to kick your pelvis forward, how to control your knees and then take more steps. Whatever is genuinely proper, should be based on proper fundaments. And since it is about your body, it is better to take care of it from the very beginning.
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