Why do I love squats?
Squatting is thought by a lot to be training for the legs, but what it really works on is the entire body. If you look closely, squatting involves just about every muscular group of your physique.
Adding to that, the squat follows so many of our body’s daily natural movements. I believe that squatting may quite possibly be the most useful training movement among all the training movements.
Squatting can help you both burn fat and get stronger. And it can help you do those things pretty fast.
Even if you never did squats in the past, don’t be scared. There’s a first time for everything. And taking on this mother of workouts has its rewards. Plus, I’ve provided almost all the things you have to keep in mind before you start the epic squats.
Because you see, squats are a favorite here in Nerd Fitness Academy. Grab what you need to grab because we’re about to fire up those muscles!
Why should you squat?
The short answer is because it’s way effective.
It’s the kind of movement where many other movements one does in his or her life is based on. It’s a useful movement and it makes sure that we feel its effects.
We have all been doing squats since we were infants. As we age, we find ourselves in situations where we have to sit in awkward positions that are not natural to the balance of our bodies. What once was a superb squat, in time has gone to a careless, imperfect, incorrect form.
People do squats all the time in other countries. Some spend quite some time in a fully squatted position. Others squat over toilets for minutes on end. Prior to the emergence of today’s furniture and tech, people always sat in a fully squatted position. And they did this their entire lives.
Squatting is categorized as a compound movement.
For a person to do this, they have to utilize a number of joints from the hips to the knees. Only then can they complete the movement.
We first have the simplest one – squatting with the weight of the body. But even if this movement is very simple, it still makes use of almost all the groups of your muscular system. If you do the squat while carrying dumbbells or a barbell, the exercise will force you to utilize all the major muscle groups. No major muscle group will be spared.
Squatting aims to make your entire physique stronger. It adds power and strength to your muscles and sturdiness to your bones. It also makes your knees stronger of course. And it make you a lot more flexible.
Since you use a lot of muscles for this movement, our bodies production of anabolic hormones are significantly boosted. This leads to increased fat loss and increase of muscle size.
It’s important to note that as one makes the knees and hips stronger, the chances of getting injured go down when he or she goes through the motions of big athletic movements and other movements done every day.
Yes, squatting is one of the best things ever.
Squats are also very efficient. They don’t take a lot of your time. If you notice, a lot of the better training routines that focus on strength development incorporates squats. They have you doing squats twice or thrice every seven days.
Are you ready? Here’s the first squat for you to get used to. Begin with this one, and you can modify it with weights later on.
Squatting with the weight of your body
This movement is very simple. You should be standing with each foot a bit wider than the hips. The feet should be pointing a bit to the outside, probably around five to twenty degrees.
Try looking at the wall you’re facing. Choose a portion of the wall that is eye level. Keep your eyes on this part of the wall as you complete your reps. Don’t look up or down. Look straight.
What I do when squatting with the weight of my body is I hold my hands out in front of me and keep my arms straight. My limbs and the floor should be parallel to each other. Always have your spinal cord straight as well. Avoid slouching or crouching. Also avoid bending backwards.
Be conscious about what part of your foot is carrying your body. You should know that the heel and the ball are the parts that have to be stuck to the ground.
Make your body tight during the whole routine.
Start by inhaling. Bend at the hip and try pushing your buttocks backwards. Continue this motion while bending your knees. Always remember to begin with the proper position – hip-back with straight, unbent legs.
Maintain the straightness of the back, and neutrality of the spinal position. The chest and shoulders should be in their natural position.Don’t break your stare with that portion you chose on the wall.
Once you lower yourself, always keep the knees above the feet. Those are trying this out for the first time try to push the knees outward. Pay attention to the knees. As they begin to reach the toes, try pushing both knees outward, but still inside the angle of your feet. Imagine attaching a light-pointer at the tip of each knee. The light of the pointer should go to the third toe. Always keep your knees out.
Go lower still until the level of the hip is below the level of the knees. Focus on the hips, and not the thigh area. How your squats appear, whether they are deep or not are dependent on how big or how small your thighs are. Still try going down more. If your hips don’t go below your knees, it’s an incomplete attempt.
We always complete our attempts here at Nerd Fitness.
After reaching the lowest point of your squat, we now move to getting up.
Again, try to make your body tight, exhale and lift yourself up using the heel of your foot as the base. Don’t raise the ball of your foot too.
Try driving your knee outward, at a similar angle it was driven when you descended. Squeezing your butt muscles when you reach the top is a must.
Keeping yourself tightly wound is very important, even more so when you start squatting with additional weights.
Another important thing you should keep in mind is that we all have varying physiques. Don’t be bothered if your squatting form doesn’t look the same as the squatting form of others. An individual with long legs will look different while squatting from a person with short legs. Also keep in mind that most of the people have issues with flexibility and agility and movement that they are trying to fix. If you see yourself looking different from the other people in gym who are squatting, it by no means doesn’t translate to squatting incorrectly.
