If you are not squatting in the gym you are definitely doing some form of it throughout the day whether picking something up or getting out of a chair, making it uber important for everyday functionality.
Before you decide to add any type of load to your squats I recommend checking out these quick tips to fix common issues that people have when squatting. I use these when I simply want to go back to basics to check form.
The squat is a fantastic lower body exercise and works almost all the muscles in your lower body with the primary focus being the quadriceps and also your gluteal muscles and hamstrings. There is also a lot of core work (abdominals and low back) to help keep you stabilized.
There are many variations from a front squat to a back squat and you can use different pieces of equipment from barbells to kettle bells and dumbbells to change the emphasis of the muscles being worked.
First remember the basic squatting guidelines. Stand with your feet shoulder distance apart, toes may turn out slightly. Think about how you would sit down in a chair. You wouldn’t just sit straight down. You would shift your hips back as your torso leans forward slightly (not in a bad posture way). Think of pressing your knees out. Once you hit your bottom depth, return back to the top.
The typical breathing pattern for a squat is inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up.
Check out these tips.
Elevate your heels if your toes lift when you squat. If your heels come off the ground in a squat you should not be adding any additional weight until you have corrected this problem. Make sure you’re hips are shifting back and your torso leans forward slightly rather than squatting straight down.
Heels lifting is usually a lack of ankle mobility. If you find that your heels are coming off the ground when you squat put a 5 lbs plate underneath each heel. This will help you perform the movement correctly and allow for greater depth as you sit down into it.
Put a band around your knees if they cave inward when you squat. If you find your knees are caving inward this is often a sign of weak gluteal muscles. Always think of pushing your knees out, especially when you are at the bottom of your squat and returning back to the top.
A great way to monitor this is by putting a mini band above your knees and maintaining tension in the band during the entire squatting pattern. If you lose the tension your glutes are not doing their job.
Use a box or bench to gauge depth if you find your range of motion is limited. Often people are unable to perform the full depth of a squat because of tightness in the hip flexors, hamstrings, low back, and or ankles. It can also be caused by weak glutes.
A good way to gauge your depth is to use a box or bench in the gym to squat down toward. Start seated to make sure the bench is in the proper place with all your squatting cues. Stand up and then sit back down to the bench, pause, and return to the top.
You can incorporate hip and hamstring stretches in your routine as well as more specific glute exercises like deadlifts and bridges.
I hope these tips have helped. Give them a try and let me know how they go.