If you’ve ever walked through a weight room, chances are you’ve seen people squat. If you’ve used a home workout app, or tried a ‘better butt’ workout plan, it has likely included squats. A powerful functional exercise that can strengthen legs and shape glutes while improving mobility and balance, squats are a popular workout program staple for athletes, weightlifters and everyday gym goers alike. Unfortunately, most people perform squats horribly wrong, sabotaging their gains and unnecessarily stressing their joints in the process.
You’re probably one of them, but not for much longer. In this article, we’re going to share a few simple cues from Sam Faulkner, exercise scientist and one of the experts behind VP Workout’s Niesam Ai personal trainer, which will assist you in perfecting this essential fitness movement.
“Squatting is hard,” Faulkner notes. “It’s a real skill, and if you’ve been taught to squat incorrectly in the past, it can take time to reprogram your body. Just be patient, focus on feeling each of the muscles you’re trying to work—from your hamstrings and quads to your glutes—and you’ll get there.”
Five Steps for a Proper Squat
1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width to just outside of shoulder-width apart and in a slight toe out position. “Your hip mobility is going to determine how wide your feet should be,” Faulkner says.
2. Make sure your weight is to the outside of your feet. “You want to think about creating torque and almost pivoting into the floor,” Faulkner explains. “Think about twisting the ball of your foot down and out. That will help you keep your weight to the outside.”
3. Brace your core and flex your abs. “Don’t let your chest stick out or you’ll get a big arch in your back,” Faulkner adds.
4. While keeping your torso vertical, bend your knees and sink down as deep as you can go. “You want to avoid ‘butt winking,’” Faulkner says. “Butt winking happens when you start to arch your back. If there is a point in your squat where you start butt winking, that’s the point where you need to drive back up. You can work on getting lower over time.”
5. Drive through your mid foot, again thinking about pivoting into the floor to create torque, as you stand up.
“It’s essential that you maintain your brace throughout the squat,” Faulkner advises. “I like to take a big breath of air and then flex my abs like someone is going to punch me in the stomach. This will really help you when you move up to loaded barbell back squats and exercises like that.”
Build Strength Squatting with Niesam
All the glute workouts in the world aren’t going to make you that much stronger if you’re just doing hundreds of squats. We programmed Niesam the Ai personal trainer to create custom workout routines based on your current fitness level and goals. He’s going to ask you to squat, but the types of squats you’ll be doing—and how frequently you’ll be doing them—will depend on those factors.
“Let’s say you’re a beginner,” Faulkner explains. “Niesam is going to start you with bodyweight squats like the one I described earlier. He’s also going to have you do some unilateral squats, like Bulgarian Split Squats and reverse lunges, to correct any imbalances you might have from leg to leg.”
As you master the basic movements, Niesam will add in new techniques to assist you in building control and stability. “He might have you change your stance or do some isometric work, like pausing at certain points in the movement, and eccentric work, like moving slowly, to improve your range of motion, set your technique, and build strength,” Faulkner says.
Your workout routine will change every few weeks to continually challenge your body.
“Niesam will eventually progress you to weighted squat variations like goblets and chain belt squats,” Faulkner adds. “And depending on your performance goal, you may do some barbell front squats and barbell back squats.”
If you’re ready to perfect your squat form, sign up for a 14-day free trial with VP Workouts and let the Niesam the Ai personal trainer create a customized workout program just for you.
By Angela Rose for Virtual Performance