Love them or hate them, squats are a part of your everyday routine from the moment you wake up and until you go to bed. Throughout the day, you’ve performed the squatting movement several times, possibly without realizing it.
- Getting in and out of bed
- When nature calls
- Picking something off the floor
- Standing and sitting from a chair
All the above involve the squat movement to some degree. So, if you thought you’ve avoided squatting, you’re wrong. Sorry to burst your bubble.
You see, squats are a fundamental human movement you do daily. And they’re programmed into your brain while you were safely in your mother’s womb. Have you ever seen a child squat?
Babies know without be told or cued. They drop it like a squat. However, as you grow older, you gradually lose the ability to squat like a champ due to sitting more and moving less.
That’s bad because
- It’s a full body exercise
- It gives you great looking legs
- It develops core strength
- It builds lean muscle and burns a ton of calories
The squat is a one stop shop when it comes to losing weight, building muscle and strength or staying healthy. So, if it has been a while since you’ve squatted, or you want to improve your form, use this article as a guide.
Before you start this squat party, you’ll test the movement of your ankles and hips because these two determine your ability to get into a squat position. There are other qualities to squatting but these are a good start.
I’m bringing squatting back. The other boys don’t know how to act.
- A short note on form- This is another article entirely and I’ll will not into this too much. Your foot position and squat depth are individual things. If you need help or have any questions about this, hit me up here.
Ankle mobility test (do this without shoes on)
A. Get into a half kneeling position with your big toe is two-three inches away from the wall. Make sure your front ankle is directly underneath the knee and the back knee is underneath your hip.
B. Rock forward and touch your front knee to the wall without raising your front heel off the ground. Repeat this on other side.
C. If either heel comes on the ground or you have discomfort in the front of the knee you may have limited ankle mobility.
If you have ankle stiffness, give these exercises a try.
Do 8-10 reps on each ankle
If those don’t help, please watch this video
Hip mobility test
The Thomas test for hip mobility can be performed on yourself but it’s better if you get a friend to help. Watch this video to perform it correctly.
If your hips are stiff, do the following exercises as a circuit to loosen your hips for the squat, the gym and the bedroom.
Crocodile breathing – 6 reps
Heel touch 60-120 seconds
Passive leg lowering – 10 reps on each leg
Hip flexor stretch 60-120 seconds on both sides
Even if you have stiff ankles or hips, work on the squat regressions and progressions below (while still working on you hip/ankle mobility) because you’re still squatting daily.
The following exercises go from easier to more difficult. Please feel free to go back and forth between regression and progressions but don’t progress unless mastered the exercise before it.
Because Rome wasn’t built in one day.
1. Six Point Rock
This is a squat with your hands and knees on the ground. If you can rock your butt to your heels for 15 good repetitions, you’re ready to move on to the next progression.
However, if you can’t or you feel tightness, it could be a mobility or stability issue that’s holding you back.
If you’re having difficulty with this exercise, keep doing the mobility exercises (and the front plank) and retest. Keep doing daily until you can rock your butt to your heels.
1A. Wall Squat
Technically, this is not a traditional squat but you’re in the squat position and this exercise helps strengthen your quads and teaches you what neutral spine feels like because both are required for squatting.
Do this with the six-point rock and hold for anywhere between 30- 120 seconds.
Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
2. Door knob squat
This is one a few variations that can restore your squat. Here’s another one. When load isn’t part of the equation, you can concentrate on dialing in good form and it gives you confidence to execute the squat too.
Use this variation to groove the squat pattern or if it’s been a while since you’ve darkened the doors of a gym. Try 2-4 sets, 12-15 reps, 3 times per week for 2-3 weeks before moving on to the next progression.
3. Box/Chair squat
Now that you’ve grooved the squat pattern with the assisted squat, use a box as reference point to get yourself into good squat position without assistance. Having the box behind you reinforces using your hips and not your knees during squatting.
A common complaint of doing squats is “It hurts my knees.” Usually, it’s the way the person is squatting, not the squats themselves. If that describes you, this variation is for you.
And when you feel more comfortable, you can take away the box. Try 2-4 sets of 10-12 reps at least 2-3 times per week. When you feel confident, move in to the next progression.
4. Sumo Squat
When first starting to the load the squat, I like this squat because the wider foot positioning makes it easier to get into the squat position and the load is closer to the working muscles than the other variations.
If the dumbbell/kettlebell doesn’t touch the ground on the descent put a weight plate or two underneath. Start with 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps 2-3 times per week for a couple of weeks.
And when you’re able to touch the ground without the weight plates do 3 sets of 8-12 reps 2-3 times per week for another 2-3 weeks until you feel confident enough to move on to the goblet squat.
5. Goblet squat
Holding the weight anteriorly (in front) encourages you to stand up straighter, get that upper back tight and puff out that chest which sets the table for good squat. Furthermore, the weight acts as a counter balance that encourages you to sit between your legs and not over your knees.
It’s like squat magic and it could be the only squat you’ll ever need.
Start with a lighter weight (20-35 pounds) and do more repetitions for the first few weeks, like 2 sets of 10-15 reps. When you feel more comfortable, go heavier (35 pounds and above) and do less repetitions like 3 sets of 6-10 reps.
6. Kettlebell/Dumbbell Front squat
The front squat can be done with either dumbbells or two kettlebells, so choose the correct tool for you. This exercise provides an extra challenge for your core and shoulders because you’re holding more weight in front of you and the weight is further away from the working muscles
Keep the reps and weight on the lower side when first starting out. I recommend 3 sets of 8-10 reps and gradually increasing the weight until you become more comfortable with this exercise.
You can move on to the granddaddy of all squats (after you’ve mastered the above), the barbell squat. However, there is no law saying you must squat with a barbell. The variations discussed will meet your squat needs.
If you can’t avoid squats, you may as well get better and stronger at it. When you do, your life in and out of the gym with be easier and you’ll enjoy the look of your legs in a shorts.
Because if you got it, flaunt it.