Squats are my favorite exercise. I feel powerful whenever I’m able to move more than my body weight. Plus, you have so many muscles moving in sync with each other. You’ll get a good leg, glute, and core workout with some decent squats. With several muscles working together, there’s a high risk for injury. I’ve injured myself many times doing squats, usually my lower back. There have been times where I’ve tried to compensate by stabilizing a barbell with my shoulders, causing my lower back to arch too much. I’ve also leaned forward too much which caused strains in both the upper and lower back.
There are so many things you need to keep in mind to have a good squat form.
- Keep your legs shoulder width apart
- Keep your back straight
- Engage your core
- Keep your feet pointing straight
- Keep your arms out for balance
- Keep your weight at the back of your feet in the heels
- Pick a focal point straight in front of you to keep concentration (for example, if you’re in front of a mirror, maintain eye contact with your reflection)
- Keep your torso in line with your shins when you’re going down
- Squat as low as it’s comfortable to do so, don’t push it
- Avoid locking out your knees when you stand up (keep a slight bend)
If possible, turn to the side and watch yourself squat so you can make sure your form is correct. I know it may sound ridiculous, but I cannot stress enough the importance of proper form! Keeping those tips in mind, you can spice up your squats to challenge your strength, balance, and cardio endurance. Here are some of my favorite squat variations!
Get down in to the squat position and stay there. Jump your legs in and out like you’re doing jumping jacks. It’s a tough combination of jumping jacks and squats, but make sure you keep low, keep quick, and most importantly, keep in control.
Instead of in line with your hips, have your legs out twice as far (or as much as possible) as shoulder-width apart. Point your feet outward. Make sure to keep the fundamentals of squats in mind when you go down.
Bring your feet as close together as possible. Imagine your big toes are touching. You’ll feel this variation in your inner thighs.
Like the sumo squats, keep your legs out twice as far (or as much as possible) as shoulder-width apart and point your feet outward. Squat toward one leg, making sure you keep the weight in the back of the heel you are squatting with. Don’t automatically squat to the other side, make sure you stabilize at the center first before transitioning to the other leg.
Balance one leg off the ground while the other leg squats. It’s OK not to squat down as far as usual. The goal is less about the movement and more about staying steady.
Like single-leg squats, balance one leg on the ground. For added difficulty, as you go down, extend the leg that’s off the ground until it is parallel (or close to parallel) to the ground.
BURPEE + SQUAT HOLD
Perform a normal burpee, but instead of hopping straight back up, get into a squat and hold the squatting position for as many counts as you like. Start with holding for three seconds, but as you get more comfortable transitioning from the plank to the squat, hold the squat longer.
This move is pretty simple. Just stay low in a squat and walk back and forth where you are! Just make sure that you aren’t compromising your form. My back tends to want to arch, so I make sure I move slow when I do these.
The most important thing about squats is performing them safely. Don’t overwork yourself and don’t overload your weights if you choose to add weight. The injuries associated with performing squats incorrectly can last a while. Always make sure that your thighs, glutes and back are warmed up and that they’re properly stretched when your workout is done. The benefits of a good squat workout are worth the pain!
Check back next week for another installment of Wellness Wednesdays With Patrick!
Disclaimer: Always consult a physician before starting an exercise routine. Nash In Tune is not responsible for any injuries. Stay smart and stay safe!