Some say squats are one of the world’s best exercises, and for good reason. Squats directly engage the largest muscle in the human body — the gluteus maximus, or more commonly known as the glutes.
The gluteus maximus are major components of each of your buttocks. They, along with other gluteal muscles, are responsible for many functions. They are critically responsible for stabilizing your pelvis and lower back, allowing you to maintain an upright posture. They also serve important roles in the movements of both the hips and the thighs. Strong glutes mean you run faster, jump higher, and climb stronger.
Furthermore, the glutes are responsible for everyday functions, from getting out of a chair to squatting down to pick something off the floor. This makes squats an essential exercise to maintain a healthy, balanced life. It is one of the most popular go-to exercises because it burns the most calories out of any muscle in the body. Everyone should be doing squats in some way, shape or form.
Stronger glutes also mean you perform more efficiently when training in martial arts. It gives you more athleticism and power. That’s already one reason to make sure you are doing your squats.
However, proper squat technique is somewhat of a challenge. If you don’t perform squats the correct way, you don’t get the maximum benefits from the workout. And not everyone knows how to do a proper squat.
The problem with squats is when you don’t exercise enough mobility in the hips, legs, and upper back. While there are many ways to perform squats, we’ve come up with a few pointers so you can achieve the perfect form every time.
Today, Evolve Daily shares five tips for the perfect squat.
1) Keep your head in a straight and firm position
One of the biggest mistakes people make when performing squats is looking down at the ground or rounding their necks. When you do this, your spinal alignment is immediately thrown off.
The tip here is to pick a spot on the wall that is in line with your eyes and shoulder level. While standing straight in upright posture, squat down and maintain eye contact with that spot on the wall. This will keep your head in a straight and firm position all throughout the squat.
2) Stick your chest out and bring your shoulders back
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An important aspect of a proper squat, as with the majority of upper-body exercises, is to keep your spine in proper alignment. This is done by keeping the shoulders back, and the chest out to naturally produce the lower back curve. If you are in the habit of rounding your shoulders and sinking your chest in, your spinal alignment will be completely off.
Keeping correct posture when performing squats will make sure you are in proper form. Whenever you feel that your posture is being compromised, the effectivity of the squat is reduced. So don’t be afraid to take a rest every once in a while. Remember, proper form over number of repetitions.
3) Keep your lower back slightly arched
In relation to the second point, always be mindful of the lower back arch. You should always strive to keep the lower back flat to slightly arched.
Don’t hyperextend the lower back by arching excessively, which will put inadvertent pressure on the intervertebral discs. Intervertebral discs are like soft gel cushions that protect each vertebra in the spine. Make sure your lower back is slightly arched when performing squats.
4) Focus on proper breathing
Another important aspect of performing squats, as is with a lot of other exercises, is proper breathing. Focus on proper breathing is very important, especially in squats because squats are a very challenging exercise. If you don’t breathe correctly, you could end up being light-headed or experience nausea and won’t have as much energy to lift the weight.
When you lower yourself into the squat, take a deep breath in. Hold it, and then as you are rising back up, breathe out. Strive to maintain this proper breathing pattern throughout your sets. If needed, feel free to take a few extra breaths at the top of the squat position when you are standing. This will reset and give you more energy.
5) Maintain proper depth
How deep does your squat need to be? The proper depth of a squat depends on the flexibility of your hips. If you are a very flexible person, especially in the hip area, then you could have the ability to dip below parallel. This means that your hamstrings are past being parallel with the floor. Conversely, if you’re not that flexible, then you should be above parallel.
Bottomline is to listen to your body. If you can’t go too deep in your squats, don’t stress about it. With constant training and repetition, you’ll improve and be able to go deeper in the future.
As a rule of thumb, however, always strive to get your hamstrings parallel with the floor. This engages your thighs, hips, and glutes. If you can go lower than parallel, that’s ok. Just make sure that you are aware of your form all throughout the movement.