How to Improve Your Squat Form: Five Tips to Help You Drop it Low
Ever wondered how to squat correctly? Squats are a mainstay of functional fitness. Doing squats properly can prevent injury and help warm up muscle before heavier lifting or your next run.
You may know how to drop it low in the cluuuub, but do you know how to properly drop it low in the gym or a group fitness class?
Dropping it low correctly, i.e. squatting, is a critical life skill. As scorpios, we know that sounds dramatic and very on brand. BUT it's true. Squats are functional fitness mama. Never heard of functional fitness? Let us explain, this category includes exercises that prepare the body for real life movements.
You. perform. squats. every. day.
Has anyone actually taught you how to do them correctly?
Christy and I have been sharing tips each week during our Thursday Instagram Live"Tips & H.I.I.T." workouts. We spend the first five minutes or so discussing and providing guidance for a health and wellness topic. Last week, I focused on squat form and received an influx of positive comments and feedback on how useful the info was. As certified fitness instructors, we have seen a lot of less than ideal form when performing this movement. So let's dive in on how to properly perform squats.
Get the right stance.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width distance.
- Your toes should point out slightly (think 11 o'clock and 1 o'clock on a clock face).
- Distribute your weight evenly between your heels and toes.
In general, when you are lifting weights you want to wear a shoe with a flat heel. A flat surface allows for more stability. If you don't have flat shoes, then try doing your work outs barefoot --we promise it will make a huge difference.
Engage your core BEFORE performing the movement.
- Start with a big inhale, expanding your rib cage in every direction. Then as your exhale, imagine a fish hook pulling on your belly button (back and up). Now keep this engagement, as you do your work out and continue to breathe.
- You should inhale on the "easy" part i.e. as you lower your bum.
- You should exhale during the "hard" part i.e. as your lengthen and stand.
- If you notice your core is no longer engaged, then take a moment to re-engage before continuing with the movement.
We are the biggest hype girls of breath work. Learning how to perform 360 breathing or diaphragmatic breath work is so beneficial for your everyday health, not just the workouts.
Have proud posture.
- Keep your chest open as you lower down.
- Do not hunch or shrug your shoulders.
It's okay to hinge forward slightly, but you shouldn't see your back bulging. It helps if you keep your gaze straight ahead.
Lengthen your glutes as you lower down.
- As you inhale, bend your knees and think about pushing your bum back as if you are sitting into a chair.
- Lengthen your glutes as you lower down and drive your knees out.
- Your goal is thighs parallel to the floor, unless you have a knee injury or discomfort.
- Pause at the bottom of the squat.
The change or muscle growth happens during the eccentric aka lengthening phase of the workout. That means that the slower you lower and lengthen the more of an impact you will have on the muscle. This is known as time under tension. Try three counts down and pause and hold for at least one count before driving up.
Stay connected as you straighten.
- Keep your feet planted firmly.
- As you exhale, drive your heels into the ground, and return to your starting position.
- Do not lock your knees as you straighten.
- Squeeze your glutes at the top of the squat.
You have come to far, to get sloppy now mama. Driving your heels into the ground as you stand will engage your hamstrings and glutes, but don't forget about keep those toes firmly on the ground either!
Okaaay. Hopefully, this helped you visualize the sequence of events that you need to do the next time you drop it low. Try it out bodyweight before you add in weights. Oh and remember this mind body connection when you are squatting down to pick something up or lifting your babe. There is that functional fitness mama.
Conquer your summit,
Ives Hot, PharmD, BCACP, ACE-Certified, PCES