The squat is hands down one of the most fundamental movement patterns we have as human beings. If you don’t believe me, watch a small child playing. Their natural resting position when playing with a toy is a beautiful, natural deep squat. No one has taught them how to do this, and in the west it is very unlikely they have copied an adult, it is part of our DNA. So why do so many people struggle with this most fundamental movement pattern? Let me give you a clue:
That’s right… once again it’s a chance for us to bang on about the dangers of sitting! Most children stop naturally squatting as soon as they go to school and start sitting for the better part of six hours per day. Excessive sitting affects your hip and lower back mobility, your glute strength and your core strength. All of which are vital to your ability to squat.
Whilst you may not think that you use the squat movement all that much, many of the applications of a squat are a little more subtle. Think about climbing the stairs, getting out of a chair or getting out of a car. All of these are variations of a squat, and if you aren’t able to perform the movement well, can put repetitive strain on your lower back and pelvis (as well as your hips, knees, ankles… you get where we’re going with this!)
One of the first things we often look at with our patients is if they can perform a deep bodyweight squat. The key things to look at here are:
If you struggle to get down into this position, there are a number of possible causes (too many to list and address here unfortunately!) But why not give the following a go?
Why not improve your strength and flexibility with our four week squat challenge. Test your range of motion by going as deep as you can whilst keeping a straight back. If you struggle with this you can start by squatting in and out of a chair as you build up to full body weight squats. Once you can squat bellow parallel (hips below knees), start doing 3 sets of 10, 3 times per week. See what a difference this can make to your general mobility a strength in just 1 month!
Once you can get into a deep squat position you can work on your flexibility at the bottom of the squat by pushing your knees out with your elbows and gently rocking side to side and back and forth. This basic move can work your hip, ankle and lower back mobility. For a more advanced squat mobility routine check out this video by Ido Portal.
Squatting with weight may seem like a daunting task, but provided you have the mobility and form to be able to squat deep (knees below hips) it is a great way to build functional strength which can be applied to almost any sport and many day to day activities. If you are new to lifting we strongly advise getting some help at the start, either from a training partner or a personal trainer.
As with everything, its important to start light, make sure your form is correct and then slowly build the weight up. There are a number of different programmes you can follow but our advice would be to start with an empty olympic bar (20kg) and gradually add weight as your strength increases. At the start you may be able to increase in 10-15kg increments but as soon as it becomes hard you should only increase the weight by 2.5kg each time. The most important thing with this is NEVER LET YOUR FORM FAIL JUST TO LIFT THE WEIGHT! For more information on squatting with a bar check out this video by Mark Rippetoe.
This is far from a comprehensive guide but gives an idea of the ways you might be able to incorporate squatting into your gym routine. Again, please note this is only an introduction and before embarking on any gym programme you should seek help from a qualified professional. Our chiropractors are always on hand to offer training advice and help with your form.