Fire up the search engines and look for the proper squat and you’ll find dozens of articles all with varying tips. Assuming most experienced squatters have already learned what works for them, here are some basic points to consider if you are not already performing some type of squat or squat variation regularly. Why squat at all? The benefits are tremendous and it can be either alone or in combination with other movements the single most beneficial exercise for almost any goal. Squats activate more than just the quads and glutes. Depending on variation and load, they can be both a functional movement pattern and an efficient calorie burner.
First, start with your own bodyweight and squat down as far as you can, and come back up to a full straight leg stance. Easy right? Don’t worry about foot position yet. You want to be comfortable first. As you move through repetitions you can take note of how you feel. Are you favoring one side? Do you have any noticeable differences in tightness or discomfort in a specific area? Are you able to get all the way down as if you were trying to touch the heels of your feet with your rear end? When you can comfortably get the full range of motion down for double digit repetitions, then you can start adding in load. When you’ve mastered a lighter load, you can change the tempo depending on your goals or simple increase the load.
Starting with a bodyweight squat teaches your neurological system how to fire efficiently. Once those pathways are laid down, you can start to challenge them. Start with load in the front (front squat or goblet squat) to challenge the posterior chain muscles. Progress to increased load only when you can comfortably move through the entire range of motion without compensating. There are many ways you can identify room for improvement in a squat before increasing the challenge my adding more load, reps or speed. Make sure you are able to keep your spine in neutral through the movement, but most importantly at the bottom of the squat. The tendency to tilt the pelvis backwards can put your back at risk for injury. Knees falling inward during the movement and the entire body falling forward are also two common mistakes that need to be addressed before increasing the difficulty.
People squat every day. Getting into and out of any seated position is the same movement pattern. The squat is essential to functional movement independence in older populations, therefore increasing the importance of mastering this movement. The squat is no longer just for the heavy weightlifters. It is extremely important for all people and that importance increases as the years go by. Every body squats.