The basic steps to performing a squat
Squatting is an age-old exercise that has been use for many decades, and continues to be one of the main exercises that people continue to do in the regular workout routines. Whether you're an Olympic weightlifter or an average Joe just looking to get in a little better shape than you were yesterday, squatting can be a great exercise to perform to get multiple health benefits. A few health benefits that are associated with squatting include: building muscle in the entire body, it is a functional exercise that makes real life activities easier, helps to maintain mobility and balance, and it can help increase your overall sports performance. However, if you cannot perform a squat correctly these benefits will be far from grasp. Knowing how to perform a squat correctly is the first step in gaining all the health benefits squats have to offer.
The first key to a good squat is to creat a stable hip, knee, and ankle position. This needs to be maintained throughout the entire movement from start to finish. The primary goal of stability should be maintained with all squat types- back squat, front squat, and overhead squats.
Keeping your shins vertical will let you harness the power of your hips, hamstings and more importantly, keeping your knees safe by unloading them. When your shins are not vertical, your knees shoot out over your toes. This casues a great decrease in power and will drastically increase the shear forces to the meniscus, patellar tendon and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
Initiation of the squat comes from the hamstrings. This is done by tiliting the torso forward and driving the hamstrings backward. Hinging at your hips allow your spine to stay neutral and increases the power of your hips and legs. Sitting your hamstrings back will keep you from overextending the spine.
Distribution of weight is crucial. It will help to create maximum torque. Your mass should be centered over the front of your ankles with your feet screwed into the ground, with your weight distributed over the center of your feet. Do not place your weight on the balls of your feet, the heels or the outside of your feet. Faults in the squat usually are the result of poor technique, lack of range of motion, or both. Beginners will usally shift their weight to their heels. Screwing your feet into the ground with your weight centered in yout feet will create an outward or external force in the hips creating a better arch in the feet, thus increasing your stability and force production.
Knee mechanics and positions are very important for force production and injury prevention during the squat. The primary fault is for our knees to dive outwards which places stress on the ACL and medial compartment of the knee. It is also the primary mechanism for ACL injuries. Do not over correct by pushing your knees outward to the ouside of your feet. This will create more problems at the knees and ankles. Limit side to side movement of the knees to maintain a neutral position.
Shoulder stabilization will help create stability in the upper back and spine. With the barbell you want to grasp the bar and screw your hands into it. Your upper right hand will rotate clockwise and your left hand will rotate counterclockwise. This will increase tension in the shoulders and bring the shoulders downward and backward to stabilize the upper back and spine.
All of these components will prepare the body to produce more torque, force and decrease to injury potential during the squat.
Tom Rice, PTA