Squatting with barbells
There are numerous kinds of barbell squatting. The ones that people do the most, are squatting with the bar high behind the back, also known as Olympic squatting, squatting with the bar low behind the back and squatting with the bar at the front.
All these squats require a barbell. The position of the barbell makes all the difference.
The position of the barbell has an effect on how the squat should be done. It even changes how the muscles are utilized. If you have the barbell low, the nature of your squats will be posterior chain dominant, while if you have your barbell high, or if you have your barbell in front, the nature will be quad dominant.
Whatever kind of squats you perform, the fundamental positions remain unchanged. Look for racks, cages or stands and put the bar of the barbell at around the same level of your collarbone. If there is not locking mechanism at the same level of your collarbone, choose the next level below. It’s the safer choice than going higher.
Do you warm-up routines with only the bar of the barbell. A dozen or so squats should get your muscle warm and ready.
Squatting with the bar low behind your back
This is the kind of squat that is most done by those who have just started to squat, those who have been squatting for some time, and power lifters.
First, step up to the bar. Position yourself underneath the bar and grip it. Remember that when you grip the bar, don’t use your thumbs. We need the wrist to be level with the forearm.
How wide your grip should be depends on how flexible you are. A narrow grip however, which is usually closer to the shoulders will aid in creating a ledge for you to put down the bar (which is the upper portion of your back). The barbell will be resting on the back of your deltoid muscles. If you are not flexible enough for this kind of narrow grip, you can begin with a wide grip, then gradually bring your arms closer together in time.
When you have the barbell properly rested on your back, stand straight. Make your core and butt muscles tight. Try flexing your abs as well. Step back. You will know if you do this correctly since you won’t have the need to take a step forward.
At this point, you should move yourself in the same position as if you were about to squat with the weight of your body. The feet should point out and a bit wider than the hips. You should position your buttocks a bit to the back before you start lowering yourself. Go down until the upper legs are either parallel to the floor or below that. Finally, try standing up.
Because of the nature of this squatting form, it is easier to squat with a heavier weight that the next two squatting forms.
Squatting with the barbell high behind the back
As we proceed with this squatting form, we’ll be starting the way we did with the previous version. The only difference is, we need to use the thumbs when we grip the bar. Once that is done, focus on the distance between the hands gripping the bar. As your hands get closer, the ledge on your back on which the barbell will be resting will be better.
The only problem with this is, a very narrow grip might be very difficult to pull, especially for beginners who are not as flexible as the move requires. In the previous form, the barbell rested on the back of the deltoid muscles. In this form, the barbell will be resting on the traps, on the tops of shoulders themselves.
Be very careful though to check that the barbell is not pressing or above the spinal column. If you feel the barbell putting pressure of the top of the spine, you have gone too high and you should adjust right away since this could prove to be dangerous.
Once the bar is behind you and everything is set up, take a step back. Try stabilizing yourself and tightening the core muscles before squatting.
Because the barbell is situated high on your back, you will need to be more upright. If you had a hard time staying upright while doing squats with the weight of your body, you’ll have a difficult time here as well.
But of course, you should practice with lighter weights. Get used to form before performing the movement. This also makes it safer for you. If the chest dips, the bar could possibly roll to the neck.
Squatting with the barbell in front
This is the final kind of squatting form. Because of the position of the barbell which is in front of the shoulders, this puts more emphasis on the quads, and it requires your upper body to be more upright than the previous squatting forms.
Put the barbell at the front portion of the shoulders. Grip the barbell with both hands. This is probably the hardest aspect of this squatting form since the wrists need to be very mobile and flexible.
A lot of people are unable to perform squatting with the barbell in front while maintaining a gripping the barbell with all the fingers. What they usually do is allow the barbell to roll a bit to the tips of their fingers. A small note one would be good to remember is that gripping the barbell with three fingers is allowed. But if you have a lot of difficulty gripping the bar with the fingers, there are other kinds of squatting forms that you can try out first, such as genie and strap squatting with the barbell in front.
Try keeping the hands gripping the barbell. If you can’t, then let it roll to the tips of your fingers. Always have elbows up and the upper part of the arm parallel to the ground. And just like the previous squatting forms, squat until your upper leg is parallel or lower. Finish by driving yourself upward.
It is of utmost importance that one keeps his or her elbows as high as he or she can at all times. If you don’t, the barbell will probably cause you to drop forward, causing you to lose correct posture and position. It’s most likely that you’ll let go of the barbell and there is a risk of injury.
What squatting position is best for me?
A lot of people who lift weights will tell you that having the bar high behind your back is the best avenue for massive gains. Some will tell you that positioning the bar lower is much more efficient and effective. Truth be told, both squatting forms offer benefits and both also carry disadvantages which depend on the activities of a certain person. You could go on and on listening and reading information for these forms.
But if you ask me, when you begin this endeavor, you should only perform the form that you can do well. The only time you should think about which form you should choose is when you can do all of them well.
Most frequent mistakes
Although squatting is a very basic move, people who are just starting out make frequent errors.
Here are some of them, as well the solutions.
