Focus On: Squats

Hey, hey! How’s your week going so far? As fantastic as you hoped? If not, check out SMART Goals– a guide to re-evaluate and start anew, if needed!

As an exercise instructor, health coach, and fitness professional, I feel like it is a personal duty of mine to teach proper form in exercises, to motivate people to accomplish hard things, and to provide encouragement and feedback. I LOVE it.

BodyPUMP is part of my life--my hair, now that's another story

And because I like to write as well, you lucky folks get to hear some of that ‘duty and motivation’ on here too 😉

Focus On : SQUATS

Did you know that your legs are important? Duh! Well yes. There are over 20 muscles in each leg that support movement, mobility, posture, strength, and balance. Those muscles are taken for granted wayyyyy too often, that is until one is injured, sore, or in pain.

The reason why squats can be such a powerful move is because squats work almost all of the muscles in the leg. Most trainers, fitness classes, and professionals include squats (and the variety of squats) for clients and persons seeking better fitness and health.

{I love squats. As a BodyPUMP instructor, the squats track is definitely my favorite track!}

Here is the proper alignment and cues for a back squat:

source

  • the barbell is on the meaty part of the back with the elbows pointed down (and aligned with the bar)
  • the heels are right outside of hips, with the toes turned slightly outward
  • to squat, sit back and slide the butt back and down toward the knee level
  • the squat movement ends when the butt hits the level right above knee level
  • as the person rises out of the squat, press the body’s weight into the heels (i.e. drive through the heels), NOT the toes
  • the whole time keep the chest lifted, abdominals pulled in and tight <—to protect the lower back

Proper alignment and cues for a plie squat (holding dumbbells):

source

  • heels are aligned outside of hips, toes turned to side walls
  • sink straight down, keeping the hips tucked under and the abdominals pulled in
  • chest is lifted, abdominals tight
  • at the bottom of the squat the knees are about mid-foot level, never beyond the toes
  • to rise out of the squat, squeeze the inner thighs and press the body weight into the heels

General guidance:

  • If the lower back hurts while doing squats, it is because the abdominals are being pulled by gravity to the floor, putting all the weight and pressure into the lower spine. To fix this, brace the abdominals by pulling them in <—not sucking in, but ‘bracing’ the core.
  • If the knees go over the toes, the knees will eventually be injured. DO NOT let the knees go over the toes.
  • In a squat, if you can not wiggle your toes during the movement, the weight needs to be transferred to the heels. This allows for greater work and activation of the gluteal and hamstring muscles as well.
  • If your doctor tells you not to do squats, then don’t.
  • If the squat movement goes lower than the knee level, the knees and/or other muscles may be injured.
  • Use the mirrors to guide the proper movement. If proper form is not kept, time is wasted!
  • Don’t keep using the same weight(s) month after month. Strength comes as the muscles are overloaded. ‘Nuff said.

I hope this helps. Squats can be a very powerful way to build lean, strong muscle! Because there is so much potential for muscle strength in the legs (hello, large muscle group!), there is also huge potential (overtime) to lower overall percent of body fat, burn more calories while at rest, and become a lean, fit machine :)

Workout today:

about a year ago he could catch me......now, not so sure ;)

I know I can run faster now (as compared to a year ago) because of those strong legs that have come from hours of weight training. Squats WORK!

What is YOUR favorite way to do a squat?? Learn anything new today??

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Comments

  1. I love one-legged squats! (only for those without knee issues though!) RAWR…once I’m back up again from the squat I feel like wonder woman! Thanks for the tips!

  2. Great post and cueing points too. I teach a full body strength training class and my favorite parts are
    always squats and lunges. Such great exercises!

  3. Squats are killer! Great “Focus On” post!

  4. I just found your blog and love your informative post! I agree squats are the way to go, I’m healing from an ankle injury so having to find other ways to keep in shape. But very soon, I hope to get back to those squats!

