Squatting is thought of as the simplest way to work your core abdominal muscles and lower body and legs PLUS your pelvic floor BUTT (mispelling intended since squats work your glutes) BUT many people do them wrong and approach them incorrectly. And if you squat poorly, you won’t get the results you want like a flatter tummy and perkier tush. Below you will find some easy to understand tips and this video I filmed specifically to help you break down the basic squat.

“Bottom” line: Squats are important for building a truly strong belly and body, and they’re a wonderful alternative to crunches {read why I hate those here} butt even if you have sore knees and bad flexibility, you can gradually improve you squat and eliminate the pain involved. However, not everyone will approach squats the same way. I’ve provided some great approaches in the video, but you may have limitations that you need to work around as discussed in this article by Brett Contreras {The Glute Guy} here and in the articles he links. Meanwhile, keep reading…

T I P S

Knees over ankles – You should be able to look down and see your toes. Your knees should not hide your toes when you squat. If you hang a plumb line off your knee cap, it should hit the shoelaces of your shoes, not your toes, not the floor. This reduces the pressure on the patellar tendon that houses your kneecap (patella). In a deep squat where the knees go past the toes, the patella is crushed against the cartilage behind it, yet it still has to provide leverage as your quads work to haul you out of the squat and stand up. The greater friction of greater pressure creates greater breakdown of your knee structure over time. This is a maintenance issue.

Natural Curves – For a long time, we group fitness instructors were told to instruct our classes to have “flat backs” while squatting. No curves. But if you get in front of a mirror and get down into a squat, and your spine arranges itself to have no curves AND YOU TRY TO STAND UP in that “no curve” position AND WALK without curves AND LIVE without curves, how will that bear out over time? I believe we should train the way we want to live. The way you position your body in the mirror while exercising should be the same way we position our bodies while walking, standing, sitting… We need our natural curvature, and if you’ve lost it, we’ll show you how to find it in our workouts!

Wiggle Toes – Can you wiggle your toes while squatting? If not, your weight is too far forward. Your weight needs to be balanced in your arches, and more toward your heels so you can drive with the heels as you come up and recruit the kinetic chain up the back of your legs (i.e. calves, hamstrings, glutes, low back)

Knees in line with middle toe – No matter what type of squat you’re doing (or any sport for that matter) if your knee is going one way and your feet another, there is bound to be a problem. We see this happen in the blink of an eye in football all the time: knee goes one way, foot goes the other, game comes to a halt. If you’re going slow like in a focused squat, that problem might not happen today but rather next year as you break down your supportive fascia by twisting it out of alignment over time. We think we’re getting away with poor form because “it’s not hurting me right now.” Oh really?

Just because you can’t see it or feel it today, that doesn’t mean change {good or bad} isn’t happening.

Should you stop if you pop? – Yes and no. If popping hurts or reduces your range of motion, you should see a doc fairly soon. If one big pop leaves you writhing in pain, go see a doc right away! If the popping is small, and doesn’t hurt, and seems to go away once you’re warmed up, then it’s likely a release of tension. It could also be some adhesions in your fascia being scrubbed against by other fascia. Have you ever felt an old knotty scar like a bump under your finger? When a tendonous area hasn’t been exercised in a while (or has an actual scar from an old injury) adhesions build up, and you might feel tiny pops as those get workout out. Check out the c-section scar massage video on this page!

Feel the stretch – At the top of a squat when you’re standing, you should feel your hips pressing open (but don’t go elvis-pelvis on yourself thrusting forward too much) and at the bottom of a squat, you should feel a gentle stretch under your booty where your hamstring connect to your butt. If you don’t feel this – and I’m not talking a deep yoga stretch – gentle lengthening, then your hips might not be in neutral. Visualize a line from your ears, shoulders, mid-ribs, hip bone, and pubic bone AND KEEP THAT LINE with its natural curves through the whole squat.

Assist your calves – As shown in the video, if you have tight calves that freak out and don’t let you get as deep into your squat as your thighs and hips are willing to go, then they are inhibiting the whole process, and you need to throw them a bone. Make the mad dog happy for a few minutes while you get your business done, and pretty soon that dog (your calves) will stop snapping at you and let you go deep on a regular basis without special assistance.

Squat more – Your body needs more squatting that just 2 supersets at the gym and a few more in your zumba class. People in third world countries squat a LOT more than we who have chairs, car seats, riding lawn mowers, stoves, toilets. We are made to squat. So my challenge to you is how many times throughout your day can you squat to get things instead of bending over (which is harder on your belly anyway) and could manage to spend just 4% of your day squatting?

