Are you Squatting Correctly? Part 3
By: Laura Gold, PT, DPT
For the past two weeks, we’ve presented some common errors in squatting form and what you can do to make sure you’ve got great technique. In the final post in this series, we’ll take a look at the foot and ankle as well as the overall form you need to achieve a squat that really targets the glutes.
As cute as our little feathered, tuxedo-wearing friends may be, you don’t want to find yourself emulating them in the gym. What I’m talking about is feet (one or both) that turn out to accommodate the squatting motion. Often, you will also notice that the arch at the inside of the foot collapses (lowers to the ground).
How it should look:
It’s simple – you might even be able to pick up on this one without a mirror. Check your feet – do the toes point straight ahead as they should or do they point slightly to the side? Can you still see the arch as you lower to the ground? This is also a good one to check with the single leg to make sure the arch is present throughout the motion (a little drop is okay!). This one can be a little trickier to fix. Sometimes the foot rotates out or flattens because of limitations or excesses in ankle mobility, and sometimes, it’s just the way a person is a built. If you have trouble or pain with correcting this one – check in with your favorite PT to get to the bottom of it.
The Dead Butt Quad Dominator
Often when I work with a patient who tests as having weak glutes, I ask them if they have been doing any strength training or glute work. A large portion of the time the answer is “Oh yeah! I do lots of squats.” “Okay then. Where do you feel the burn when you do them?” “My quads.” Doh. Squats are supposed to be a glute exercise, right? Glutes are not the only muscles we train with a squat, but in my mind they are the priority. The quad dominant squatter, complete with dead butt (lazy glutes) often has a subtle forward shift in their center of gravity and does not hinge nicely at the hip. The weight is on the toes and the derrière does not lower toward the ground as it should.
How it should look (and feel!):
This one is easier to correct by what you feel than how it looks. You can accomplish a nice burn in the glutes in a couple of ways. Start by grabbing a chair. Face the chair and line your knees up so that that they touch the front of the seat. Now squat down as if you were trying to sit in chair behind you. Still having difficulty? Try it instead with a bar, bannister, post, or other secure object that you can hold onto while you squat. Again, sit back as if trying to lower to chair, but exaggerate a bit this time as if you were water skiing. As you reach the bottom of your squat focus on the squeezing the glutes and opening up the hips as you return to standing. Still nothing?!?! Get to a PT – we are masters of glute awakening!
Techniques for getting your gluteus maximus muscles involved in your squat. Note that in the center picture the squat can be performed with light touches of buttocks to the chair, or for some, this is a great functional exercise to work on transitioning from sitting to standing. Experiment with all 3.
A bit of advice regarding these corrections. Some of these corrections may throw a curve ball in to your squatting routine. You may not be able to squat as deeply, for as many reps, with as much weight, etc, etc. That’s okay. It’s more important that you get it right before you add the next level of challenge. Don’t be afraid to be that person in the gym that’s next to the mirror doing a simple body weight squat – it’s good for you!
And of course, if you are having pain or unable to achieve proper form, make an appointment with your physical therapist!
A disclaimer for the creative squatter. There are many different styles of squatting that may be appropriate without adhering to the above principles and are targeting something different than the classic squat – make sure you are working with someone who knows their stuff if they ask you to deviate from these guidelines. Nevertheless, the above tips are a great place to start!