Ok. So we all hate them. Doing too many can make it feel like you just rode a horse 300 miles. What am I talking about? Squats. However, the simple truth is that there is a tremendous therapeutic benefit to properly performing squats as well as one of the best exercises you can do at the gym. Squats recruit some of the biggest and most important muscles of the body. They burn more calories than most weight lifting exercises and will help burn fat in unsightly areas. So why do I as chiropractor care about squats?
Importance of Squats
Squats, if performed properly, can help stabilize and strengthen an individual’s low back and knees. It is a great tool that we utilize in our office constantly.
– Squats are a great way to burn calories and fat, as well as tone your body.
– They help to build muscle in your legs, butt, and core.
– Squats can improve your balance and stability.
– Stronger leg muscles can take pressure off of your back and knees.
What Muscles Do Squats Work?
Squats work the quadriceps (thigh muscles), glutes (buttocks), hamstrings (back of thigh), and calf muscles. They also indirectly work the muscles of the lower back and abdominal region.
How to do a Squat?
TIP 1: START WITH BODY WEIGHT.
Too often do individuals (gentlemen I am talking to you) want to increase weight before they work on the form of an exercise. Increasing weight too quickly can result in not getting the full benefit of the exercise, not properly engaging the correct muscles, and potential risk of serious injury. So if you are new to squats, or simply new to the proper squat form, start with only your body weight. (believe me, you can still achieve one heck of a workout with just your body weight.
TIP 2: WATCH YOUR KNEES. KEEP YOUR WEIGHT ON YOUR HEELS
When performing a squat your goal is to get your hip crease slightly below your knees. In doing so your knees should never pass over your feet! If your knees move forward over your feet in your descent all of your body weight will transfer forward to the balls of your feet. This creates an immense amount of anterior shear on the knee joint and in time or with heavy weight could potentially cause serious injury.
Ideally, you want your knees to stay right above your feet as your rear-end makes the descent to slightly below parallel. In this position, you should feel all of your body weight distributed through your heels. You know you are moving in the right direction if you feel like you are falling backward.
TIP 3: KEEP YOUR CHEST UP
As a chiropractor, I am constantly talking to my patients about low back safety and positioning. When it comes to performing a squat you want to make sure that all the work is being done with your legs and not your back. As you lower your body down you want to maintain the natural curve in your lower back. This is done by keeping your chest up and not letting your back round out.
If you have trouble with keeping your chest up a simple fix is to put a mat that is 1/2″ to 1″ thick under your heels. This will elevate your heels allowing your ankles more mobility to help keep your chest from falling forward or collapsing. Once you have this down try reducing the mat size or try it with no mat at all.
Click this link to watch a video discussing proper squat techniques.
Now that you know how to do a squat, let’s move on to some squat exercises.
The pistol squat is a single-leg squat where one leg is extended out in front of the body while the other supports the entire body. This is an advanced move that requires significant strength and balance. Start by holding your arms out in front of you for balance and then raise one leg off the ground. Keeping your chest up and back straight, lower yourself down as far as possible before exploding back up to the starting position. Complete all reps on one side before moving on to the other.
A squat jump is a plyometric exercise that will help improve your power and explosiveness. Start in a squat position with your feet shoulder-width apart and then jump as high as possible. Land softly back into the squat position and repeat. Try to keep your squat as shallow as possible to really engage your legs.
The standing squat is a great exercise for beginners who are looking to get used to the movement without any additional weight. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and then lower yourself down into a squat position. Be sure to keep your chest up and back straight throughout the entire movement. Once you have reached the bottom of the squat, raise yourself back up to the starting position. Complete all reps before moving on.
Don’t be intimidated by squats! If you are new to squats, or simply new to the proper squat form, start with only your body weight. You can still achieve one heck of a workout with just your body weight. As you become more comfortable with the movement and want to add additional weight, start with a barbell. You can then move on to dumbbells, kettlebells, and ultimately heavier weights. Remember to always focus on proper form and technique first and foremost.
Naperville Area Chiropractic Sports Medicine
And as always if you are limited in your daily activities or exercises due to what you feel is lower back, hip or knee pain an exam at our Naperville office with one of our chiropractic sports specialists.
If you’re suffering from lower back, hip or knee pain, we encourage you to schedule an appointment and exam at our Naperville office. Our chiropractic sports specialists are here to help get you back to your daily activities and exercises.
Thanks for reading!