The Benefits of Doing Squats
Squats are a big deal. We ALL need them regardless of our age, fitness level or daily job requirements. As a PT, I’ve taught 1000’s of people how to squat from toddlers and teens to runners and lifters to adults with knee replacements and elderly folks who spend much of their day in a wheelchair.
This isn’t just b/c I have a crazy obsession but because it is just so dang necessary to live life. Think for just a moment about the amount of times per day you need to get up or down from a seat, how often you need to pick up something (or someone) from the ground and the number of stairs or curbs you need to climb.
ALL of these daily movements require you to have capable thigh & butt muscles AND adequate hip/knee and ankle motion. Imagine how it must feel to struggle getting out of a chair. We’ve all seen it. AND, we’ve seen the societal modifications with higher toilet seats, firmer chairs in waiting rooms and even lifting chairs in people’s homes. Although all of these are wonderful ideas to give assistance to the ones that need it, wouldn’t it be nice to not ever have to rely on them?
The good news is that it can be quite simple to make all of these life tasks so much better by choosing to add squatting to your daily list of to-do’s. It really doesn’t have to be complicated but I’m sure you’ve been curious if you even squat “correctly”. I’ve seen the look on many people’s faces when I ask them to show me their squat. Almost everyone has a look of fear or embarrassment that they will do it “wrong”.
Squats get a lot of attention, for good reason, but the extreme pickiness on form is simply not necessary. Our bodies are all designed slightly differently from one another. Some of us just can’t keep our feet straight when we squat, and that is OK. Let me break down what I mean just a bit for you.
Focus on Form for Squatting
Although there is no exact correct way to squat, I do have 5 guiding principles that can protect your joints, your spine and help you to get more benefit from them.
Squat with your feet in whatever position feels comfortable to you. There is NO need to force your feet to stay straight ahead. Many times your hip alignment is the driving force behind this. Respect your alignment and move in ways that feel good.
Learn to hip hinge when you squat. This just means that you are moving from your hips while keeping your spine straight. Try this chair of death squat for some good hip-hinging practice.
Go as low as you can while keeping your spine straight. This one can be tough and is definitely something to work towards. This ensures that you are truly using your legs and developing the strength your body craves.
TIP: Start squats by hanging onto a countertop OR slide your back up and down a smooth wall.
If you are new to squatting AND you have some current knee pain, do try to keep your knees behind your toes.
If you are able to squat with good control while keeping your spine straight, AND you do not currently have knee pain, definitely let your butt come down lower and allow your knees to go in front of your toes. This can help strengthen the patellar tendon (in front of your knee cap).
5 Ways to Get Squats in NOW!
Every time you sit down or stand up from a chair, the toilet or the couch, think about using your legs to control this motion. (Instead of immediately using your hands to push yourself up from the surface, first try to use your legs.)
Whenever you have to pick something up from the floor, stop and think about trying to squat rather than bending at your back. Got a messy floor? Repeat your squats until your entire room is clean!
Squat to tie and untie your shoes vs sitting down, sticking your foot up on something or kicking them off.
Consider squatting several times as you unload your dishwasher or clothes dryer.
Perhaps my favorite - If you have a sitting job, set an alarm every hour to do 5 squats from your chair. Full time job? That’s 200 squats every week!