A few years ago I had a client come to me for a very specific training purpose. She had a trip to China in a few months and wanted to be able to get into a very low squat to be able to pee. Hence to avoid any splashing of sorts. You get the picture.
Around the same time I was watching my 2 year old niece dropping down into a squat no problem. Where did we lose it? Why do so many people lack the ability to be mobile and flexible? When did we unlearn how to move well?
And the answer is we lose it slowly, over time, without realizing it becoming stiff and less mobile.
We grow up as active kids, then sit at a desk all day at school and then eventually at work. Sometimes we also choose to partake in repetitive activities such as running or cycling that keep us tight and limit range our motion. Sometimes we choose inactivity all together.
For most, we can at least reverse it a bit by training proper movement patterns. And why wouldn’t you? Forget maximal strength, lean muscle mass and feeling like a badass in the gym, sitting and standing is something you do for life. In late adulthood loss of independence is often found in lack of being able to stand and sit.
So please squat for your bodies well being, your independence, and being able to pee without splash in China.
In basic squatting fashion there is no absolute perfect way to do it. Stand with your feet about shoulder distance apart. Point your toes forward or slightly out. As you lower shift your hips backward, keeping the heels down and the chest lifted ( your torso will lean forward slightly). Lower until your thighs are parallel to the ground or slightly below. Return back to your starting position.
I urge you to try this movement, free of weight, and really focus on the muscles being worked and the way the body moves. Even if you have been squatting for longer than you can remember try a few air squats today and focus strictly on form. Learn to be more in tune with your body instead of just rushing through the motions.
Here are 4 squatting variations to add some variety to your routine.
The DB Sumo Squat. This is a great, user friendly exercise to add more load to your squat if you are just not sure about the squat rack yet. The only difference with this is the set up, standing with the feet wider and toes turned out just slightly to engage the adductors (inner thighs) more. Keep your shoulder blades back. You will be able to use heavier weight than you think you can.
The Goblet Squat. Another great, user friendly exercise if you are uncomfortable in the gym in any sense. Grab a dumbbell, hold it vertical, find an open space in the gym and follow the squatting directions above. Keep your shoulder blades pulled back and together. Typically you will progress in weight quicker than the dumbbell it feels comfortable to hold so you may need to progress to the bar for more of a challenge. Another very good for high repetition sets.
The Front Squat. It is commonly believed that this is one of the best ways to develop your quads and allows for a greater range of motion. It allows requires you to stay more upright than other squat variations. In a squat rack set up the barbell slightly below shoulder height. When you grab the bar drive your elbows forward so your upper arms are parallel to the ground and the wrists are hyperextended. Step away from the rack and use the above squatting directions focusing on keeping the torso lifted throughout. Keep your elbows lifted. Return the bar to the rack.
The Back Squat. This is typically the lift in which you will be strongest and one of the best for lower body strength. Set up the bar on the squat rack just as you would for the front squat but take your hands outside the shoulders and lower underneath the barand rest the bar on your upper traps. It should rest securely. Lift the bar off the rack and step back. Complete your squat and then return the bar to the rack.