The Perfect Squat
A squat is a fundamental movement pattern that is functional for almost everyone. You can look at almost any age group and see the familiar positioning. Look at a 2 year old playing with his toys, a 40 year old picking up a box in the basement, or an 80 year old lowering down to sit in a chair and you will recognize the importance of a good squat.
When I look at the current evidence there are several key factors that seem to make up the perfect squat, but in my opinion they could be narrowed down to just 2 or 3. The first is what’s known as a hip hinge. This means that to lower yourself from standing to squatting, you should actually be hinging at your hips and sticking your backside out. Many people do not realize that a squat is primarily an exercise for the glutes, not the knees and not the thighs! So when you do your squats, you should feel as though your butt muscles are doing a large portion of the work, and that your knees and thighs are secondary players. The other key factor is an upright trunk. And the main reason for this is safety. A rounded torso leaves the spine at too much risk for injury. The last factor mentioned regularly in the literature is to make sure the knees stay behind your toes as you squat. I would argue that this may not always be true. For one thing, if you truly do a hip hinge and keep an upright posture (which as we said, are rule #1 and 2 of squatting), your knees should inherently go behind the toes. And for another thing, there are many times in our everyday life when our knees do in fact go past the toes. Just as a very simple example- when you speed down the stairs you don’t slow down and focus on sticking your butt back first. On the other hands, when you are going to be doing squats with additional weight and/or if you will be doing multiple repetitions, we do want to ensure that your knees aren’t bearing too much of that abnormal force. As with almost everything, there can be exceptions to the rule.
Once you have mastered the basic squat, there are then many variations to work on to increase strength, power, stability and neuromuscular control. Some of these variations include: wall squats, sit to stands, back squat, split squat, single leg squat, BOSU squat, kettlebell squat, squat jumps, and many more. Oftentimes the help of a personal trainer, athletic trainer, or sports physical therapist can help you master the form and function of this very important skill!
Do you want to know more about achieveing the perfect squat? The Centers For Advanced Orthopeadics- MMI Division has sports physical therapists and trainers available to help meet your fitness goals. We offer in-office and telemedicine appointments for your convenience; including same day. Visit mmidocs.com or call 301-694-8311 today. Choose your local experts close to home.