You don’t like to squat a whole heck of a lot. Why? More than likely you are squatting with bad form. The majority of people squat poorly and risk squat injuries. If you squat with good form you will build strength in your back and knees and keep this mobility well into your later years.
If you squat in the gym don’t go heavy until you have perfected your form. This should be true of any exercise.
Don’t let your ego get the best of you. Developing perfect form with just body weight or an empty barbell is a good workout in its own right.
Besides, laying a solid foundation of great squatting form will prevent injury and be the source of great results (not to mention great legs).
Things to look out for when you squat to get great form:
Your feet can be placed anywhere from shoulder width to 6”- 12” wider than shoulder width. Choose what is most comfortable for you. If you have a difficult time squatting, go a little wider than shoulder width (i.e. 6”).
Your weight should be distributed over your whole foot. If you find at any time during the squat you are shifting the majority of your weight onto the balls of your foot you need to make an adjustment. If your weight is on the balls of your feet you are putting the pressure on your knees and lower back, as opposed to where it should be, your hips.
Many people have tight hips which causes this shift of weight to the front of the foot. The solution is to squat as low as you can before this shift in weight. Just stop your squat depth at the point before your weight starts to shift forward.
Stretch your hips regularly and attempt to deepen your squat while keeping the weight on the whole foot. Your depth will come in time.
Immediately as you start to squat you should reach back with your butt as if you are reaching for a chair that’s just within reach. Often times there will come a point during the squat where a person’s butt will tuck-in. This is again typically due to tight hips. Again, practice squatting to a depth before your hips tuck-in and work on developing flexibility in your hips.
Your back should be as straight as an arrow for the duration of the whole squat. That doesn’t mean you can’t bend over! You can bend over quite a bit as long as you keep your back straight. In fact, if you are tight in the hips, bending over and reaching back with your butt will allow you to squat deeper.
If at any point this straight back is compromised you will need to adjust your form as above.
How should a squat feel?
This may be a more important indicator for how to squat because if you know how it should feel, good form typically follows. When you squat it should feel as though you are lifting the weight as if it was sitting on top of your butt.
Even if you have a barbell with weight on your shoulders you need to make a mental connection of the weight to this “top of the butt”. In doing so you will naturally push your hips back as you squat, keeping a straight back and keeping the weight on your whole foot as you squat.
Lastly, squat depth: how low should you go?
A good rule is to work up to a depth where the tops of your thighs are parallel to the floor. Should you squat deeper? As in all-the-way down? You can if you can do it with good form, remember to make the hips do the majority of the work. If you can perfect this form you will actually strengthen your knees and lower back and keep that strength for many years to come.