Training3rd March 2017
Build a better squat
Squatting is an important motor development milestone during childhood development, as well as a fundamental movement pattern in adults. The ability to deep squat as a child not only allowed us to bend down and pick up objects – but also to sit with ease. In addition, it was an important precursor to efficient upright locomotion. As adults, we have forgotten how to squat to the floor with ease, mostly through lack of practice and lack of skill. In the modern environment, chairs have largely replaced the need to sit on the floor; in addition, poor-fitting footwear has also immobilised our feet and ankles. This combined lack of mobility in the feet, ankles and hips, has reduced our ability to squat to the floor. In this tutorial, we will teach you the basics of the deep squat. Take time to re-master control of posture and balance, along with economy of effort. When you have done this, you can improve strength further by adding load. With practice, your deep squat will become skilful, purposeful and playful.
BODY POSITIONBefore performing the movement, let's take a closer look at what is required in terms of stability and mobility during optimal squatting.
- Ankle mobility should be sufficient to allow the knees to pass over the toes by a few inches
- Hip mobility should be sufficient to allow the thighs to come close to the torso
- Thoracic mobility should be sufficient to allow for a relaxed rounding of the upper back during a restful squat
- Stand with feet slightly wider than hip width apart, toes pointing out comfortably
- When ready, slowly lower your hips to the floor, aiming to drop them as close to your heels as possible; the head will drop slightly forwards of the hips. Imagine you are sitting down on your heels, and reach the arms forward for balance if necessary
- If you can squat and remain balanced, hold for up to 10sec before slowly returning to standing. Repeat 6-8 times
- If you feel unbalanced (falling backwards) as you squat, it is likely you have limited mobility in the ankles and/or hips. Use the troubleshooting guide below to mobilise these areas
- Don't worry if you find it challenging. What you may perceive as lack of strength, is more likely a lack of stability and control. As stability improves, so will your strength
- If the ankles feel tight and preventing full range of motion, try some simple ankle rotations to mobilise. Lack of flexibility in the calf muscles may also contribute to lack of range in the squat. Therefore, foam rolling and stretching of the calves may also help, prior to squatting. Although improvements in flexibility will take time, you can assist your squat by raising the heels by 1-2 inches using a block or rolled up mat. As your ankle mobility and calf flexibility improves, slowly reduce the amount of heel raise until you are flat on the floor.
- If the hips are tight during the deep squat, try foam rolling and stretching the hamstrings, glutes, adductors and hip flexors. Another way to mobilise the hips is to hold onto a bar as you squat. When you get to the point of tightness, hold the bar and gently bounce up and down for 10sec, before stretching further into the squat.
- As your squatting technique improves, build stability and control through longer holds and repetitions
- To improve your movement in and out of the squat, explore movement flows. For example, moving from a squat into a crawl; a squat into a crab walk; or a squat into a push up
- When you have good control of the bodyweight squat, add load (if necessary) using barbells, kettle bells, dumbbells, medicine balls and core bags