Squatting is an exercise that we must do everyday. I’m not talking about putting loads of weight on your back and squatting up and down in front of a mirror. I’m talking about the motion itself! We squat when we get in and out of the car, sit down and stand up from dinner or the couch, use the toilet, and in many other daily situations. We squat while doing tasks like picking something off of the ground, getting out of bed, dancing, picking up groceries, and almost any type of athletic movement. Training the prime movers of the squat is essential for maintaining fitness, a fine physique, and independence into old age. So we ALL need to practice/enhance this skill through exercise.
There are dozens of ways that you can squat, and there are hundreds of people who claim to know the “best way” to squat. But for all intents and purposes the squat can be broken down into two basic forms. These two forms are the front and back squat, that can be further distinguished by three basic heights: partial, parallel, and full. Proper form for squatting requires keeping your back flat, heels on the floor, and knees aligned over the feet. And when we talk about the safety of squat variations you don’t just have to consider how far back you sit, how far your trunk leans, or how far your knees travel over the toes; you also have to consider how far you shift forward or backward with the bar relative to the feet, as this influences joint torques considerably. So everything considered, squatting can be very complex. If you want to ensure proper form, it may be worthwhile to seek professional advice.
Pros And Cons
There are many benefits from squatting in any fashion, but there can also be negative outcomes. The Back Squat is good for increasing tendon, ligament, and bone strength as well as developing speed, power, and strength in the lower back, hips, and knees. The bad news is that it can cause joint degeneration, osteoarthritis and osteochondritis, muscle strains, damage to the ACL, and knee instability.
The Front Squat may be a good alternative for those with knee pain because it is just as effective regarding overall muscle recruitment with significantly less compressive forces on the knees. However, there appears to be no difference between front squat and back squat regarding shear stress on the knee, which is actually fairly low -– a lot lower than, say, knee extensions. Squat depth has been shown to have a significant effect on muscular development at the hip and knee joints. To optimize development of the gluteus maximus (the butt muscles), squats should be carried out through their full range of motion. To target the quadriceps (the thigh muscles), a squat depth of 90 degrees appears to be optimal. Hamstring activation / development are generally unaffected by squat depth. The drawback seems to be that although deep squats seem to be safe in healthy folks, those with PCL disorders should refrain from squatting below 50 to 60 degrees, and those suffering from chondromalacia, osteoarthritis, and osteochondritis may also need to avoid deep squats. Where you place the bar can also be a factor. So after a hip injury, high-bar squats should be used at the beginning to minimize the risk of hip overload. After a knee injury, a squatting technique more similar to the low-bar technique should be preferred. Finally, research shows that box squats and powerlifting squats could be “safer” for the low back compared to traditional squats.
From Noob To Pro In No Time
In this section I will go over how to learn to squat correctly for beginners, progressively squat more for novice squatters, and how to kick it up a notch for the squat masters.
Before you go out and throw a barbell on your back, consider learning these basic moves first if you’re a beginner.
1. The hip hinge requires flexibility of the ankles, hips, and thoracic spine and stability in the feet, knees, and lumbar spine. Therefore, hitting the foam roller, or using some preparation exercises might be required pre-hip hinge. To perform this motion, start by shifting your body backwards, place your weight through the heels, and keep a neutral spine position. Practice first with hands on the hips, then add the simultaneous movement of both arms straight forward and above shoulder height.
2. Body weight squats are next. Begin by looking at a mirror to ensure your head is in a neutral position with your gaze forward or slightly up, thoracic spine (mid back) slightly straight and mobile, lumbar spine (low back) neutral and stable, hip joints mobile and bending backward behind heels, and knees stable and in alignment with your hips and feet. Additionally, your feet should be at shoulder width, in a neutral position, with your heels are firmly on the floor. Start the squat motion by beginning with a bend in the hip joints, followed by bending knees to the desired depth while ensuring that your trunk angle (from the floor) is stable in each movement phase.
3. Functional squatting exercises are important for us all. So once mobility, stability, and strength have been developed, we can get creative! See the next section for more on this.
The novice squatter is someone with established form and proper mobility, stability, and strength. If you’re a novice squatter, you should:
1. Begin at the top by training loaded partial squats to the desired sets and repetitions. Gradually increase your range of motion while keeping in mind that the deeper you squat, the lighter the load should be.
2. Start adding more volume by increasing the frequency you squat per week. To keep it simple, squatting 3 times per week with 3 working sets per session for a total of 9 weekly sets will be plenty for the average gym goer.
3. Gradually increasing weight will be inevitable. The general rule of thumb here is to increase your load by no more than 10% each week.