In addition to constructing super powerful glutes, squatting — and squatting heavy — comes with all sorts of health advantages. But with so many individuals interested in lifting heavy (like, really heavy) here’s a amiable PSA: It’s more significant to squat with proper form than it is to squat heavy. Full stop.
“The back squat necessitates and builds strength, flexibility, mobility, and coordination. But if you’re not squatting well, you’re only accessing a fraction of your athletic ability,” suggests Dave Lipson, C.S.C.S., a CrossFit Level 4 Trainer and founder of Thundrbro, an educational fitness platform.
You might be wondering, “then how can I achieve perfect squat form?” Two words: squat therapy. Below, everything you need to know about using squat therapy to achieve impeccable squat form.
Why Should You Be Squatting
Before delving into squat therapy, it’s crucial to acknowledge how vital squatting is to everyday life. And that can be accomplished in one simple sentence: “If you went to the bathroom this morning, you did a squat,” points out Alan Shaw, a certified CrossFit Level 2 Coach and owner of Rhapsody Fitness in Charleston, South Carolina.
Even if you’re never going to add weight to your squat — even if you don’t exercise at all — squatting correctly is fundamental to moving safely through life. “Every person needs to be able to move through this range of motion,” says Shaw. That’s where squat therapy comes in.
How Squat Therapy Can Help You Achieve Perfect Squat Form
Disclaimer: This has nothing to do with a psychologist or psychiatrist’s office. “Squat therapy is just a cute name for the practice of refining the positions of the squat so that it’s more mechanically advantageous,” says Lipson. “It’s something that helps point out the weaknesses in your squat and enhance them,” he adds.
More specifically, the drill forces you to use the “tripod foot” (i.e., maintain equal pressure through your big toe, little toe, and heel), sit back through your hips, and keep a tall back and neutral spine — all aspects of good squat form, according to Laura Su, NCSA-C.S.C.S., strength and conditioning coach and owner of LS Training.
Devoid of maintaining an equilibrium through your feet, reclining in your hips, and remaining erect and unbiased in your spinal column, you would encounter difficulties with this exercise,” she affirms.
You don’t even require a rack or full gym setup to attempt squat rehabilitation. You simply need something to perch on, such as a seat, remedy ball, plyo box, bench, or stack of weight plates; a wall; and a mirror, a coach, or a phone so you can record yourself.
“To begin, I’ll obtain a remedy ball and a few 10-pound plates that I can pile beneath the ball to raise it if necessary,” clarifies Shaw. “Then I have the athlete stand 12 to 24 inches away from the wall, but facing it. Then I’ll instruct them to slowly squat to depth,” he continues.
Note: The elevation of the platform you’re squatting your buttocks onto will depend on your hip, ankle, and thoracic flexibility and strength, but 18 to 24 inches tall is a good starting point. “If you struggle with squat depth, my significant advice is to continue squatting,” says Su. “You can certainly perform individual joint mobilizations and spend time working on hip and ankle mobility, but squats are the best way to enhance your squat,” she remarks.
To attempt squat rehabilitation, squat down to the target on a three- to five-second count and quickly stand up on a count of one, suggests Shaw. Lowering gradually enables you to engage and strengthen all the muscles involved in the full range of motion of a squat. “If you practice the movement slowly, you’re training your body to maintain proper form once you accelerate the squat, similar to a real workout,” says Shaw. If you descend too rapidly, you probably won’t activate all the muscles that should be engaged during a squat, which defeats the purpose.
From here, Shaw states that he’ll instruct more advanced athletes to extend their arms above their head with palms facing the wall and thumbs touching, and execute a squat without allowing their hands to touch the wall. Squatting in this position helps you sustain an upright torso (think: proud chest) when you’re squatting. One caveat: Squatting with your arms overhead is an advanced position, and some individuals will find that their thoracic spine is actually too tight to do this. As with most things in fitness, if you’re experiencing discomfort, cease.
Over time (indicating weeks or even months), you’ll develop more control in your squat. “You never graduate from squat rehabilitation,” says Shaw. Instead, you can gradually reduce the target that you’re squatting to, move closer to the wall, and narrow your stance. Even when you attain the apex of squat rehabilitation — descending below parallel, in good form, standing up against the wall — squat rehabilitation serves as a beneficial warm-up, he says.
How to Refine Your Squat Technique Utilizing Squat Rehabilitation
A. Either stack two 10-pound weight plates with a hefty medicine ball on top or place a bench, box, or chair (18 to 24 inches tall) about 2 to 3 feet from the wall.
B. Stand facing the wall, about two shoe lengths away from the wall — so that buttocks would touch the ball or the edge of the box if squatting. Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes turned 15 to 30 degrees outward.
C. Keeping chest erect, take a deep breath in, activate core muscles, and maintain direct gaze. (If advanced, extend arms overhead at this point.) Push hips back, bend at knees, and descend into a squat so that knees align with ankles and toes, but do not extend forward past toes. Continue to descend slowly on a 3- to 5-second count into the squat until either spine starts to curve and chest begins to lean forward, or buttocks touch the ball — whichever occurs first.
D. Keeping core muscles engaged, quickly return to a standing position by propelling hips forward and exhaling during the ascent. (The upward phase of the squat should take approximately 1 count compared to the 3- to 5-count descent.)
Need more challenge? If so, decrease the height by removing one of the weight plates. Still too easy? Remove another plate. Once the medicine ball is too elevated, move closer to the wall.
Consider practicing squat therapy as a five-minute EMOM (Every Minute On the Minute), meaning that every minute, on the start of a new minute, perform five to seven slow air squats, as suggested by Shaw.
How to Perfect Good Squat Technique Without a Trainer or Coach
Ideally, when attempting squat therapy for the first time, it is best to have a knowledgeable coach or trainer available to provide guidance. If that is not feasible, you should perform squat therapy in front of a mirror, allowing you to observe a side view of your body as you squat, according to Shaw. This may require self-monitoring, but it will also promote self-awareness of the squatting motion.
No mirror? Recording a video of yourself from the side can serve a similar purpose, as mentioned by Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, a certified CrossFit Level 3 Trainer and founder of Féroce Fitness. Here’s what to observe: What is the position of your spine during the squat? Does it maintain a neutral alignment or start to curve? If it curves, adjust the platform you are squatting on to halt you before reaching that point. Are your hips moving backward? Do your knees align with your toes? Is your torso upright?
Undoubtedly, it can be challenging to determine whether you are executing the squat technique flawlessly without expert feedback. Try watching numerous videos of people squatting and then compare your own video to theirs, as recommended by Leblanc-Bazinet.
There are several locations to visit on Instagram for tips on how to achieve proper squat form: The official CrossFit Instagram, powerlifter and 25x all-time world record holder Stefi Cohen, and the #powerlifting hashtag are all great places to begin.
The Usage of Squat Therapy In Your Routine
You really can’t go overboard with squat therapy — and, in reality, it’s something that you should do each day, according to Leblanc-Bazinet. “It’s the same as brushing your teeth. You do it every day. It will not harm you if you do a lot of it,” she remarks. This holds true whether you’re enthusiastic about excelling at barbell squats in the fitness center or simply getting up and down in your office chair.
Need evidence? Leblanc-Bazinet has been practicing squat therapy on a daily basis for 10 years and she emerged victorious in the CrossFit Games in 2014. Sufficiently stated.
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