How to Perform a Proper Squat

IMG_8423The Runs in Tutus sisters are currently in the middle of training for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon which is coming up quickly on May 8th! Whenever we’re preparing for a race like this, training runs are absolutely crucial, but cross-training is just as important. Incorporating strength training, mobility work and even a different type of cardiovascular exercise can greatly improve your performance as well as minimize the aches and pains that arise during long distance runs.

Today I wanted to talk about one of the most functional strength exercises you can do: SQUATS. It’s a movement we perform again and again throughout the day every single time we stand up out of a chair. It’s also a great exercise choice for runners because it targets running-specific muscles such as glutes and hamstrings. Long distance running is a great way to increase muscular endurance, but it isn’t the most efficient way to build muscular strength. That’s where exercises like squats come in. Strengthening the muscles in the glutes and legs allows us to run faster, increases our stability and protects our joints. As an added benefit, the glutes are the body’s largest muscle group which means that it requires a lot of energy to use them. In other words, you burn lots of calories doing squats because your body is working hard to use those big booty muscles.

To perform a proper squat follow these steps:

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips
  2. Look straight in front of you, not at the ceiling or the floor
  3. Put your weight in your heels (you might want to try lifting your toes up off the floor at first to get the idea)
  4. Keep your midsection tight
  5. Push your hips back and bend your knees (push your butt back FIRST then bend your knees.) It’s a gross image but the best way to describe it is imagine you are using a public toilet and trying not to sit completely on the seat.
  6. Once you get to the bottom, drive through your heels, squeeze your butt and abs, and stand back up

There are a few common mistakes that you want to look out for.

  • Direction of your knees: You want to keep your knees in line with your feet. A common mistake is the knees caving in as you squat. Think about pushing your knees out to stay in line with your toes. Whether you have your toes facing completely forward or slightly turned out doesn’t really matter in my opinion, as long as your knees and toes align. But if you are a big time fitness nerd then you probably know there are a million different theories and opinions on this.

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  • Position of the chest: Bring your shoulders down and back and try to keep your chest up. When you lean your chest forward, you are taking the weight off of where we want it and your glutes are doing less work. It’s also putting more stress on your lower back. If you’re having trouble squatting with your chest up, try just sitting onto a chair then standing back up until you get stronger.

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  • Not driving your hips back: A lot of people will try to just bend their knees and not drive the hips back. When you do this, your heels will probably come up off the ground and your knees will trace way in front of your toes. This is not so great for your knees and it’s also pretty much taking your glutes out of it. Remember – butt back first!

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So how low should you squat? This really depends on your flexibility and your body. A healthy range of motion is to squat until your thighs are parallel with the floor. If you can squat lower than that without compromising your form, then go for it because that’s even better.

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If you can’t squat to parallel at first, don’t sweat it. You can still improve your strength by doing a small range of motion. Also remember that everyone’s squat is a little different. Here is one of my favorite stretches for opening up the hips to allow for a deeper squat. Make sure you keep the heels down just like you would in a squat.

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My final advice is for anyone who feels intimidated by doing strength training at the gym, because I hear that all the time from friends and clients. Don’t be. Everyone at the gym is too busy worrying about themselves to care about what you are doing. Just get in there and do your thing. Channel your inner Mulan. You know she felt out of place at first, but then she saved China.

Go get ’em!

– Amanda

 

Comments

  1. Great post! The knee buckle photo is hilarious (love the shirt though).

  2. Thanks for the tips! I love that you showed correct and incorrect form just to make sure we got it right.

Trackbacks

  1. […] of exercises you can try such as squats and floor bridges. For more on that, check out our posts on how to perform a proper squat and best exercises for runners. The goal is to actually feel those muscles contracting when you run […]

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