The squat is a popular lower body strength exercise that works your glutes, quads, and hamstrings and strengthens your core. Squats are included in all types of workouts and are an easy exercise to do at home.
We asked Senior Physiotherapist, Beverley Gorbutt from Ascenti for her expert advice on how to get the technique right and common mistakes to watch out for.
To set up a basic squat, start with your feet shoulder width apart and your toes slightly turned out. Your hands should be wherever feels most comfortable, either out in front of you or clasped in front of your chest with your elbows bent.
To squat, the movement should come from the hips and legs, with the hips moving straight down and back. Your back should remain tall with your chest up and core braced.
As you bend the knees, they should remain in line with your feet, tracking over your toes.
The depth of your squat should be as deep as you can comfortably go without losing the correct form.
You might want to practice squatting in front of a mirror so you can see yourself from the front and side, to check that your body remains in the correct position throughout.
Once you have mastered the technique and are confident that you are performing squats correctly, set yourself a certain number of squats to work towards. For example, try starting with 3 sets of 20 reps, or do as many squats as you can in a minute.
You can up the intensity of the bodyweight squat by adding weights. You can squat with a barbell over your shoulders or holding a dumbbell in front of your chest, which is known as a goblet squat.
A common mistake people make when squatting is allowing the ankles and knees to collapse inwards. This can be due to over-pronation of the ankles or ‘fallen arches’, having weak gluteal and abductors, or tight adductors.
Watch out for your knees and make sure they stay in alignment with your feet, pointing slightly outwards, throughout the squat movement.
Uneven weight distribution is another way that the squat can be performed incorrectly. This can be due to one-sided weakness, having a dominant leg or lack of body awareness.
By practising your squats in front of a mirror, you can make sure that you are going straight down and straight up with your bodyweight in the centre, rather than leaning to one side.
A third common mistake is excessively leaning forwards from the back and hips, which is often seen with the rounding of the upper back. This may occur if you are trying to squat deeper but not doing so from the hips and legs.
Keep your back tall with your chest up, and make sure your hips are moving straight down and back.
Finally, another mistake people make is letting the knees track too far over the toes, which can cause the heels to lift off the floor. This suggests that the weight is being pushed through the front of the foot, rather than the full foot.
Performing squats incorrectly can cause ankle, knee, hip and lower back pain, so it’s important that you get the technique right and squat safely. If you speak to a physiotherapist they will be able to carry out a biomechanical assessment and check your technique, and can help you to target any imbalances.
Now you’ve learnt how to squat properly, it’s time to check your posture on another popular move – the lunge! Ascenti physiotherapist Beverley takes us through how to correctly do a lunge at home.