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Bada*s or Nice A*s, the Squat’s Got Your Back…side

A proper squat is a gateway to a lot of good.  Done well, it sets us up for greater strength, reduced pain and better performance (Bada*s). It opens doors for some incredible physical transformations (Nice A*s) and gives us a better shot at surviving the day; from getting in and out of cars, hopping up from a desk chair, cleaning up during a dog walk or repeatedly scooping up a two year old who’s favorite thing to say is “Again!” These are all real squat benefits. Let’s talk about how to do a proper squat.

Squats Exercises

The squat has been called the king of exercises. We’ll buy that. A deep body weight squat uses most of the muscles of the body. The hips, knees and ankles hit maximum bend while the core, back, shoulders and head remain stable allowing the torso to gracefully descend. It’s the truest example of real mobility and stability. Add some weight (a Kettlebell, barbell, dumbbell, small child…) and every major muscle group benefits. Pretty awesome prospect. Yes, you can even do proper squats without weights!

The positives of the weighted squat are almost endless:

  • Increased strength to fight gravity; resulting in faster run times, higher vertical jumps and improved running economy.
  • Targeted development of the glutes, hamstrings and quads; producing clear definition of musculature.
  • Higher metabolic demands; more muscles working together for more energy expenditure.
  • Improved bone mineral density; making a difference in osteopenia and osteoporosis.

Mix all of those pieces together and squatting with weight becomes the Fountain of Youth.  Doesn’t that just make you want to squat more often and with more weight? Amen!

But, as life changing as weighted squats are, let’s make sure we’re actually doing a proper squat first.

We started off squatting naturally and somewhere along the way got off track.  Long hours of not moving and patterns like sitting that only mimic the major bends of the squat have robbed many of us of easy squat ability.

To squat is human, to squat with weight is divine. -Matt Semrick

What the squat pattern demands and what our body gives us is where we run into injury. In a proper squat, the back remains unchanged as we go down. In a questionable squat, the hips may be so tight they stop moving before they should, the back changes to pick up that missing depth and crunches our lumbar discs. Or we’re shaky with balance, our knees collapse in and we throw our head forward or back to find stability and crunch our cervical discs. Add weight to that and we’re guaranteeing injury at some point.

The good news? Grab your phone.

Our BODY still wants to move this way, even if a long day and tons of stress don’t make our BRAIN want to. As long as you’re still human, the pattern is in there somewhere. We just need to knock the rust off and clean it up a bit.

Try this little experiment. Set up your smart phone to video yourself (or use a friend, then video them…the more the merrier). Stand up and squat. Don’t think about it, just do whatever your version of a squat is. Actually do 5 of them. Then play back the video. What did you see?  Did your squat resemble a melting candle?  Did your back change? Where was your head?  Did you breathe? Did your knees collapse? Did you go very low?

Sometimes just knowing what you’re actually doing and what you’re supposed to be doing fixes a lot.

Proper squat

Now try this:

  • Stand with feet hip to shoulder width apart. Instep of the foot to outside of hip or shoulder.
  • Most likely a little turnout. Toes open to 11 and 1, if you’re looking at the face of a clock.
  • Tuck the chin gently. Try to create a slight double chin. (It’s ok. It’s a “fitness double chin” and your squat’s going to be so pretty no one even notices).
  • Take a deep breath in through the nose before or during your descent.
  • Pull your knees towards the pinky toes on the way down (and up). But not so far the big toe picks up or you roll to the outside of your foot.
  • Control the descent. Think slow motion elevator not Tower of Terror drop.
  • Pause at the bottom. Establish depth and demonstrate strength.
  • Solid exhale to stand.
  • Lock the legs out straight and a use a powerful glute squeeze at the top to finish. (I should hear your glutes squeeze from across town…that’s how important it is…)

This may seem like a hefty checklist but rebuilding ownership of how you move takes some work. Think of it as a lot to enjoy!

You didn’t like what you saw on your personal assessment video?  Don’t fret.  We’ll explore the standards and some variations to reclaim and re-pattern your squat.


Still not happy? Join us for one of our Sweet Squat workshops, coming up on Wednesday, February 7th or Saturday, February 10th. One of our favorite things is teaching the proper squat form to everyone we meet! It’s our favorite party trick. Find out more details and register here.

Matt Semrick