To carry on with the last two week’s burpee variation theme, I am going to talk squats this week.
In my opinion, squats should almost always be butt to heels. SHOULD. Truth be told, most people can’t get there. In fact, the United States military once required the deep squat as part of their sniper training… so few recruits could do it that they removed the requirement.
Love or hate Crossfit, it has really brought the deep squat (and olympic lifting) into view and has dispelled the whole bad for your knees myth.
Things do go wrong though. The two big wrongs that I see most often are the heels coming up or the back rounding.
If your heels come up you likely lack enough mobility or balance to take it low. The good news is that increasing the depth of your squat incrementally is the easiest fix. That and in the case of mobility restriction, stretching your soleus.
So it also is with the rounded back. The hamstrings are usually the limiting mobility factor and cause the butt to tuck under or “wink”. However, the problem often lies in not engaging the hip flexors (think of pinching the front of the hip together) and/or lumbar extensors (keeping the tailbone lifted slightly as the butt drops). Often the entire back rounding in a hunched style is a balance thing, but it can also be tightness or just lack of body awareness.
All things considered, if you are over age 5 and haven’t had your squat assessed by a professional, chances are good that you’re doing it wrong.
So perfect your technique and then get creative.
1. Squat Jumps. You can go for height or speed, jump forward, jump sideways, jump backwards, kick your butt, tuck your knees. The sky is the limit. Just make sure to land softly (your feet should not make any noise and you should land low).
2. Single Leg Squats. The easiest way is to keep one leg reaching behind the other for counter balance, harder is keeping the ankles inline, harder still is reaching one leg out front as in a piston squat (grabbing your foot makes it easier but it’s still a big challenge – keep your weight forward and press through your heel).
3. Narrow Squat. This one’s otherwise known as a chair squat. Ensure your knees stay behind your toes.
4. Wide Squat. You can do it sumo style with your feet straight or plie style with your feet turned out. Make sure though that your feet and knees go in the same direction.
5. Back Squat. The bar goes on the shelf created by pulling your shoulders back, below your neck (not touching). It gets complicated when you talk high bar or low bar but a good rule is not on bones. It should not be uncomfortable.
6. Front Squat. You can go genie style with your arms crossed on your shoulders or on the same shoulders. You can use a bar or dumbbells. Keep your elbows up at the bottom, chest proud.
7. Squat to Side Leg Raise. You can add a straight leg raise at the top to get some extra booty work.
8. Squat Holds and Pulses. Try adding them in at different heights to work on a sticky spot or offer a challenge.
9. Wall Squat. You can usually hold these for much longer than an air squat. Keep your knees at 90 degrees if you can. They make a good option for folks with anterior knee pain.
10. Add Dumbbells. You can add a bicep curl, overhead triceps press, overhead press, lateral or front raise, or rear deltoid raise. Not only will your workout be cut in half but your core will need to work to harmonize the two. One caveat, although compound exercises are more functional, you won’t be able to lift as heavy.