Squats are one of the most common exercises with poor technique in the gym. Yet they're great exercises to incorporate in your workout.
"As a compound exercise, squats are working several muscle groups at once as well as building those all-important leg muscles," said Dominik Rzadowski, master trainer at Anytime Fitness. "If you're short on time for a workout, squats are a great go-to exercise as they stimulate muscle growth throughout your body."
Rzadowski has taken us through the steps to ensure we are squatting correctly.
How do I squat properly?
Get into the squatting position:
1. Stand with feet roughly shoulder-width apart. Make sure your shoulders are neutral by rolling them back and away from the ears.
2. Make sure your spine is neutral with your pelvis tilted backwards so your bottom sticks out a little.
3. Make sure your quads (thigh muscles) are parallel with the ground and your knees are stacked over your ankles (but not too far).
4. Some people prefer to place their arms out in front of them with their palms facing the floor, others like to clasp their hands together when they squat.
The movement is also crucial. Rzadowski said from the standing position, focus on starting the movement by driving your hamstrings back and tilting your torso slightly forward (sticking your bottom out). While the bottom starts to stick out, make sure the chest and shoulders stay upright, and the back stays straight.
Next, lower your body by bending your knees, trying to keep your shins as vertical as possible. To get your squatting right, go as low as possible in the squat position.
To come back up, engage your core and drive yourself back up to standing.
What common mistakes do people make?
The body is inter-connected, so every wrong position will affect another part of the body. Rzadowski said a common fault is that people fail to maintain a correct position of their spine, which in turn can create rotation through the hips. This opens up other issues, such as your knees caving inwards or your lower back extending forward too far.
Other mistakes include:
:: Looking up - (you should be looking straight forward).
:: Shoulders learning forward - (keep them back and down).
:: Shallow squat – (not going low enough).
:: Knees going too far forward - (keep them stacked over your ankles).
What squat variations can you do?
The more upright your torso, the more demanding the movement and posture becomes. You can add weights to your squats to make them more intense including a barbell, kettlebell or sandbag.
"Supersets (two exercises, back to back) are always a great way to make things harder and maximise the output of your muscles," said Rzadowski.
"Squats can be combined with weighted walking lunges to thoroughly stimulate your quads and glutes."