Every fitness enthusiast — triathletes, weightlifters, cross-fit competitors, and bikini models — can agree that the squat is one of the best exercises that a person can do. The benefits of squats go far beyond the amazing ability to shape the backside and help build strong thighs — although those are two very good reasons too! Squats help to regulate your digestive system, can increase blood flow, helps to reduce lower body swelling, improves posture, helps increase libido, and when done properly can help reduce back and lower body joint pain. However, when done improperly, squats can cause back and lower body joint pain, so it is important to know how to squat correctly and avoid injury. Here, we will share a few tips on correct squatting technique and how to avoid injury.
Knee and back injury are the two most common consequences of improper squatting, whether free standing or weighted. Other injuries or pains that can occur are shoulder and neck pain and ankle or hip injury. Luckily, none of these are common when the squat is done correctly! If you are not sure whether or not you are squatting correctly, come visit one of our fitness coaches at Forge Rx today!
1. Form Over Weight
It is a well-known fact that “squatting heavy” is a great way to build muscle in all the right places and many people want to skip the basics and run right to the squat rack to pile on the plates. However, you can squat 300 pounds and do less benefit than heading to the calisthenics room and perfecting your form using just your body weight. The squat is a full body exercise, so attention should be paid to your entire body and the motion should be made with the whole body.
Your feet should be shoulder-width apart with your heels directly under your shoulders. Your body should be completely erect, standing tall, with your back straight and shoulders back. When you do the squat, always look directly ahead. Looking down will cause your body to lean forward and even a four-degree change can cause you to put unneeded pressure on your lower back, causing injury.
Your feet should be turned out about 30 degrees — this is important to protecting your knees — and should be planted on the floor. At no point should you raise your heels or toes off the ground.
Simply squat down, making sure that you do not move your knees in or out and that you keep your back flat and push your butt back and out to keep your knees over your toes. At the end of your squat, your thighs should break parallel with the floor. Simply stand back up without moving your feet.
If you are squatting with a weight, your form will generally stay the same, but you will have a weighted bar resting across your shoulders or you will be holding dumbbells or kettlebells at your sides. While squatting with weight, it is important to remember to keep your back flat and look directly ahead to avoid neck and back injury. When holding a bar, your hands should be placed just outside either of your shoulders.
When you have mastered your form and are able to do freestanding squats without joint or back pain, then you can move on to adding weight, slowly. Make sure that as you add weight, you do not sacrifice form, as this can cause painful injuries.
2. Strengthen Your Joints
While you may be tempted to squat every day to gain better results quicker, this could actually be counterproductive. Your muscles need time to heal, and when they do not have the opportunity to rest, your body compensates by using joints instead of muscles. To help strengthen commonly injured joints, try some alternate exercises such as walking lunges, jumps, and pushes. It is important not to overdo it and to do some low-impact training to help support joints while building the muscles above and below them.
3. Change Your Shoes.
Sneakers or running shoes, while supportive, are not ideal for heavy squatting. To optimize your squat, wear flat shoes that are meant for lifting. This will help evenly disperse your weight over your feet and help prevent rocking and heel or toe lifting. Training shoes and even a pair of Chuck Taylors are better than your running shoes for squatting.
4. Consult the Professionals.
To get the best results and avoid injury, consult a fitness trainer to help build your form and identify weak areas. A fitness coach or physical trainer can help teach you effective squatting technique and offer alternate stances and additional exercises to help build the foundation for powerful, injury-free squats.
At Forge Rx, our fitness trainers are excited to show you the correct way to work out and help you to reach your fitness potential or achieve your fitness goals. For help with your squats, fitness, and overall wellness, contact us online, by phone, or stop by one of our convenient locations in Winder or Braselton today!