How To Perform Squats Correctly ?
Too many books and articles I have read in my life to gain the information about squat exercise. I am sure that most of the people are still in search for the right answer as to how to perform squats with the correct technique. “Squatting destroys or damages your knee” and “one should not perform complete or “Ass-To-Grass” squat as it is bad for knees”, such myths are compelling people to go in depth of squat exercise so that they can save their knees. In this blog, I will focus on the myths of conventional squat.
There is a saying that “Excess of everything is bad”. People gain so much of knowledge from different platforms without any authenticity that they still end up hurting their knees. Do you know the reason behind it? Well as per my knowledge, there can be two reasons.
First is incomplete knowledge of squats and second is making simple things complex. Until you won’t relate exercises with human history and the common activities of daily living, this all will continue with its ill effects. You are not executing a brain surgery that you need to think and study a lot. It is merely a common day to day activity which everyone, be it a child or an adult, performs. But yes, the efficiency depends upon the geographical factors.
To give an example, people living in villages are accustomed to “ass to grass” squats because they use Indian toilet. Villagers also work in the fields in a full squat position whereas in cities, people are finding it difficult to sit down completely on the ground due to their lifestyle.
Are Deep Squats Good For Knees ?
Squat is a natural movement. Since childhood, your body is accustomed to squats. For example, a child performs squat while trying to walk on his/ her own. He or she can never a perform a wrong squat as it is an inbuilt mechanism. Every system during childhood works brilliantly.
The hunger or thirst hormones work so efficiently that a child can never eat or drink in excess. He or she will not eat or drink when they are not hungry or thirsty. It is the upbringing and complicated thinking process of messing things that lead you to the tangled web.
Lets talk about some incorrect instructions of squat exercise that are followed by a number of people.
How To Do Squats ?
1. Squat Foot Placement Variations
Most of the people will tell you to keep your foot straight and shoulder width apart.
Lets analyze if the above statement is correct or not.
Did you ever notice the way you walk? You should always maintain the natural position of your foot which is externally rotated foot. It is best to turn out your feet anywhere between 10 to 30 degrees rather than pointing straight ahead. Turning outwards or external rotation of your feet certainly depends upon the alignment of your hip. It is all about the comfort level and mobility.
Why is it so important? Well, turning your feet outwards has a direct connection with the Gluteus maximus muscle. Gluteus maximus is the biggest muscle of your body present at hip bone. It is responsible for the external rotation of your foot. Whenever you walk, stand or perform squats, gluteus muscles play a pivotal role. That is why you should not keep your foot straight. When you purposely try to keep your foot straight, the tendency of the knees to go towards each other increases. This is also named as ‘ Knock Knees’ or “ Genu Valgum”
People are most of the times confused that how wide their stance should be while doing a squat. It completely depends upon your pelvic alignment. You are free to choose your stance as per your comfort. Being in comfortable state will bring more efficiency and less injury. Some are comfortable with narrow stance ( shoulder width) while others with wider stance ( hip width apart). There is no hard and fast rule of restricting to a single stance.
2. When To Inhale and Exhale During Exercise or Squat
The most common statement is breathe in while going down in squat exercise and breathe out while coming up.
Lets analyze if the above statement is correct or not.
Generally, people do not concentrate on the breathing pattern while working out but a disordered breathing leads to decreased efficiency in performance. Once you know the correct technique of breathing, you will be able to lift more heavy weights and run better than before. The concept of breathing lies in the experience of the performer. It is true that a beginner first has to learn incorporating the breathing techniques along with the exercises.
During squatting, when you are not lifting heavy, you can inhale while going down and exhale while coming up to the original starting position. But in later stages, you need to learn “Valsalva Maneuver”, if you look forward to lift heavy in squats. I have very well explained about it in my previous blog, “Breathing Exercises and Valsalva Maneuver”.
3. Pushing Hips Back During Squat
You will often hear that while maintaining the proud chest posture, go down by pushing your hips back.
Lets have a look if this is true or not.
First of all, before going down, the basic step of shifting the body weight to the lateral or outer side of your feet is of utmost importance. There are less articles and books mentioning about shifting of the body weight while performing squats! People with flat foot must pay attention to this step as they have higher chances of knee valgus. Their knees are more likely to cave inward when they squat due to collapsed foot arch.
One has to grasp the floor with the foot and do lateral weight shifting. This will in turn help in recruiting the targeted muscles with improved alignment and stability.
4. Pushing Hips Back During Squat and Not Letting Your Knees Go Beyond Your Toes.
Many guide you to maintain a proud chest posture, go down in squat while pushing your hips back and never let your knees go beyond your toes.
Lets see the position of the above statement.
The instruction clearly depicts the discomfort as there will be restriction of the natural movement of the body. You can perform efficiently without any injuries only if you are in a comfortable position. The way one uses Indian toilet is the way one should do squats.
Squat is a compound movement that mimics the above activity utterly. First, you must understand that your daily movements do not require restrictions. Second, your knee joint is a hinge joint that can bend (flex) and straighten up (extend). If you restrict your knees from moving beyond your toes, the tendency to lean forward increases. You tend to bend forwards more leading to undue stress on your back. Let your knees extend farther than your toes as this will happen due to the anatomical differences in the bone length.
Make sure you keep your body weight shifted to lateral (outer) side of your foot while coming up to the original starting position.
5. How Deep Should You Squat ?
Bring hip parallel to the ground, that’s what the general population believes in.
It is high time to investigate the authenticity of the above statement.
Bringing hip parallel to the ground is again an unnatural movement. Imagine, while using Indian toilet, you do not take your hips to the ground fully instead you keep it parallel to the ground. How awkward it sounds and feels! Always remember, a human body is meant to perform full squats so it is time to utilize the correct knowledge.
It is quite interesting that at Fitness Cravers Academy, I teach compound movements to the students that certainly form the roots of everyone’s lives.