Fit Friday: Say Squat! Do you really know how to drop it low?
By Elaine Delaney, Personal Trainer
The squat seems like a very simple exercise, however due to poor technique many people sustain injury to their lower back and knees during the moment. How heavy can you squat is often discussed amongst fellow gym goers but the basic principle of correct technique is often over shadowed and compromised by the need to achieve your repetition maximum.
The squat is a compound, full body exercise. The squat is often referred to as a leg exercise as it recruits the glutes (buttocks) , quads, hamstrings, groins and calves however the core and lower back are needed to keep you stable. When weights are added your shoulders, back and arms are required to hold the bar in place.
Squats build muscles and burns fat
Fat is stored energy. When exercising, fat is utilised as an energy source. The more muscles groups you can use during an exercise the more energy you burn. As the squat is a whole body exercise it recruits a large number of muscle groups (in comparison to exercises that concentrate on one part/one muscle group of the body e.g. the leg press) therefore you will burn more fat and begin to develop muscle.
No other exercise requires the body to move through the range of motion as the squat. For the reason the squat is often referred to the King of all exercise. Squats should be included as a part of a workout for optimum results.
How to squat?
If you have never squatted before or are unsure of your technique below are some pointers. Squats will vary for some people especially for those who are taller or have previously injured a muscle group. Use a mirror or record a video whilst you squat it will improve your technique.
Stance: Feet shoulder width apart and slightly pointing outwards at 10-15 degrees, knees pointing in the same direction as your feet.
Grip (for a back squat): Medium grip or hands half way from the weight to your body.
Bar: Sitting on your traps/ upper back not the back of your neck. Keep your chest up and squeeze your shoulder blades to stabilise the bar.
Head and neck. Look straight ahead, don’t look up or down
Unracking: Using the points above, lift the bar straight up to unrack and take a step back. Don’t arch your back.
Squatting down: The core should be strong to stabilise your body and avoids rotating, knees are continually pushed out (imagine you are screwing your hips outwards) and the outside of your feet are taking the weight. Imagine there is a pin under the arch of your foot this will avoid your knees and feet collapsing under the weight. Avoid leaning forward and keep your back straight.
Squatting up: The same technique is required to squat back up, remember to concentrate on pushing those knees out, squeezing your glutes and driving up from the hips, take a step forward and rerack.
Don’t forget to breathe during this exercise, holding your breath can increase blood pressure. Take a deep breath when unracking, squat down, gradually breath out on the way back up.
How deep should I squat?
Many of us want to squat, ass to grass or bum to the floor but due to our different body sizes this isn’t always possible. Ideally we should aim to have our quads parallel to the floor. Once you squat deeper than parallel, continually monitor your technique in the mirror. The moment your pelvis appears to “tuck” under this is your range. If you continue to squat after this point some of the weight will be shifted to your lower back.
Beginner to exercise
If you are a beginner to exercise doesn’t worry, you can squat without weights you will still see results. Aim to complete 12-15 repetitions, take a 30 second break and repeat twice. When you become stronger increase the reps, decrease your rest period, increase the number of sets or gradually add weights.
So remember squatting is not the reason for bad knees and lower back pain, its incorrect form. Technique over weights every time, keep those knees pushed out and be amazed at the results.
Hi all, my name is Elaine Delaney co-founder of Euphoria Fitness Sydney.
I hold qualifications in health promotion, physiology and fitness. Since a young age, sports and fitness have been my passion and now I want to utilise this knowledge and experience to help other achieve their health and fitness goals.
My philosophy is life is small changes in your lifestyle can have a massive impact on your health. The key to achieving optimal health is good nutrition and exercise. In modern day society your fitness regime requires flexibility and commitment.
Euphoria Fitness provides specialised one to one or group personal training, for more information on the service provided simply use the contact details below.
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