Island Fit: The Squat

Island Fit: The Squat

Khalid Kohgadai

There are a myriad of tasks that a person who calls themselves healthy can perform. Squatting is one of them. Now I'm not talking about slapping a heavy barbell across your back and squatting (though that does provide immense health benefits); I'm referring to a basic body weight squat. It's a very natural movement and one that Mother Nature intended for us to perform multiple times in a day, so imagine what types of mobility and flexibility issues could arise from not doing it.

How to perform a squat (video included below):
• Put your feet roughly shoulder width apart.
• Put your arms out in front of you like a zombie then raise them up about 45 degrees.
• Contract your abdominal muscles as though you're bracing for a punch to the stomach, pinch your shoulder blades back and puff out your chest.
• Start the movement by pushing your hips back as though your hands are full of groceries and your trying to close the car door with your butt and simultaneously bending your knees.
• Keep lowering your butt until your hip socket lower than your your knees.
• Contract your butt muscles, push your heels into the ground and stand back up to the starting position.

Key Points:
• Keep your chest up and your back straight. There should be no bending in your spine at all.

Common errors:
• Back rounds and and spine doesn't stay rigid.
• Short range of motion - hips don't go down far enough.
• Heels come off of the ground when lowering.
• Knees pull in towards each other when bending

Fixes:
• Back rounds - Squat while facing a counter or a high table. Keep your arms raised as instructed but don't let them touch the counter as you descend.
• Short range of motion - Nine times out of 10, the cause of this is a fear that you'll fall if you go too low. Find a stool, step or other object that's shorter than knee height and place it under your butt as a safety net. Squat down and keep descending until you reach the proper depth. If you fall, that's okay. Just follow these directions. Stack some phone books or other items onto your stool so that if you were to sit down on it, you would be at the ideal squat depth. Squat over this with the goal of slightly tapping your butt and then immediately standing back up. It's okay if you don't have the control to only tap and your forced to completely sit down. Simply tighten your butt muscles and stand back up. As long as with each attempt, you're TRYING to tap, you'll eventually succeed.
• Heels come off of the ground - Before descending, shift your weight so that the majority of it is on your heels and that the very front tips of your feet are slightly off of the ground. Lightly place the tips of your feet back onto the ground but keep the majority of on your heels. At this point, squat as normal. You can also imagine that about two inches away from your knees is pane of glass. As you squat, don't let your knees touch this imaginary pane.
• Knees pull in - Imagine that about there are targets on the outsides of your knees, about two inches out. As you squat, push your knees outward and reach for the imaginary targets. If this still doesn't work, stand in a doorway and think of the sides of the doorway as your target. You probably won't actually touch them (unless you're Yao Ming or Shaquille O'Neal) but having something tangible to reach for will help. Also, pretend that there is a paper towel under both of your feet and as you squat, you're also trying to tear the paper towel in half with the bottoms of your feet. This movement activates the muscles that externally rotate the hip joints and simultaneously deactivates the muscles that contract when the knees pull inward.

Now, if these fixes have little to no effect and you still can't perform a proper squat as I've described, your problems are beyond technique. You've got some mobility and flexibility problems that need to be addressed, which I'll get to in future blogs. Assuming you can squat properly with these fixes, you need to start adding the movement to your regimen. Perform three sets of 10 squats with at least one minute of rest between sets. Do them at least three times per week on non-consecutive days. Once you've mastered the weightless squat, you'll be ready to add some resistance, but we'll save that for a future blog. Stay tuned!