Rising with your toes and your knees pointing to the front
One should always have the heel of his or her foot on the floor the whole duration of the movement. Pushing off the bottom should be done with the heel as the base.
A part of your bodyweight may supported by the ball of your foot. But even if this is the case, it should only be a part, and not the entire weight. To test if you’re doing the squat correctly, try wiggling your toes. If you can do this without changing the form of your squatting position, then you’re doing it right.
Unable to hit the low points
I’ve mentioned it time and again in this article. Your hip should either be parallel or below the knees at the lowest point of the squat.
It depends on your goals, but you are allowed to venture lower. To make the most out of the muscles during squatting, the hips need to go parallel to the knees or lower.
If you perform an incomplete squatting position, it could be bad for the knee and quadriceps. This is because the hamstring isn’t engaged. An incomplete squat adds more stress to the knees – stress that can be reduced if you perform full squats.
A lot of people have numerous misconceptions about squatting positions and issues surrounding the knees.
If you are squatting with greater depth, the more the muscles of the buttocks are engaged. Achieving greater depth is more often than not more difficult. It requires you to be stronger and more flexible. But again, it could depend on one’s fitness goal. Squats where your hips are parallel to the knees might be better.
If you are having a hard time going deeper, there are many possible explanations. It could be an ankle issue, where in it isn’t as flexible as it should be. The flexor of the hip or the hamstring might be too tight. Butt muscles might not be strong enough.
Position of the knees
As you go into your squats, ideally, the knee should be level with the toes of your feet. As mentioned earlier, positions would vary depending on a person’s body and ability to squat. But whatever it is, the knees should stay inside of the feet, near the middle.
Position of the back
The position of the upper body should be upright meaning chests should be up and shoulders should be back. The physique should remain this way during the whole routine. Keep your shoulders for slouching forward. Also keep from exaggerating the position to the point where it hurts the back.
Spinal columns should always stay neutral.
Position of the head
A lot of trainers advice people to look upward because that is where your movement is headed. But this is a bad idea.
If you do that, your spine will compromised. It is dangerous for a person to look up especially if you are lifting a barbell as well. The same thing goes for looking down.
As mentioned earlier in this article, stare straight at the portion of the wall that you chose. Your head should also be in a neutral pose.
A lot of the weight is placed on the heel or the sides of the foot
If you’re solving the problem of using your toes or the position of the knees, an often-made mistake that people make is concentrating on putting a lot of weight on the heel of the foot. This often makes the ball of the foot rise from the floor. Yes, some weight may be on the balls of the feet, but the true brunt of the force will be on the heels. And this may have negative effects on balancing.
It is also interesting to note that it is not advisable if the insides or outsides of the feet are lifted from the floor.
Is the information too much?
If you have great difficulty perfecting your squatting forms, don’t get discouraged. We know of a splendid method to aid in your quest for a good squat with the weight of your body. Try to sit on a low box. This is also good for those with knee problems and find it impossible to do squats with the weight of the body.
Box squats will educate you in sitting and keeping your body weight on the entire foot. This is a lot better than having your knees in front and you on your toes.
You can achieve this first by looking for a low box or low chair. To find the low box or the low chair with the correct height, sit on it. If your hips are parallel with your knees or lower, then it’s a good box or chair. You can find a lot of these in your gym. A stool. A milk crate. A plyo box.
The shorter the box height, the better it is for you to strengthen your hip and lower back muscles. The box or chair wherein your hips are parallel with your knees will enhance your quadriceps. But if you are only beginning at the squat game, how high the box or the chair is isn’t important, as long as it’s low enough.
Position yourself at the beginning of a squatting movement, with you a foot away from the box or chair.
Inhale, push your buttocks back and keep each knee at the correct angles (same angles at the toes). Try squatting backward. Do not drop backward onto the box or chair. Descend slowly and purposefully as you keep your physique tightly wound.
Once you are sitting on the box or chair, stay motionless for a moment. Reflect on your form. Ask the questions you need to ask based on what you’re read in this article. Make sure everything is tightly wound. Check which part of the foot is supporting the weight. Check the positions of the head and back. And so on and so forth.
You are doing it right if you can lift yourself up from the box or chair without leaning forward or using additional force from your arms or core.
The wonderful world of the squat
A couple of folks believe that squatting can hurt the knee. But that is simply not true. Squatting is really safe and very beneficial. If done the right way, it can be the best thing to ever happen to your knees. It makes them stronger, more stable, and gives additional defense against getting injured.
Important reminder: If you have an injury, or if you are experiencing pain while doing, what in your mind is a perfect squat, you should go have yourself checked. See a doctor or a physical therapist.
The knee was made for squatting. That much is true. But a lot of us go through long periods, sometimes decades, of wrong movements. This makes it difficult to get the form right when squatting. This may be the cause of the feeling of uneasiness or pain. Improve flexibility and agility if you find yourself having a terrible time trying to achieve the right form. Make sure you’re doing everything well to be safe before your start performing serious squats.