One of the most basic exercises you can do at home, gym or even in your hotel room, are squats. Squats are probably the best bodyweight exercise you can do to keep your buns and thighs firm and tight. Best part? You can do them pretty much anywhere!
The hurt-so-good burn you feel in your legs will help lean them out. However, as easy as it is to do squats, if you do them with bad form they can do you more harm than good. Proper squat form is essential if you want to prevent:
- Muscle imbalances
- Inactive muscles
Any of the above can seriously put a halt on the results you want. For example, if you’re quad-dominant then doing squats will give you amazing looking quadriceps, but won’t do much for your glutes and hamstrings! You don’t want to have amazing quads but your booty is flat as a pancake, do you?
Thought now, so make sure you are performing the correct squat form.
How? Keep reading.
First, you want to keep the Kinetic Chain Checkpoints in mind.
Sounds complicated. It’s not.
According to the American Council of Exercise in 1955 Dr. Arthur Steindler defined the kinetic chain as a combination of several successively arranged joints constituting a complex motor unit. This essentially means your joints work together to perform a movement and those joints need to be aligned.
So what are the kinetic chain checkpoints? Glad you asked:
Kinetic Chain Checkpoints.
- Foot and ankle
- Lumbo-pelvic-hip complex (LPHC)
- Head and cervical spine
Got it? Good.
Now wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a simple way to check if you have any squat imbalances? Well it just so happens there is, enter…
The Overhead Squat Assessment (OSA)
The overhead squat assessment is a great way to check to see if you have any imbalances when performing your squat. This assessment is designed to assess your dynamic flexibility, core strength, balance and neuromuscular system. Basically, to see what muscles are too tight or not strong enough.
You can perform this assessment on yourself by standing in front of the mirror, or you can have a friend check your form. If you are a member at a fitness facility a fitness specialist can also perform this assessment on you.
Here’s a great explanation of the whole process:
How to perform the OSA
Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Point feet straight ahead with feet and ankle in neutral position. Perform the assessment with shoes off to get a better view of the foot and ankle complex.
Raise your hands overhead with elbows fully extended. Upper arms should be aligned with your torso.
Squat the height of a chair seat, then return to starting position. Repeat for five repetitions, looking at each position (front and side) views.
Front View: Look at feet, ankles, and knees from the front. Feet should be aligned with knees. Knees should be over 2nd & 3rd toes.
Side View: Check LPHC, shoulder and cervical complex from the side. The tibia should be in line with the torso along with the arms.
The Compensations to look for
Front View Compensations
Feet: Flatten or turn/out.
Knees: Move inward.
Side View Compensations
LPHC: If lower back arches stretch your hip flexor complex, lower back, and lats. Strengthen the gluteus maximus, hamstring, core stabilizers.
Torso leans forward: Stretch out your calves, hip flexors, abdominals. Strengthen the glutes, and lower back.
Shoulder: If arms fall forward it could mean you need to strengthen your upper back, and rotator cuff.
Now you know what to avoid doing, let’s take a look at what you should be doing instead:
Proper Form for the Squats
So let’s break that down for you:
- Keep legs bent at 90 degrees
- Knees over ankles
- Hinge over at the hips
- Keep chest and head up
- Feet, knees and hips should be square (facing forward)
When you do a good squat you’ll feel your hamstring and glutes being activated. On the other hand, if you only feel it in your quads and knees, you probably quad-dominant.
Which is fine if you want your butt to be as flat as a pancake.
Otherwise, you need to make sure you spend time activating your glutes so that they get the most benefit from the squats you do.
You see, the problem with being quad-dominant is that you don’t develop you glutes, your hamstrings become weaker and your quadriceps become tighter. So, apart from missing out on the amazing booty-building potential of the squat, from a postural and injury-prevention standpoint it’s a big mistake too.
The other thing you want to watch out for, when you do the squat is that your knees don’t move past your toes. This puts unnecessary strain on your knees. What you want to do instead is place your weight in your heels and be able to wiggle your toes.
Quick warning: the first few times you do this, you will probably feel like you are falling backwards. Just keep your core tight, chest and head up.
It feels a little weird, but you’ll quickly get used to it.
If you don’t get it at first don’t worry because your muscle memory will eventually kick in. The neuromuscular system will remember the movement so the body will fall into the correct form and it will also start to feel different when you’ve got good form versus bad form.
Now go build the strong, legs and tight glutes you’ve always wanted!
Have you been doing your squats incorrectly? Do you notice any imbalances? Let us know in the comments below.