Squat just happens to be one of the top 3 lifts in the world for improving strength and posture. It’s great for men, because you get the nice bulging thighs and slim waist. It’s great for women because it gives your legs excellent tone and shape, as well as improving the muscles in your butt, by boosting saggy butt muscles and making your glutes more curvaceous (I have seen this in action since I started doing a little personal training). There’s nothing more rewarding than a great squat. On the other side of the coin, a horrible squat technique is awful on your joints, and does not necessarily work the right muscles. There are those who perform squats consistently, but still haven’t seen results. This is due to improper form. Here is the proper way to do a great squat.
Let’s start with the basics. The first thing you have to get right before you can squat the right way, is standing the right way. Many people stand with their feet wide apart and toes pointed out. This is an unnatural standing position for our bodies. If we stood this way normally, people might think we’re trying to hold in a #2. Stand with your feet parallel to each other, at shoulder width. This means keep your toes pointed straight ahead (not way outside or inside). This is having your feet parallel. Also, when you stand, you should be able to draw a straight line from your big toe all the way up to the outside of your shoulder. This is the meaning of having your feet shoulder width apart.
Now that we are standing the right way, we can squat the right way. Squatting the right way means to squat down so that your thighs are parallel to the ground. Many people aren’t able to squat to the proper depth because they lose balance. I would recommend practicing without any weight (air squats) and watching yourself in the mirror. Making sure your stance stays consistent, so that you practice properly squatting to the proper depth.
Keep Your Heels On The Ground
This one is self-explanatory, but when you squat, your heels should never leave the ground. This is awful on the joints, and does not work the correct muscles. Keep your heels on the ground even as you dip down to the proper depth.
Keep Knees Straight
Many people have a problem with this when they try to squat too much weight. Our knees usually buckle when our form breaks down or when we fatigue. This limit’s the ability for squats to improve our strength and muscle growth to its fullest potential. In other words, when you squat, your knees should remain straight. If this is difficult, I would recommend practicing some air squats, or squatting with lighter weight. The knees should stay parallel to each other, just like your feet.
Control The Weight
This also relates to “Quality over Quantity”, as well as, “Don’t Rush Through the Squats”. But I think “Control the Weight” is the best way to put it.
Do not let the weight control you. If you feel off-balance, the weight is controlling you. If you are coming off your heels, the weight is controlling you. If you can’t squat the correct depth, the weight is controlling you. If you fall or “drop” the weight, it was definitely controlling you. Control the weight, and don’t let the weight control you. One tip for controlling the weight better is to squat at a slower tempo. Many times our form breaks down when we try and squat too fast. Try dipping down nice and slow. Feel the burn. People think that this makes it harder to squat, but actually I’ve found it’s impossible for me to squat the weight I normally squat if I try to squat fast. I have realized that I am actually stronger when I focus and try to get every muscle fiber working in coordination. If this last rule gives you problems, try either practicing more air squats in the mirror, or lower the weight.
Remember, this all takes time. Even if you do everything perfect, you still have to lift for at least 3 weeks before you see any results, so take your time. It’s not a good idea to throw a bunch of weight on the bar if your form isn’t correct. This does more detriment to your body than good. Even the strongest of lifters didn’t start lifting 300+ pounds from the first day. Start with air squats (even these are effective at making the legs burn). After the air squats have been perfected, move on to the bar, and slowly progress from there. When you are staring at your perfect butt or flexing those thighs in the mirror next month, you’ll know it was worth the wait.