“If you can’t squat, then you’re not strong! That’s the consensus of most power athletes, strength coaches and fitness experts.”~ Thomas Fahey ED.D
I’m quite sure that I’m woman enough and strong enough to handle the squatting regimen suggested; I’m just not sure it’s a good fit for my aging joints anymore. While I’m very “fit” and probably stronger than most women my age, knee and hip arthritis keeps me from squatting “until I drop.” But, this doesn’t mean I’m giving up the ‘almighty squat’ completely. Given my relentless warrior nature, (determined to find a way) I will squat on; but, I will be very careful and choose my squats wisely.
According to Thomas Fahey, “Squats build basic strength in the legs, hips and core muscles. This strength is vital to success in sports and serves as the foundation of a fit, powerful-looking physique. Squats are critical for developing running speed, acceleration power, and jumping ability. They help build a solid strength base that serves as the foundation of athleticism. The squat is the champagne exercise of weight training!”
I concur. Granted, I no longer participate in competitive sports that require tremendous accelerating and jumping power; but like many of you, I live a very active lifestyle and I will always want that certain power and pep in my step! I admit that on occasion, weather teaching a class, working out with clients or simply having a good ole workout by myself; nothing exhilarates me more than running, jumping and other explosive, plyometric movement. I dearly miss those days of high impact training, but, I’m grateful to have had them for as long as I did; and the memories make me smile. Today, I’m all about moderation and modification!
Squat safety comes first. Squats can be dangerous, injurious that is, if performed incorrectly. The basic principle of all squats is to hinge at the hips and maintain a neutral spine. Most people overuse the quad muscles and underuse the larger, stronger gluteal and hamstring muscles when doing squats. Often times, weekend squatters will round their backs which increases the risk of serious spinal injures. Poor squatting technique places excessive stress on the knee joints and sets the stage for a lifetime of back pain.
If you want to keep squatting and reaping the benefits of this stellar move – great; but let’s do it right! There are several types of squats to experience, each adding it’s own dimension to lower body strength and power and of course a well-rounded posterior!
Start with a comfortable, well-fitting fitness shoe that offers good lateral support. We’ll begin with a basic squat to ensure a safe and solid squat foundation. I have to put this out there before we move on. You know your body better than anyone; perhaps more so than your trainer, teacher or doctor. LISTEN to what you are feeling; this is your body speaking and always treat yourself with compassion and love. If you FEEL that an exercise isn’t right for you – don’t do it! Most fitness related injuries occur from pushing ourselves too hard too often. Ask your fitness educator for a modification or a different exercise altogether to target a specific muscle group. If they aren’t able to provide you with one… it might be time to move on.
*Last week I posted an article about kitchen sink assisted squatting; the response has been – WOW! Women in kitchens across the globe are now squatting there way to stronger more toned butts and thighs while they are preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner – awesome! One woman told me that since reading the article last week, every time she walked to her kitchen sink she performed 10 squats; easily doing 100 squats a day for the past week. That’s 600 squats in one week with very little effort or a gym. She told me that her butt and thighs are already stronger and feel firmer. That’s the idea ladies!
Basic Squatting Rules
1. PLEASE KEEP YOUR BACK STRAIGHT. If you’re going to stick your butt out while you squat – STOP! This will compress the facet joints of the spine especially if you add weight to your squat – DANGER! Our spinal erector muscles are already working…no need to stoke the fire further. A straight back means a straight back. This doesn’t mean we can’t bend at the hips a little to get a more comfortable squat position. Bending at the hips is regarded as being safe; bending the spine is not.
2. Look straight ahead; not up, down or sideways. Looking up will force us to compensate and go into extension. Danger zone!
3. The knees stay aligned over the feet. Think of the number 11. If your knees move in or out while squatting, you are enforcing faulty tracking knee patterns and this could lead to significant knee damage. Bend the hips and knees to squat. We don’t want the knees to go in front of the feet as this may cause potential injury to the patellar ligament.
4. The feet are positioned about shoulder-width apart. Again, think of the number 11. Keep you feet flat on the floor at all times during the squat.
Ready to Squat
Practice this basic squat with your arms straight in front of you. Always gaze ahead; keeping your shoulders quiet and your belly firm as you lower into the squat and lift back up to standing. Aim for your thighs to become parallel to the floor or slightly lower for more intensity! You should definitely feel your gluteal muscles fire! If your knees aren’t happy, back off a bit.
Start with 3 sets of 12-15 reps everyday for the next week. Yes, take one day off! Next Sunday, I will add another squat with weight to your repertoire. Okay, let’s do this!