Squatters have rights. And wrongs.
By rights, I mean proper body mechanics.
And by squatter, I mean someone loading the hips and strengthening the glutes (not someone unlawfully settling in an unoccupied space).
Seeing as you’re squatting every time you take a seat, it’s pretty important that your first squat of the day not hurt so badly that it becomes your last. That means squatting correctly!
So let’s take a look at the “rights” of this common (and critical) form of movement more closely.
Squatter’s Right #1: Know what your body looks and feels like in a proper seated position.
Go on, take a seat! (Never thought you’d read that in an exercise blog, huh?) While seated, be sure to plant your feet squarely and evenly on the floor with your knees lined up directly above your ankles. Check out the right angle formed at your knee and try lifting your toes from the floor (there should be next to no weight applied to your toes).
How should your body be aligned?
- Your knees should (for the most part) be comfortably in line with your hips.
- Your navel should be actively pulled in toward your spine.
- Your back should be relatively flat.
- Your shoulders should be pulled down and back, leaving your chest open.
You might look something like this:
Log how this position looks and feels in your memory bank. This is close to what you’ll be aiming to achieve at the bottom of your squat’s motion.
Squatter’s Right #2: Wake up the essential muscles.
Depending on how active your lifestyle, your core, hamstrings and glutes will typically be inactive throughout the day. These muscles are essential to the body if you want to execute a proper squat. With that in mind, it’s important to warm them up in advance.
Some ways to get these nice and warm:
- Go for a short walk or jog.
- Ride your bike around the block a few times.
- Use a cardio machine at a light intensity for 5-10 minutes.
But if you want to truly activate the core, hamstrings, and glutes following your warm up, a supine bridge is usually a safe bet.
Check out what that looks like in the photo below:
Squatter’s Right #3: Add movement, stay stable.
Before jumping (or, more accurately, sitting) straight into a squat, let’s see how the motion feels with a little support.
- Find an empty wall.
- Place a stability ball between your lower back and the wall.
- Slightly lean into the ball and move your body down slowly into a seated position.
- Allow the ball to move up toward your shoulders to support your seated stance.
- Now, as you stand back up, feel the stability ball move toward your glutes.
- Wash, rinse and repeat!
Notice where your feet, knees and hips are in relation to one another. Re-position your feet as necessary to achieve the seated position you logged to the memory bank in Right #1.
This is often a great exercise to include in your exercise regimen no matter your level of fitness. However, if you feel sharp pains anywhere while completing it, STOP and seek professional help.
Squatter’s Right #4: Go solo.
At this point, you’ve pretty much got the bio-mechanics down. So the next step is figuring out whether you can perform the motion without external support.
Here’s what you may look like:
The first few squats you try may feel a little unstable. If this is the case, try the following:
- Stretch your arms straight out in front of your body.
- Keep your chest open and shoulders back.
- Add an aspect of counterbalance to help keep you from falling backward. You may have noticed the weights in the demo shown here. That is a good example of counterbalance.
Eventually, you shouldn’t need to rely on that counterbalance… so be sure to test the waters every once in a while by squatting without it.
Squatter’s Right #5: Find your favorites.
Do you have the four fundamental Squatter’s Rights down? Excellent! Now it’s time to mix it up and find the squat that sits with you best.
Some things you can try:
- Add an additional movement using a prop of your choice. For example, using a body bar, you could add an overhead lift to the movement.
- Vary up the pace of your movement. For example, move down slowly and stand up quickly (or vice-versa).
- Incorporate a prop and a friend. For example, try tossing a SandBell back and forth between squats.
- Ask one of your friends their favorite way to squat and try that!
So, there you are, fellow squatters. Five rights, plenty of favorites to explore and an exciting next step in your journey to sustainable wellness.
Do you have other “rights” for your squats? What are they?
What exercises do you know well and have “rights” for? What ones do you wish you knew how to perform better?