Posted on December 10, 2021 by Kate Halsall

If you are a regular reader of our blogs, you will know that the Personal Training team here at motive8 get together regularly to discuss all things fitness related. Last week, we discussed what I like to call the “King of Exercises” – squats. We covered everything from the muscles worked, foot positions, what good (and bad) technique looks like, and all those important tips to make your squats even better!

What muscles does a squat work?

When I posed this question to the team, we all answered “legs” first. Now this may surprise you, as let’s face it, there are a lot of tight legging bum shots on instagram of ladies squatting. This isn’t to say that squats don’t work your glutes – certainly on the upwards phase of a squat, those glutes are working hard; it just wouldn’t be our go-to glute exercise. I call squats the “King of Exercises” because they work so many muscles and joints. They are the epitome of a compound exercise. They work the leg muscles, like hamstrings and quads, alongside your glutes, but also your core (how else do we stop our spine flexing under weight!).

What does good technique look like?

Now there’s a question! And actually, we have to give a fluffy response initially – squat technique is different for every individual, not all squats are created equally, and not everyone is biomechanically the same. Your foot positions, depth range and forward lean will be different depending on the individual. That said, we can give some general hints and tips:

  • Your feet should ideally be shoulder distance apart, or just outside the hips, with the feet slightly turned out. NB if this is not a comfortable stance for you – change it!
  • The knees should track in line with the toes
  • Ideally you should be squatting to parallel – but don’t rush to get there (see section below)
  • Try to keep your chest lifted so that you have a natural lean, and keep the gaze ahead rather than looking at the floor.
  • Most importantly, keep your core engaged.

What does bad technique look like?

So keeping in mind our fluffy response above, the main things people need to avoid when squatting (regardless of the type of squat) are:

  • Excessive forward lean
  • Not pushing through the foot – so coming up on the balls of the feet
  • Poor knee stability – so wobbly knees!
  • Trying to force the squat lower than you can comfortably go.

How can I make my squats better?

Mobility work. Before you even start to squat, you need to get mobilised. You need mobility to help with range of movement for hips, ankles and knees (think depth); and you need mobility to help with thoracic opening (helps keep that chest lifted) and stability.

Accessory Moves. Warm up with some of these. Think glute bridges, lunges, RDLS, banded squats, sit to stands and so on.

Variation. There are so many different type of squats – make sure you mix it up! For example, goblet squats and front squats are great for keeping the chest elevated, sumo squats for those who prefer a wider stance, pistol squats work each leg individually, and overhead squats challenge both shoulder and core stability.

Advice for beginners

We thought this would be a nice way to end the blog as, whilst we squatted beautifully as a baby, babies can’t read this blog…..

  • Start with bodyweight, dumbbell or kettlebell squats. Don’t be in a rush to get under a barbell, and remember that body weight is still weight!!
  • Don’t rush your depth. It will come the more work you do.
  • Try with your feet at different widths and find what works for you.
  • Do mobility work to maximise the benefit you’ll get from squatting
  • Do core work in your workouts to increase your ability to stabilise during squats
  • Use assistance if required i.e. bands, hold onto something – like a bench or TRX, the rack pins etc

Finally….don’t be afraid to ask if you are unsure. That’s what we are here for! And with this info now in your arsenal, you’ll be a squatting pro in no time!