Updated: Aug 11, 2018
You probably sit in a chair many times throughout your day, whether it’s at work, in front of the t.v., on the beach, or at your favorite restaurant in El Valle de Guadalupe. You are probably even sitting in a chair right now while reading this post! Sitting is great. It’s relaxing, allows us to do desk work without fatigue, and we’ve made pretty awesome chairs throughout the years to accommodate for more sitting. However, sitting is also poor for your health, mobility and overall quality of life.
“But I have to sit!” You say in response. Trust us, we at La Misión Fitness & Yoga get it. There are several reasons we sit during the day, and many are unavoidable (like driving). The good news though, is that there is one exercise that specifically corrects most of the issues with sitting, and that is the DEEP SQUAT.
Squatting is something our bodies are made to do. If you have ever watched a toddler or any young child play outside, you’ve probably noticed how they pick things up. Toddlers almost always perform perfect squats to pick up toys, look at bugs, or to transition into a crawling position. We lose this ability as we age unfortunately, due to sitting, wearing poorly designed footwear, chronic and acute injuries, and loss of general flexibility.
However, this deep squat pattern can be re-learned, and we have a few tricks and tools at La Misión Fitness & Yoga to help get you there.
How to Squat
To begin the exercise, stand in a neutral position, with your feet under your hips at about shoulder width. Initiate the squat by breathing in deeply through the nose to brace the spine and the core muscles, while simultaneously pressing your hips back like one would when sitting down. It is important to move at the hips first instead of the knees. ‘Hinging’ at the hips places the body’s weight on the stronger hip muscles and not on the weaker knee joint.
Next let the knees bend following the hips in order to descend the torso as low as possible. It might be difficult to descend very far at first, and this is okay. With more practice and some accessory work it’s possible to achieve the “below parallel” depth within 2-3 weeks.
Now that the torso is as far as it will go, press into the floor and stand back up to the starting position. Extend the knees, and finally the hips, while also breathing out through the mouth until you are right back where you started. Congratulation! You just completed a perfect squat.
What most people do wrong when squatting is bending the knees first. This puts pressure on the knee joint, and it is this technique that is attributed to most of the knee pain complaints associated with squatting.
Other mistakes are not keeping the spine long and braced, or letting the chest drop, resulting in a ‘C’ shape, or ‘hunched back’ position. The spine has a natural ‘S’ curve that we want to support throughout the squat. Bending at the upper or lower back can put shear forces on our vertebrae, which can cause pain or injury.
The last common mistake is called “knee valgus” and is seen most often with women, but men are just as able to do this as well. Knee valgus or valgus collapse, is when at some point in the squat the knees cave inward, instead of staying over the feet. This is also associated with knee pain, and can be a serious problem if not corrected.
Regression and Progression of the Squat
Squatting is not easy for everyone at the very beginning, so we use a strategic squat progression at La Misión Fitness & Yoga. We like to assess someone’s squat technique first, as everyone’s body is different and previous injuries or mobility issues can limit the available improvements.
After the assessment we like to have our members try a squat or two on our Smart-Squat Board. This is an ingenious device that facilitates hip movement first. Essentially it makes it almost impossible to squat without placing your body weight back on your hips and heels. If muscular strength is an issue we might have the client squat using a TRX Suspension Strap. This allows the member to use their arms to assist in the movement.
These two steps typically fix the majority of the problem, and we see clients dramatically improve their squat technique in one session. Other protocols like myofascial release, accessory exercises, exercise bands or a specific yoga/Pilates sequence might also be used for some clients who are having more difficulty, but we can’t give all of our secrets away online.
-Corey Evans, CSCS, CISSN