Please don't let the squat scare you off! I know my posts can be kind of lengthy, but I'm going to give you a few quick reasons why the squat is a good....nare I say GRRRREAT exercise to add to your repertoire. Okay Tony the Tiger....you may ask....why is the squat so wonderful? Well, have you ever sat down? Have you ever had to get back up from sitting down? Then you squatted! It's a functional exercise and as we age it becomes more and more important to do functional training. The squat can be done in so many different ways and is amazing at practicing that motion that we already do about a billion times a day. Squats require NO EQUIPMENT, so you can do them ANYWHERE and EVERYWHERE!
Let's start with some squat basics....
Hip Width Apart
Find that bony point on the front of your hips....dig down...I know it's there. That is your ASIS or anterior superior illiac spine. Nice right? Yeah, that's your HIP BONE and measures how wide your hips actually are. You know that friend of yours (not naming any names) who always stands with such a wide stance? Unless he/she is pregnant with triplets, their hips are not that wide and you need to tell them to reel it in some. Okay, so now we found our hip bones...place your heels directly underneath them. I don't care what kind of luggage you may have outside of those bones, but this is hip width apart for YOU....enjoy it for a moment.....you're entering anatomical position and your body was meant to be here.
Booty Down, Head Up
When you actually get to the squatting motion (talking about that in a moment), you want to make sure that your rear end goes down and back and your head and chest stay up.....kind of like they would when you actually try to sit into a chair (or get out of one). That's why this exercise is great to be practiced with a chair that is pushed up against a wall or is heavy enough (and doesn't have wheels) not to be moved by your body weight falling into it.
As you start to lower down we need to keep some focus on the knees. Remember that they are now hip width apart...and should stay that way. We don't want to bow our knees out like we're mounting a horse, nor do we want them pressed together like you're doing the potty dance. The knees also need to stay over the heels and behind the toes. If you have knee problems and still attempt a squat (not recommended), you will exacerbate this condition by allowing that knee to go forward of the toe. If you don't yet have a knee problem and your knees travel in front of your toes...expect one to develop. Keeping your body weight resting firmly in your heels will help keep the knees from traveling. You could also place a small sand filled medicine ball or Pilates ball between the knees to keep them from moving all around like one of those toys that you push the base and the animal falls over.
|I couldn't find a pic where they had fallen over....but these guys look ready to squat with us!|
Isometrically - This is a fancy way of saying do a wall sit and hold the squat position. It's a great place to start because you can do a few little wall sits and get the same effect on newly broken in muscles as if you did a million of the next exercise. Plus, it takes up less time and we all know time is a lie we tell ourselves to get out of doing things like wall sits. (See yesterday's post on Satya)
Dynamically with Body Weight - Dynamic exercises just involve movement.....so do a squat. Squat to your chair, squat with a ball behind you, squat in the middle of the room, squat with a partner....squat, squat, squat.
Dynamically with Load - If you're really great a squatting and need more resistance you can start to squat with a load. The Smith Machine is the mode I would choose because you're locked into the rack and that provides a little safety. You should also ALWAYS have a partner spotting you and if you take one of my workshops on Personal Training through NETA I will show you my secret squat spotting technique.
Plyometrically or with any kind of Challenge - Ever heard of squat jumps? Yeah, that's a more advanced squat. Squats on balance discs, foam rollers, BOSUs, etc are all an added challenge. Single leg squats and all other variations that throw off your balance, coordination, or require you to produce force or speed while doing a squat should be reserved for when you're pretty well trained and have the right instruction.
A few final thoughts on squats....
Squats are great for toning your legs and butt, but also engage your core and pelvic floor and we all know I'm all about the core and pelvic floor.
Squats are used in almost every form of exercise in some way/shape/form. In yoga we do them in Chair pose, Sunflowers, Moonflowers, Garland pose, and probably some others I'm not thinking of at the moment.
Squats help pregnant women prepare for giving birth and are one of the most natural positions for delivering children (think gravity people).
They are super functional and may save your life someday and even a baby can do it!
What's your favorite type of squat?
Favorite place to squat?
Bad squat experience?
Excuse for not doing squats?