How to Squat the Right Way
There is definitely a method for HOW to squat the right way. The squat is more than just an exercise done at the gym; you’re doing it everyday, whether you realize it or not. It’s a basic human movement in which you lower and raise your center of gravity. Sitting down into the chair, toilet, or car all require you to squat! Love it or hate it, the squat movement is a part of our everyday lives. If you dread squatting movements because it creates pain in your knee, hip, lower back or ankles, keep reading!
We will go over the basic principles of how to squat the right way, but keep in mind every BODY is different, and the important thing to remember is to squat whichever way feels best for you. You want to try to adhere to the principles we go over as best you can, but explore each principle and see what feels strongest and/or pain-free.
Chances are, if you have poor squat technique, your body will let you know, generally through pain. It may not be right away, but given enough time poor mechanics can catch up with you, especially if you load the squat or do a lot of repetitions.
We are going to use the squat as a tool to help understand faulty movement patterns and limitations in mobility. If you struggle getting into the positions or activating the muscles described, it’s an indication that you need to work on this area to optimize your movement. We will explore four steps that are the key to creating a stronger pain free squat.
So, without further ado. Are you ready to learn how to squat the right way?
Step 1: Create Torque
Torque refers to creating a rotational force through the joints involved in a squat to create tension and stability. If you want to jump, you want your joints to be loaded like a spring, this is done through torque. Without torque, or joints are more like a slinky—not very efficient at creating any bounce to jump.
• Stand feet just outside shoulder width
• Maintain 3 points of contact on each foot—big toe, pinky toe, and heels
• Squeeze your glutes, take a big belly breath in, and as you exhale, draw your belly in toward your spine
• Screw feet into ground like spinning dinner plates outward—think about creating this motion from your hips, not just your knees/ankles
• Look forward, shoulders down and back, lift arms about chest level, and have your thumbs pointing toward the sky
Step 2: Load Your Hips and Hamstrings
One of the most common problems we see that creates pain with the squat, is that people initiate the movement with their knees moving forward first, or their lower back arching. Remember to maintain the torque you created in Step 1.
• Keep back flat, sit your hips back (like you’re trying to shut a door behind you using your hips)
• Knees should not move forward first, and make sure you’re maintaining your 3 points of contact in your feet, and maintaining torque
Step 3: Pull Down into Squat
• Maintain neutral spine (don’t let your lower back arch backward or round forward)
• Maintain torque (think about keeping that “feet screwed into the ground” feeling)
• Only squat down as far as you can while maintaining these principles—here you’ll feel if you have a hard time controlling the torque and neutral spine, or feel mobility restrictions that limit you from squatting deeper
• You should feel like your backside (glutes and hamstrings) are lowering you down
Step 4: Drive Out of the Bottom
• Maintain your neutral spine and torque as you think about driving through your heels (this helps you activate your glutes) to stand up
• If you feel off balance when you sit your hips back, use a chair behind you as a target to reach for. Having a chair behind you is also a great way to practice this movement with less mobility if you feel restricted in your hips and/or ankles.
• Video yourself or watch yourself in the mirror to see if you are maintaining a flat back and initiating with your hips. You may see your spine try to change position (arch or round) either at the beginning of the movement (motor control) or at the bottom (motor control or mobility problem).
• Your knees CAN come forward, you just want to make sure that’s not the first movement happening. You want to sit your hips as far back as you can with a flat back, then sit your hips down and allow your knees to move forward.
Check out the full video above for helpful visuals of how to squat the right way! If you’re still struggling with your squat, reach out to us through the form below. We want to help get you on track to optimal squatting – whether in life or in exercise!