The squat is a movement that we begin doing early on in life. Once we can stand on our own, we use the squat to pick things up off the ground and we do it with perfect form! As we get older, we tend to rely more on our backs to lift things, bending only at the waist. This may cause injuries that can result in long-term back problems. Some may see squatting as an exercise that is only applicable to the athletic population. However, squatting can be beneficial to the general population because it is closely related to everyday activities such as picking up children or heavy objects (1). When done properly, squatting engages not only the legs, but also the abdominal and back muscles. Strengthening the hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, and core muscles by practicing squatting can help to prevent injuries when doing everyday tasks.
A proper squat starts by standing tall with the feet just wider than hip width. The toes should be pointing outwards slightly to eleven o’clock and one o’clock. To begin the movement, bend at the hips, knees, and ankles, lowering the bottom like sitting down into a chair. The chest should stay up throughout the movement, not letting it drop forward. Keeping the head and eyes up will help to keep the chest from dropping. The heels should stay in contact with the floor at all times. When appropriate squat depth is reached, the direction of movement is reversed and the movement ends back up in a standing position. The abdominal muscles should be engaged the whole time to maintain good posture. Depth of a squat will most likely look different for each person. How deep the squat is can depend on flexibility, balance, and presence of an injury among a variety of other factors.
Body weight squats through full range of motion should be utilized when beginning squatting to learn and maintain proper technique. As technique is perfected and body weight squats become easy, some advancements can be made to challenge the body (if appropriate). Variations such as goblet squat, back squat, front squat, or sumo squat can all be used to increase strength in the legs, hips, and core.
Overall, squatting can be beneficial to strengthening the lower body and core while preventing injuries from everyday activities such as lifting heavy objects. Adding this movement into your exercise routine could be a game changer!
- Schoenfeld, B. J. (2010). Squatting kinematics and kinetics and their application to exercise performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(12), 3497-506.