The squat…one of my loves in life. There are few things as satisfying as standing up from a deep squat with a heavy bar on your back. With every fiber in your being striving to stand, your blood pumping so hard through your veins that you feel every heartbeat… it feels as if you’re one with the bar. Wanna get strong? Do squats.
Ah, but squats are bad for your knees right? Wrong. As Dan John says, “Squats aren’t bad for you knees. The way you squat is bad for you knees.” Squats train the glutes, the posterior chain, the quads and work on hip mobility. (huh, 4 out of 5 “musts” for knee health…)
Besides, humans, including their knees, are designed for squatting, as it’s the primary way to go from standing to sitting (and before chairs were widely used, we had a lot farther to go down, heck, most of Asia still squats instead of sits).
In my view, everyone has to poop therefore everyone should know how to squat.
Let us examine this delightful and essential movement.
- Heels shoulder width apart with your toes slightly out
- Pick up your big toes (JUST the big ones)
-SHOVE YOUR BUTT BACK FIRST!!!! If needed, put a box/bench behind you to give yourself a target, but REACH BACK with your tailbone. When this doesn’t happen, peoples’ knees give them the finger. If you bend at the knees and let them do all the work, they’re going to get pissed off and tell you to stop it. Let your hips do all the work, the knees only bend AFTER the hips initiate and control the movement. Continue to push your butt back throughout the descent.
-Keep you chest up, do not collapse onto your quads. You will look silly.
-CRACK YOUR WALNUT!!!
Seriously, life will be so much easier. Your glutes are the most powerful muscle group in the body. It would be wise to use them. Drive through you heels (remember, our big toes are still up) as you crack the walnut.
-DO NOT let your knees collapse in. Shove those suckers out! Turned in knees = unhappy knees. Sit to the outsides of your feet.
Here at SAPT we have kids start off squatting body weight to help grove the movement. From there we have them goblet squat.
Notice Mallory pushing her hips back, reaching for the mat, chest up, and then cracking her walnut (not shown) as she stands. We keep our athletes here until they can effectively goblet squat with 70 pounds. Then we move them to a barbell front squat:
Heavy weight not required right away. We also will continue to have a box behind our athletes just to help them continue to reach back with their butts. We’ve found that front squats help teach athletes to keep their chests up. We also work with a lot of overhead athletes and the back squatting can compromise their already over-used shoulder.
We will use the giant camber bar which just protects their shoulders.
However, should you use a barbell, have it rest just below your traps, grip it like you mean it and pull your elbows towards the wall in front of you. This will activate your lats and tighten up your trunk which will help you drive up from the bottom of the squat.
Soooo to sum:
Squats are NOT bad for you knees, they in fact help them when done correctly.
Shove your butt back.
Crack your walnut.
Keep big toes up, chest up and knees out.
Once again, I can expound for pages about squat benefits and techniques, but brevity is my middle name.
Get some weight in your hands or on your back and drop it like it’s hot.