Learning The Squat
The squat is one of the six foundational movement patterns we should be training twice a week. I'm sure you've heard all about "The King Of All Exercises" I mean you do it every day when you use the toilet, guessing you're doing number two every day ( if you're not, there's a problem)
You first must understand that the squat is a knee-dominant movement, meaning there's going to be maximal bending of the knee. Most people will squat down to a 90-degree angle and some will push beyond that. Is different for everyone depending on how healthy your knees are but everyone should be squatting to 90 degrees AKA bringing your hips down to knee level.
Like most things, we start from the ground up. We want to set our feet parallel to each other and at about shoulder-width apart. This will vary for each person depending on their hip mobility and or flexibility. In most cases, you will find a more comfortable squat with a wider than shoulder-width stance.
When you decide to sink your hips down and go into a squat, we want to make sure that you create tension outside of your quads by tuning the knees to the outside. Think about you being at the bottom of the squat and both of your tibias ( calf bone) are cork crews..... just turn them to the outside. Now not much is going to move, your knees will slightly point to the outside but the muscle activation is what you're looking for. Keep that tension throughout the whole movement and it will ensure that your knees don't cave in and put you at risk for injury. Your legs are your foundation for the squat and by creating tension (corkscrew) you are ensuring you have a solid foundation. You cant expect a healthy building with an unstable foundation. So don't expect a healthy squat when your knees and ankles are all over the place.
Most of your weight should be on your heels, you should be pushing from your heels to get back up and not your toes. Once you make your way to the top of the movement you want to squeeze your glutes, this will automatically engage your core. One way to avoid unnecessary pressure on the knees is to make sure they don't travel too much forward. Let me explain ..... so when you're on your squat stance you're going to pretend that there's an imaginary line right at your toes and that line goes up like a wall. Now when you are at the bottom of the squat you don't want your knees to be touching that imaginary line or wall. 1-2 inches past that wall in okay... if you have healthy knees but if you really want to minimize the risk, you don't go past that line.
Now that we got the lower half of the squat taken care of, it's time to talk about spine placement. You ultimately want to have a neutral spine throughout the whole movement, somewhere in between cat & cow. We always hear "don't round the back" but there is such thing as arching the back too much... and we want to avoid that as that can lead to bone-on-bone contact with the femur and pelvic which later on can lead to poor hip positioning and even hip impingement. A by-product to this action is "the butt wink" which is basically tucking the pelvic underneath at the bottom of the squat. Your body does this unconsciously and it's hard to tell if you're doing it unless you got another pair of eyes looking at you. But with the last-minute tucking of the pelvic due to too much arch, comes the rounding of the lower back and that's something we definitely don't want. To Fix this, tuck your pelvic in (squeeze your glutes and core) before going down on the squat and maintain it throughout the whole movement.
Are we done yet? lol well, there's one more thing. The neck! it's part of your spine and you should always have your chin tucked in, no I didn't say chin down I said chin tucked in! yes, I'm talking about creating an ugly double chin. Pushing your neck back like there was a wall behind you. We must keep this tension throughout the whole movement. We want to stay as upright as possible, depending on the side of t]your femurs this can be a task so your chest will drop. Dropping of the chest is fine as long as your nose follows. If your chest drops and you're looking straight ahead and then your spine is not in a neutral position due to your overextending of the neck. So basically if your chest is facing the floor so is your nose, if your chest is facing the wall so is your nose. You can ensure you do this by keeping that double chin at all times.
In conclusion, plant those heels to the ground and corkscrew your legs to the outside, keep a neutral spine and avoid that "butt wink" at the bottom of the squad by bracing your core and squeezing the glutes before going down. Keep your chin tucked (double chin) at all times and wherever your chest is facing is where your nose should be facing. Let's get to squatting!
Below is a video tutorial on how to perform a Kettlebell front squat