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Probably the most functional exercise you'll ever learn, the squat is a basic fundamental movement that you repeat numerous times throughout the day. Every time you sit in a chair, you squatted to get there. Every time you get up, you get up from a squat. This exercise is the basis for safe lifting mechanics as well. Start this exercise standing with your feet a shoulder's width apart, toes pointing ahead or very slightly turned out. Place your hands on your hips, to remind you that you're to pivot from the hips not the back. Keeping your back straight but NOT vertical, squat down as if you were going to sit on a chair but you didn't know how low it was. As you squat, your chest should be over your knees, which are over your feet - making your center of gravity very stable and centered over your feet. FORM is everything on this one. How low you squat depends on how well you can maintain form, your ankle flexibility, the condition of your knee joints and several other factors. Depth is not the issue here, form is. If you feel pain anywhere, BACK OFF! Don't squat so low! Repeat as directed in the instructions from your coach.
- Feet should be a shoulder width apart - toes facing pretty much straight ahead.
- Keep your back straight but not vertical, it helps to think "stick your butt back" and "keep your chest over your knees".
- Keep both heels on the ground, this makes sure that your base of support is stable and encourages you to pivot from the hips.
- Squat only as deep as you can go without losing your good form. Most people can eventually squat to chair seat height with good form. Some can eventually maintain good form even deeper than that. Depth is not the issue - form is.
- If you feel pain in your knee joints, don't squat so low - keep the movement pain free. You should feel your thigh muscles and buttock muscles working, but you should not have any joint pain anywhere. If you're having back pain as you do this movement, your form is incorrect - squat to a shallower depth and work on keeping your back straight but chest over knees.
- To increase the intensity of the exercise, try holding a broom stick across your shoulders, behind your head. Another way to make it more difficult is to hold small hand weight, or use a light barbell in place of the broom stick. Varying the speed of the squat - sometimes going faster or slower will also change the intensity of the exercise. Obviously, squatting to deeper depths also makes it more intense - but you've got to maintain form