Squats are one of those exercises that look ridiculously simple but can be easy to get wrong. Doing an exercise repeatedly with poor technique can cause muscle imbalances or even worse – end up with you getting injured; especially if you’re adding weight to it. Here’s what you should be checking when you do squats to make sure your technique is right:
Start off correctly
In a basic squat, your feet should be around hip-width apart with your toes facing straight forward, so make sure your feet aren’t too close together or it will feel a little uncomfortable! An alternative to this is the sumo squat where your feet will be a little wider than hips with your toes turned out which works out the muscles in your butt and your inner thighs a little more than the regular ones. You can have your hands on your hips, straight out in front or crossed (see pic above) when using just your bodyweight – leave over the head for later.
Sit and squat
Keeping your eyes and chest up (looking down at the ground can put strain on your neck), sit your butt back as if you’re about to sit down on a seat. This is the bit people usually find difficult to get right; one way to sort this out, is to actually use a seat. Position it or a training bench behind you, bend your knees and sink your butt back until it just touches the bench, then stand back up again. For a basic squat you shouldn’t be going down past 90 degrees (so your butt shouldn’t go lower than your knees).
Your feet should be flat on the floor with your weight in your heels to help you drive your body back up. Breathe in as you go down, then breathe out as you come up. Squeeze your butt a little on the way up to maximise the exercise.
Check everything is lined up
While you’re squatting, check your knees are going straight over the top of your toes as you bend. Doing this incorrectly is another common problem. Your toes, knees and ankles should all be bending and facing in the same direction; if your knees are bent in or out too far, use your inner and outer thigh muscles to pull them in line with your toes.
Straightening your legs too much when you stand back up can hyperextend your knees – especially if you are flexible. This can put a lot of pressure on the knee joint, so make sure you keep a slight bend in your knees at all times. Remember if you’re having trouble with this on your own, ask a fitness instructor or personal trainer for help!
Image / NZ Real Health