You Don't Know Squat!

The squat is one of the most important and basic exercises for any gym-goer. It works the entire lower body, and brings your core muscles into play as well. The squat is the building block for a great physique, and it also the first step to mastering many other advanced movements.

Unfortunately, the squat is also the exercise that’s most often done incorrectly. It’s a rare day that I don’t wince at seeing some poor novice at the gym doing the squat incorrectly. Performing the squat with poor form is a sure recipe for injury, and it’s absolutely critical to learn how to squat with excellent form.

How to Do the Squat: Three Easy Steps:

Step 1: Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, with your knees soft. Lift up your spine, and make sure that your head is in line with your shoulder, hips, knees, and ankles. Let your arms hang by your sides.

Step 2: Keep your chest up and look forward or up. To perform the squat, push your bum back, bend at the knees and hips, and bring your butt down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. This is the bottom position of the squat. In this position, make sure that your knees are in line with, or behind, your toes. Verify that your chest is still lifted, and your back isn’t rounded or arched.

Step 3: It’s time to stand back up. In the bottom position of the squat, push through your heels to bring your body back to a standing position. Get ready to do the next squat.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? So why is it that people so often get it wrong? Here are three bonus tips to keep in mind when first learning to perform the squat to make sure that you’re getting it right.  

  1. Start out with no resistance.  Don’t let your ego rule you. It’s not about how much you lift, it’s about how well you lift. As a beginner, you’ll have too many things to concentrate on. The last thing you need is a bar across your shoulders, or dumbbells in your hands screwing up your balance. Start out with bodyweight squats.

  2. Pretend you’re in the restroom. I kid you not. The squat is actually an everyday movement. The problem is that we become self-conscious when we perform the exercise, and complicate it by overthinking the movement. When performing the squat, imagine that you’re standing in the restroom, about to take a seat – just as you do several times as day. Just as you touch your bum to the seat, imagine that you’ve just realized that you’re out of loo roll. Uh-oh! Now stand up so you can go and get some. Try it a couple of times, it’s easy!

  3. Look forward. Balance is one of the big problems that beginners face when first learning to squat. There’s a simple solution to the problem – look forward (or up if you have to) but do not look down. Looking down will make you tend to tip forward. Sure, the squat’s an unfamiliar movement, and the tendency will be to look down at your legs. There’s no need to do that. After all, you don’t look down when you sit down at your desk at work or school. Your legs are still where they were a minute ago, and will do what you want them to. So when you’re performing the squat, look forward. If you need to, bring your arms up in front of you to help with your balance.

The next time you’re in the gym, give the squat a try again, bearing in mind what we have written, and you won’t ever have to say you don’t know squat.

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