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How to do squats

Hips hurting? Knees in pain? Back in shambles? I got you – here’s your 101 guide on how to do squats.

When I initially began weightlifting, my goal was to continually increase the load. Each visit I wanted to top my personal best. My misconception was that growth meant stacking more plates, workout after workout, which is nonsense for two reasons:


1. Performance is not linear. It will greatly depend on your hydration levels, food you’ve consumed that day, quality and quantity of sleep, as well as your overall energy and hormone levels.


2. The above is a surefire way to ruin your progress in record time by gaining an injury early on in your journey. Believe me. I have wrecked both my shoulder and my hip thanks to ego lifting.


Fast forward to today and I am in a significantly more sensible, mindful place in my fitness journey. I am not ashamed to say I will now take up a whole squat rack with my little 20kg bar. And you may tell yourself “that’s embarrassing” or “I’d feel so awkward” but people can judge and hate all they want, it doesn’t affect you. You are improving, just as they are. You are growing stronger, same as them.


Frankly, most of the time gym goers will be in their own little worlds, not paying you any attention. So, truthfully, you have nothing to worry about except yourself. Besides, 20kg is already an achievement to be acknowledged. If you’ve never gone to the gym before, you have likely only ever squatted your own body weight. So give yourself credit. You’re doing objectively well.




Form Essentials for Squats


Now that you have some context on the why, let’s get onto the how. You may be thinking: “I know how to do squats, who the hell doesn’t?”


It seems straightforward enough, I get that. But when I started my gym journey, squats were the one movement that consistently caused me prolonged pain and injury. In this guide, we'll delve into the importance of form and mobility when performing squats. By following these tips and techniques, you'll optimise your form and prevent unnecessary pain and heartbreak from needing to take time off the gym due to an avoidable injury.



Mastering Squat Technique: Dos and Don'ts


To ensure effective training, it's crucial to adhere to certain dos and avoid common pitfalls. Let's explore the key principles of squat technique:



“Dos”:

1. Feet Placement:

Optimal foot position is slightly wider than shoulder width, with a 45° outward angle. This foundation sets the stage for a stable squat. No further explanation needed, you got this, superstar.


2. Initiate the Movement:

Visualise sitting back onto an imaginary chair before bending at the knees. The hips are the first to engage, the knees follow.


3. Tuck the tailbone:

As a newbie all I could think when I heard this was “I have never once in my life consciously moved my tailbone.” This is the opposite of arching – maintain a neutral spine and "scoop" your hips forward, towards your belly button. This adjustment promotes proper alignment and stability.







4. Knee Positioning:

Don’t intentionally drive your knees forward. Depending on your physique they may travel beyond your toes, that’s okay as long as it doesn’t cause you pain or discomfort.



5. Check in on yourself:

Look at your form in the mirror, or record a video to watch later (I know this can feel embarrassing but you’re doing it for your health and safety).




“Don’ts”:

  1. Arch your back. You’re not doing a seductive diva dance. Keep your core tight and your back straight. I always use a lifting belt to keep my back from arching and my form steady.

  2. Overload. You are not Chris Bumsted, Arnold Schwarznegger or The Little Beast. Go easy. Remember, health and long-lasting strength are the goals, so allow yourself to build them slowly.



Safeguarding Your Squat Journey


To make the most of your squatting routine, it's essential to prioritise safety and make mindful choices.


  1. Monitor Your Form: Utilise a mirror or record a video of your squatting technique. This allows you to assess your form and make necessary adjustments.

  2. Listen to Your Body: Be attentive to any discomfort or pain during squats. Modify your technique or seek professional guidance to prevent injuries and optimise results.

  3. Gradual Progression: Patience is key. Focus on improving mobility and strength before increasing weights. Address flexibility or strength imbalances along the way.




The Cliff Notes version


Don’t be like me. Do your research. Mastering squats requires dedication, proper form, and a focus on mobility. By following the dos and avoiding the common pitfalls, you'll maximise your potential while safeguarding your well-being. Remember, your squat journey is a personal one, so embrace your progress, respect your body, go light, go slow, and be mindful.



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