By far one of the most popular exercises I will give to clients and see performed in the gym is the squat. Unfortunately, I also hear a lot of ill-advised tips “get down as low as you can" and “use your back to push up". The squat, if done correctly, can be one of the most effective and beneficial exercises. However, if done incorrectly, which I see so many times can actually cause you to damage and injure your back.
Be warned after reading this you may need to resort back to squatting with no weights at all!
3 top squat tips
The first major pointer which I will say to every client whether they are an athlete or older adult is to watch your lower back. This area must be kept in a neutral position (relaxed and centred with pelvis tucked in) the whole time throughout the squat pattern and if not will cause injury or damage to your spine. These are a few tips which I have found helped to improve squatting technique after just a few sessions.
Please note that these tips are steps every person performing squats should go through to ensure they have a safe technique to begin with:
Use a mirror while you squat
To begin the squat start by standing side on and view your technique in the mirror. This will allow you to see if your lower back moved out of the neutral position and begins to curve
Use a bench or seat underneath you
This is more a psychological cue to ensure you begin the movement by moving your hips backwards. This allows you to generate more power through the hips and activate your gluteal muscles
Wear a tight fitting t-shirt or singlet
This isn't to look good but to make sure you can see your lower back in the mirror when squatting
These next pointers are what you need to remember as you are doing the actual squat - again to ensure you are not causing any damage and you are recruiting the right muscles.
Begin these with no weight.
- Start with your feet just wider than shoulder width and brace your core. To "brace your core" means you need to imagine that someone is about to hit you in the stomach - that tightening of your muscles is what we call "bracing your core"
- Slowly move down to the point in the mirror just before you see your lower back start to bend
- Slowly move back up again using your gluteal (bottom) muscles. The trick to using these is to gently push your knees out as you come up. Push your chest and arms out as you come up too - but don't arch your back.
Remember the squat is about using your hips; this is where you will get the most power and benefit from. The load should be pushed through your core and legs, not the lower back.
Remember to use no weight to begin and continue with no weight until your technique is perfect. Always remember form overload! By following a couple of these simple tips you will be on your way to squatting a heavier weight in no time!
Written by Luke Dorizas