A good squat is something that I make every one of my clients do in their workouts each week, without fail. It’s simple, it makes your legs and butt look great, it takes no equipment (unless you want it to), and it makes it easier to pick up your kids or your pets without hurting your back. Who doesn’t want that?
Unfortunately, we’ve all started to overthink the trusty squat. Toddlers are running around out there squatting with perfect form while their parents are hurting their knees and risking back injuries doing it the wrong way. Kids already have an unfair advantage with their limitless energy and crazy flexibility, we can’t let them take squats from us too!
When I meet with new clients, the first thing I have them do is show me a squat. 80% of the time, they’re doing them in a way that could lead to injury. That’s a scary number for a move that most people think they have down. The good news is, it takes about 10 seconds for most people to start squatting right and they never really have to worry about it again! So let’s take a minute and see if your squats are up to par/what you can do to save your knees/back if they aren’t.
The number one problem I see with people’s squats is this: they put all their weight in their toes. The million dollar solution? Keep your weight in your heels. That’s it. The instinct with squatting can be to want to get as low to the ground as possible so most people end up rolling forward onto their toes, feeling off balance and putting a lot of pressure on their knees and lower back that just doesn’t need to be there. Keeping the weight in your heels relieves that pressure on the knees and puts the glutes to work (hello, nice, perky butts!). That’s the simple answer to the question, but if you have trouble keeping your heels down, let’s think through some practical strategies for the next time you hit the gym.
Wiggle Your Toes
The first easy way to see if your weight is in the right place for your squat is to try wiggling your toes. If your weight is too far forward, you won’t be able to lift those toes off the ground. With the weight spread through your whole foot, the wiggle becomes easy and you are able to press up and down from squat to standing with no issues.
Sit In A Chair
Sitting into a squat should feel like you are sitting into an imaginary chair. Push your hips back, feel your butt and the front of your legs doing the work, and “sit”. To get used to this, I often recommend starting with an actual chair or a low stool–once you get used to that movement and what it should feel like you can get rid of the seat and your squat will look a lot better!
Don’t Worry About Depth
Working out comes with a lot of anxiety about whether something looks right or whether people will think you are weak or lame for not being able to lift as heavy or squat as low as them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone wearing a shirt or posting a “motivational” quote about keeping their standards high and their squats low. Let me tell you, you can have the lowest squats in the world, but if your form is off you are going to hurt yourself. I’d rather see a shallow squat with good form than a deep one without it. The depth of your squat is not a measure of your fitness. Some people have shorter bones or tighter muscles in their legs that make it difficult to get super low, that doesn’t mean that they don’t kick ass! Focus on your form; depth will come with time.
Working out is an amazing step to take for your health, but doing it right is key to making sure you improve and don’t hurt yourself. Small tweaks can make a big difference in the results you see so always be sure to practice good form and ask for help when you need it! Everyone was a beginner at some point and it takes a lot of questions and answers before achieving anything worthwhile so get out there, ask questions, and start squatting!