Side Note: Normally I’m not a fan of those sweat pants with letters on the booty, because my bum isn’t a part of my body that I really care to have people reading (one more thing that makes me weird as a fit pro is that I’m not in this business for the superficial sex appeal of body sculpting… if the “look” of fitness is all that motivates you, that isn’t enough motivation to the mom too exhausted to think straight after getting up 5 times every night with her child(ren). However, I have these britches that say “Athletic Department” across my backside, and I get such a kick out of them because your arse {which is NOT a bad word in the UK but “fanny” is and I had a good laugh with a member from across the drink about her shock over me saying that in my videos because it’s not a bad word here in the States ;) } anyway, your bum is truly the container of some of your most powerful propulsion muscles, AND your gluteals are very much a part of your core + your glutes share some of the same attachments as your pelvic floor muscles {read: your true bottom} so they are co-activators and like to flex together as buddies.

Unlike the most basic core-focused programs out there, here at Fit2B Studio we get the whole body moving in just about every video, paying careful attention to functional alignment and life integration {i.e. How does this move show up in your everyday waking humdrum?}. It’s true that we start small, but we rapidly progress every member into larger movements as they’re ready. Check out our “Start Here” page {click!} and you can preview all our workout pathways. Thanks for reading!


11 comments:

  1. Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-94 alignnone photo of Jessica A.
    Jessica

    May 27, 2014 at 12:54 pm

    Thank you! That was all very helpful and informative! I am excited to get started on these suggestions. I do have one question. Would you mind sharing some specific shoe information with us? I am in the market for some new shoes and would really to get some minimal shoes. However, there are so many choices. It would be great to have a suggestion from some one I trust who has actually worn the shoes! Thanks!

    Reply
    • Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-94 alignnone photo of Beth Learn
      Beth Learn

      May 28, 2014 at 11:04 am

      Jessica, shoes vary by brand throughout the world, but I can share 3 basic tips:
      1. Your shoe needs to let your foot do it’s thang. Too much support creates weakness.
      2. Your shoe should be more flexible than me ;)
      3. Your shoes shouldn’t make you {much} taller than God made you :D
      P.S. No flip-flops (or thongs as they call them, but that gets confused with g-strings :O )
      Sandals shouldn’t have you curling your toes to keep them on.

      Reply
  2. Karen@NourishWithKaren

    May 28, 2014 at 8:53 am

    GREAT POST!!! I cannot squat and have asked trainer after trainer to help me… with no constructive guidance! You Rock! Thanks so much! I will be doing these exercises often!

    Reply
  3. Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-94 alignnone photo of Debbie Robson
    Debbie Robson

    June 3, 2014 at 6:11 am

    Hi Bethany!

    I have a question about the way that I squat. I’m pretty sure that I’m doing it wrong?
    Often when I squat, my legs are separated, like a V, so my knees are farther apart than my hips, not close together in front of me, but rather out to the sides. I’m quite comfortable in this position, and I have my feet flat, and my back is (I think) in good alignment,..but…my knees are separated and out to the sides. (hmmm…I guess I kinda resemble a frog?) Is this wrong? I feel like my tummy needs the room! lol…. but maybe that’s just hiding some weakness and inflexibility.

    Reply
    • Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-94 alignnone photo of Debbie Robson
      Debbie Robson

      June 3, 2014 at 3:46 pm

      I should probably clarify, that my feet and knees are in line… so knee over middle toe and all that….it’s just that my legs are froggy, to the sides more, not straight out in front of me.

      Reply
      • Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-94 alignnone photo of Beth Learn
        Beth Learn

        June 3, 2014 at 3:54 pm

        Oh this such a great question, Debbie! You’re not doing it “wrong” at all if you alignment is “right.” Froggy legs are so comfy, and provided your knees are in line with your toes, you’re good to go. Ultimate hamstring and hip and spine flexibility is tested and found and improved in the more narrow stance, but that doesn’t make wider stances wrong. In fact, most women give birth in a wider squat, right? :)

        Reply
  4. Jessica @ConveyAwareness

    June 16, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Fantastic demo on correct form squats. I will be linking to this in my upcoming 10-day awareness challenge 1-10 July. My Tabata instructor showed me how to do them correctly after years of doing them wrong. Pinned! =)

    Reply
  5. Daja at The Provision Room

    September 11, 2014 at 11:33 am

    I hate flip flops! Now I have a legitimate reason to say so! :-)

    Reply
  6. Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-94 alignnone photo of Amy
    Amy

    November 20, 2014 at 9:18 am

    Excellent video! I have not been able to do a squat with my feet flat since I was a kid. And I thought it was because in have short legs! ;)

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Researching Diastasis Recti and 3 TummySafe Gym Routines - Fit2B studio

  8. Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-94 alignnone photo of
    Dolores E

    November 25, 2014 at 6:45 am

    I’m glad to hear my “froggy squats” are okay. I’ve always done it that way. When I lived overseas, many were surprised when I would join them on the floor in the train station. It seemed only natural!

    Reply

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