The squat is the king of all lower body exercises. Squats work every muscle in your legs as well as your abs and lower back. Since your legs are such large muscles, they require lots of blood and oxygen to perform squats. This makes squatting a great way to give your heart and lungs a workout too.
Don’t Know Squat
A lot of personal trainers, myself included, might tell you that proper squatting form requires you to keep your knees behind your toes. However, this is not always the case. Telling a client to keep their knees behind their toes during squats is a cue to help them understand the mechanics of moving from the hips. It isn’t necessarily the literal truth for everyone.
The term “dorsi flexion” refers to the movement that occurs at the ankle joint during a squat. People with more ankle mobility can keep their heels flat and put their knees in front of their toes at the same time because of dorsi flexion. As long as you initiate your squat from the hips, keep your heels down and retract your shoulder blades, you’re good to go.
How Low Can You Go?
Another common cue for squatters (no, not the punks living in the abandoned warehouse) is to lower down until you’ve reached 90 degrees of flexion at the knees. This is another generalized cue that is great for most, but not ideal for all.
First off, newcomers and people with limited mobility might not be able to get that deep without sacrificing proper squatting form. Second, many able-bodied fitness enthusiasts will be able to squat much deeper than thighs parallel to the ground. Use as much range of motion as you can, and aim to eventually work toward a full squat if you are not able to get there currently.
Advanced Squat Techniques
This is a one legged squat where the non-squatting leg is held in front of the body. Don’t be fooled by the phrase “one legged squat” however, the pistol squat is an exercise that requires full-body strength and tension.
The shrimp squat is a one legged squat where the non-squatting leg is positioned behind the body, rather than in front as it is with the pistol. Some folks might find this variation more challenging, while others may find it more accessible.
For more information, pick up a copy of my latest book Street Workout.