Become the Master of Squats

Updated: Jul 20, 2019

Don't be an idiot like him!

Everyone seems to be squatting at the gym – and who can blame them? It’s a perfect compound exercise that works many muscles all at once – including your glutes, quads and core. But so many people do it wrong, activating the wrong muscles and leaving themselves prone to injury. British Military Fitness recently reported that one in five men perform exercises wrong after learning bad habits from copying others working out – something many of us do. So to nip bad form in the bud, we enlisted a top personal trainer at London fitness studio SIX3NINE to talk us through how to perform the perfect squat. Squatting is a fundamental multi-joint movement and takes coordination and focus to do correctly and safely. In a squat, we use the knees, hips, ankles and, in some versions, even the wrists. It places a tremendous amount of stress on your muscles, including your core, connective tissues and joints, as they work to stabilise you. Why we should squat? Most people head to the gym to get fitter and lose fat. Squats essentially tick all the boxes and are one of the fastest ways to get you there, as long as you are eating according to your goals and tracking macros. This super-effective exercise also reduces the chance of injury in everyday life and in the gym. Completed in higher rep ranges a squat will leave you just as breathless as doing cardio – it works your heart a lot. You can also incorporate it into different styles of training to make it more aerobic. Why most fail to squat correctly Most people think that they know how to squat. Is it easy right? Just push your hips back and down you go to the floor. However, for the average person who works 45 hours a week and is sat down for the majority of the time, many environmental factors mean they may struggle. Ask them to try and nine times out of 10 they will bend their knees first, putting them under extreme pressure. They will then automatically lift their heels, therefore their hips will move backwards to get some sort of balance. This is a disaster and isn’t safe. We unlearn the squat as we age. Everyone can squat; take a look at a baby who can sit with their bum to the floor, knees over their toes with a straight back. This could be considered the perfect squat. But then we grow up and start working, and the majority of jobs involve sitting at a desk. If we don’t use our muscles, they weaken and they have no need to stay strong because we don’t use them. We stiffen up in the hips, hamstrings, quads and our upper back begins to round. This all stops us doing this simple movement we all did as babies. How to relearn the squat To get around this problem we have to get more flexible – start stretching, foam rolling and waking up all of these lazy muscles. Take time out in the day or before bed and do several stretches on the floor. You’ll be surprised how much this will help not only your squats but also how much it will help in day-to-day general life and as a way of correcting your posture. Back, shoulder and neck pain will be a thing of the past. Speedflex trainer Andy Hedley adds: ‘When learning to squat it can be