In the gym, aside from being a repeat offender in many of our workouts, we use it as a movement diagnostic tool. As mentioned, it is a natural movement that we should not take for granted because it is intrinsic to everyday good movement & mobility but by assessing how someone squats, we can often identify sources of discomfort in someone’s body and advise how they should train to overcome these.
However advanced you are in your training, don’t let your ego get in the way and take a moment to review your technique. It’s amazing how easy it is to pick up bad habits along the way especially when surrounded by gym mirrors or building up the weight. It will save you a lot of time and potential pain in the long run!
PREPARATION FOR THE SQUAT
There are tools we can use to help us.
1. A box to assist with gauging range of movement & build confidence
2. Rings to provide further support when practicing the technique without a weight.
There are 3 main rules to remember here. However long you’ve been training, everytime you set yourself up under the bar ready to go, just take a second to check these off in your head:
The three points of contact with the ground which should be maintained throughout: heel, little toe & big toe. (see images below)
Maintain your foot’s natural arch when squatting to avoid valgus knees (knees rolling inward).
Screw your feet into the ground, tearing the ground apart with your toes
THE BRACE & MASTERING YOUR BREATH
Bracing provides a neutral (and safer) spine and will improve your strength capacity by building pressure in the torso and giving your body stability when squatting. Bracing involves exploiting the power of breath control to further engage your core and increase intra-abdominal pressure. This is known as the Valsalva Maneuver. A word of caution: this force can also raise your blood pressure and be dangerous for those with any kind of heart defect or high blood pressure.
How to practice Bracing:
(Try lying on the floor if it's easier)
THE NEUTRAL SPINE
Most of us first encounter the squat as an exercise in the gym surrounded by mirrors supposedly there to help us to analyse and perfect our own form. Ironically, these mirrors are actually one of the main culprits for so many peoples’ poor form and neck injuries. It forces you to misalign your spine as you tilt your neck back to see your own reflection.
Poor spinal position will affect strength, flexibility & your safety when squatting.
Change this one habit and you’ll be shocked by how much both your mobility and strength instantly improve
Establishing a neutral spine
Rest a 'thumbs up' between your chest and chin and ensure your chin does not lift off this when practising an air squat. Your gaze will naturally be lower than you’ve been accustomed to
Thanks for reading, please comment below with any questions.
Watch our mini series on the squat and deadlift technique here.