Article by JC
Some love it, most hate it, but no matter what our personal feelings are we have to admit the results are amazing.
Doing squats is like learning a new art form—it’s not a cruel and unusual punishment for trainers to use against their clients, but a tool to push your body to the limit.
Let’s have a look at some advice I like to share with my clients;
The bar should be placed on the mid-trapezius, not on the spine; shoulder blades contracted and upper back tightened to make sure the bar will not roll off. Hands on the bar, as close to your shoulders as possible.
When executing the squat, the bar must be stable and straight on the mid-trapezius muscle, as well as in line with the middle of the foot. Being well balanced keeps you safe.
A lack of ankle mobility is one of the main reasons why people cannot squat low enough. When there is a lack of ankle mobility, people bend at the hips and lean forward instead of pushing through the heels, keeping your torso engaged and upright. The squat is like sitting down while keeping your back straight. A lack of ankle mobility could cause you to injure your lower back.
Dr Aaron Horschig, co-author of The Squat Bible explains his two favorite exercises for better ankle mobility like this:
“Using a plate, squat down to the deepest position possible…Drive your knee over your toe, keeping your heel on the ground. You should feel a good stretch in your calf. Hold this for ten seconds. If getting into a very deep squat is a problem and it hurts your hips and back, drop the plate on the floor, put your foot on the plate, keeping a good arch in your foot and then drive the knee over your toe, until you feel a good stretch in the back of your calf. Hold that for 10 seconds and try to do 15 reps before your next workout.”
Breathing is not bracing
When executing heavy weight squats, a strong core is vital to your balance. So what do I mean by “breathing is not bracing”? When you are standing, take a deep breath into your belly and brace your core; then slowly go down into the squat, hold your breath for one rep, come up and, when you are finished, breathe out. A lot of people have heard that when squatting they need to take a deep breath without bracing their core and once they are down in the squat they breathe out; it’s at this moment that they lose core stability, and when they try to come back up they lean forward instead of being upright. If you do not know how to properly brace your core by breathing, do not attempt heavy weights. A strong core can reduce your risk of injury, and can make you a lot stronger while doing weights.
Getting up from down there…
So you’re down there…now what? You have to get back up, right? Well, as with most things there is a good and a bad way. The good way to get back up from a deep squat is making sure your shoulders and hips rise at the same pace. If your hips rise while your shoulders stay the same level you end up hanging there with your ass in the air and your head down between your knees…that would be a twerk, not a squat. You risk not only looking ridiculous, but also falling over and seriously injuring yourself. One of the reasons this may happen is because your leg muscles aren’t strong enough. The human body is very smart and will shift the weight to a stronger muscle, namely the back. So, when you see you are leaning forward you need reduce the weights. Don’t shift your knees back, keep them forward, and raise your hips and shoulders at the same time.
On a personal note, don’t do heavy weight squats without a gym buddy. And like they say: down to Hell, up to Heaven…enjoy.
JC is a fitness instructor; if you want to contact him for one-on-one training add his WeChat: jc18370330856 (Chinese) or janihaupt (English)