How to get the perfect squat technique at home or at the gym
The squat has to be one of our favourite moves in the gym.
There are so many variations, so many ways to make it your own. And the fact that you can do it weighted, or just using your own body weight means it’s a really accessible exercise.
Squatting can build power and strength in your leg and bum muscles, while also improving overall stability and balance – but it’s really important that you get your form right.
Far too many people think they know how to squat, when really their poor form is putting them at risk of a whole host of niggles and injuries.
Thankfully, the founders of StrongHer – a London-based fitness space for women – Tig Hodson and Sam Prynn, have shared their top tips to help you nail your squatting form and get the best results.
How to do a perfect squat
Whoever you are, whatever your squat goals, start with your feet stuck out at a five-degree angle – always.
However, not all squats are the same. How low you can go (and how effectively you’re squatting) depends on the length of your thigh bone in relation to your shin and torso.
It’s easier to think of it this way – if you’ve got longer thighs, you may need to have a wider stance. If you’re shorter, with shorter thighs, then lucky you because all this just got so much easier, you’ll be able to squat with a narrower stance.
How low? ‘90°-or-lower’ low.
There’s a squat phenomenon out there we like to refer to as ‘the Instagram squat’. You know, the one you often see on Instagram where someone won’t be any lower than 45°. Why do people do this? Because it’s easier.
Don’t cut corners. For a proper squat, aim to go beyond 90° – remember: you’re essentially just sitting down.
And spread those cheeks (yes, you read that right).
Knees and toes
You’ll often hear that you need to keep your knees from going over your toes while squatting. We’re telling you now that you have our permission to ignore this advice completely.
It’s cool for your knees and toes to align. Don’t sweat it because it’ll give you a fuller range of movement, and that’s only a good thing when it comes to squats.
We covered this a bit in our strength training for women article, but it’s worth repeating here: strength training is so much easier when you’ve got good ankle mobility.
But how do I know if I have good ankle mobility? we hear you ask. There are a few ways to find out.
If you’re squatting with a wider position, and still find yourself doing the ‘Instagram squat’, then you can take a simple test:
Facing a wall or mirror, take yourself down into a kneeling lunge position and be approximately 5cm away.
Lunge forwards to see if you are able to get your front knee to touch the wall or mirror without lifting the heel off the ground.
If you manage a knee touch and the heel stays on the ground – your ankles are mobile enough.
If not, measure how much distance is between the knee and the wall, and this will act as a point of reference.
Make sure your lunging knee travels directly forwards over the centre toe; if you allow it to drift inwards, the inner arch of the foot will fall and you will be able to get much further from the wall (giving a false result).
Repeat the test for the other ankle at that distance, see what the difference is and work towards getting that flexion to 5cm away.
Footwear is also super important.
You can invest in weightlifting shoes to help improve that ankle mobility, but you can also put plates under your heels if you’re not quite ready to invest in specialist shoes yet.
Brace your core
You may have heard this one before. We officially hate the term, but sadly the thinking behind it is sound.
When ‘activating your core’ during squats, imagine you’re laughing hysterically.
As always, if you’re unsure on any of this, speak to a trainer. Even if you’ve got your feet positioned perfectly, or you’re squatting below 90°, you can still injure yourself.
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