To squat or not to squat.

Cartoon Caroline thinking
Studio 306

To squat or not to squat.

For most of us the question really shouldn’t be whether or not to squat, but how to squat. Yes, for some people, squats are not an option owing to degenerative changes in the knees, hips or ankles. But, as long as you want to be able to get on and off a regular height chair or toilet seat, or climb the stairs, you should keep squatting, even shallow squatting, in your exercise repertoire.

Anyone who has ever attended my classes will know that I am a total stickler for good technique in squatting. As I like to say, you are simply wasting your time and worse, possibly hurting yourself with poor squatting technique.

The basic squat is performed with the feet just wider than hip distance apart, toes pointed forwards. Wide stance with or without toes turned out is more advanced and comes once you can do a quality squat.

To squat one bends the knees and hips, imagining that one is about to sit on a low chair. The weight should be kept back on the heels, almost to the point of unweighting the forefoot. We are all familiar with the instruction to not let the knees drift in front of the toes. If the knees drift in from of the toes, there will be an imbalance of weight going through the front of the knees, which can result in injury. I advise clients to occasionally look down and if they can still see the toes, they are doing well. Either way, keeping the weight on the heels more than the forefoot looks after this for you – you can’t nudge the knees in front of the toes if your weight is mostly on your heels…really, you can’t! Try it!

Another common mistake is to let the knees fall inwards or outwards. Stay mindful and tune into your alignment and this shouldn’t happen. If you can’t stop the knees falling inwards, you may need to look at the flexibility in your hips and the strength in your gluteus medius, a very important muscle in walking/running and address this.

The biggest mistake I see clients making with squats involves the trunk . All too often I see clients simply bending from the hips, bringing the chest onto or towards the thighs. One should make an effort to keep the trunk as upright as possible during a squat. If the trunk tips too far forwards over the thighs, a balance point is reached where the muscles have less work to do and the gluts are on a stretch, so they are not working as well as they could be. Sure, the quads will get exercised, but you won’t achieve the balance and co-contraction of gluts and quads that we want from a squat. Why put all that effort in and not reap the rewards?

To finish, stay mindful, know your body and what is appropriate for it and always exercise in good form and with good technique.

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