    • Thanks for stopping by! Sorry to hear about your injury-but with the way the positive vibes are sounding, you’ll be back at it in NO time 😉

  5. Ruthann says:

    Just found this while searching for an answer on doing squats. I just received my Les Mills “pump” at home package and I am curious about something. I can’t seem to get the bar down behind my neck on the meaty part. Not sure if it’s because my upper body is..well, too fat or what. I can manage to get right below the base of the neck and of course that’s not a good spot. I am able to go lower if I put my hands outside of the weights toward the ends of the bar, would this create any problems?

    • YAH for Les Mills PUMP! It’s a great program :)

      I bet that is frustrating to not hurt yourself! Here are some tips : the ‘meaty’ part of the back is below the shoulders, and when you keep your shoulders down, you can feel that shelf. If you can’t just place the bar below the neck but above the blades. TO HELP you do this, make sure your elbows are RIGHT below the bar (not in front or behind), that your chest is lifted, and the abs are braced. Everyone has that spot, so don’t worry-it just comes with time figuring it all out :)

      Hope that helps! Have a great day!

  6. negzz says:

    hey i have a question
    There’s a problem with my neck and lower spine. do u think it’s ok to do squats and body pump? could they be dangerous for my spine? I mean i know I have to talk to my doctor about this. but do u know it’s ok or not?

  7. Hi Annette,

    Love your stuff! I just had a question about the squat track in body pump. At the moment I am squatting about 15kg which I’d really like to step up to at least 20kg, however I feel whilst my legs can take it, my back probably can’t. I have huge problems towards the end of the track, my upper back really aches and goes weak. Its between my shoulder blades that I really feel it. I really focus on sucking my tummy in and bracing my abs but do you have any more tips? I feel its holding me back!

    Thanks! Lucy

    • Hi Lucy!

      Bracing the abs helps stabilize and protect the lower back, but for the upper back, have you tried making sure the bar is in the right place on your back?

      Also, it might be a weakness in the upper back–so working on upper body strength could help reduce the fatigue.

      Finally, make sure you’re holding the bar correctly–a slightly loose grip, with elbows under the bar. Keep your chest up as you sit your hips/butt back & down.

      Otherwise, if things don’t fix themselves with those ideas, I’d recommend seeing a sports physician.

      Hope that helps!
      annette recently posted…Eating My Calories Back (& More)!My Profile

  8. Mishka says:

    Hi Annette, I’m quite the person that has fats deposited directly on thighs and I really hated it. Thanks for the squats routine. I’ve been doing reverse jacks from http://www.enhancementscosmeticsurgery.com/target-acquired-toning-thighs/ with a little bit of fire hydrant exercise to keep my thighs toned and I’m definitely adding yours to my fitness pocket!

  9. I’ve been doing plié squats with barbells off and on for about a year.. A few months ago during one there was a pop right where hip and thigh bend. There wasn’t pain, just a pop. Not a joint but a muscle. Since then I haven’t been able to do them (even without a weight) or lunges at all. Standard squats are okay. Once I get halfway to position the area gives out. What is this and how do I fix it? There is no nagging pain, tightness, spasms, or irritation at any other time. Stretching doesn’t seem to make a difference.
    Traci recently posted…Friday Favorites My Profile

Trackbacks

  1. […] with a barbell (or dumbbells) at the top, press the weight down toward the midline of the chest (or heart […]

  2. […] on the bar for the legs because the legs are one of the largest muscle groups in the body! This squats track is killer because it uses timing differently to lift the heart rate (increasing the rate of […]

  3. […] exercises you might know about include: pushups, squats, pull ups, lunges, triceps dips, burpees, plie squats, triceps pushups, planks, and crunches. (Holy […]

  4. […] on the bar for the legs because the legs are one of the largest muscle groups in the body. This squats track is really awesome because it involves a lot of 1-1 timing, which lifts the heart rate […]

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