Squat mastery is an important longevity tool. As we age we lose our flexibility and mobility creating a cascading effect of physical decline in our lives. This physical decline leads to poor posture as the body’s guide wire system becomes weaker and less able to hold the body upright. By squatting everyday using proper squat form a trainee can reverse the effects of this natural decline.
He is an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic who studies societal obesity and recommends that people should get moving more often with multiple small goals during the day. Doing squats everyday can help to combat this inactivity. The 5 health benefits of doing squats everyday are:
Proper squat form is essential for reaping the immense benefits from this one compound multi-joint movement. A baby intuitively understands how to squat perfectly.
Over time the body loses this functionality through multiple factors such as:
Compensatory movement after an injury: When we injure one part of the body other parts of the body are required to pick up the slack often causing us to contort ourselves in different positions to escape the pain or move around the injury. Even a week’s worth of contortion can cause the body to move differently.
Prolonged sitting: The more we sit, the more we naturally slump. This slump contributes to the head forward position as the muscles in the upper back and neck become stretched and less engaged. The chest muscles shorten and the head is now held forward. In addition the hip flexors and psoas in the front tighten and shorten while the low back becomes stretched and less engaged. I often refer to it as "turtle back posture." For more information on Forward Head Posture see Dr. Erik Dalton's site.
Basics of a Good Stance Width
First it is important to reawaken the connection of the feet to the ground and find a comfortable stance width between the feet. Feet shoulder width apart or a little wider is a good place to start.
There are three points on the feet that establish our balance – heel, pinky toe pad and big toe pad. Ranked in emphasis the heel is 1; the pinky toe pad is 2; and the big toe pad is 3 .
Secondly when a comfortable stance width is achieved the hips should be able to slightly rotate through when squeezing the glutes (butt muscles). This will help the upper body to find better postural alignment combating the forward head position described above. My goal with clients is to help them find their best posture prior to learning how to squat. When performing this body awareness task everyday and then initiating a squat program the trainee can begin to replace old detrimental postural habits and improve overall strength.
Once a solid, rooted posture is established it is time to get to work. Note the squatting baby. His knees are over his ankles with vertical shins. His torso is in a neutral position without an arched or rounded low back. The baby will rise up using leg power alone.
Straddle a door frame or post using the stance width established above. Reach your arms out in front of you about chest height and grab the molding or post on either side with your fingertips. Take a moment to squeeze your butt feeling it rotate under. Start to sit down letting your knees drift wide. Use the frame or post to keep your torso upright.
Lower the body walking the hands down - knees CANNOT come over the toes. Push the knees away from each other for more mobile hips to take the pressure off the knees and sit deeper. Over time hip/ankle flexibility will come with daily practice. Engage the three balance points of the feet to push back up walking the hands back to the start position for stability. Stay connected with the feet through the whole range of motion.
Take 15 minutes to incorporate squats into your daily routine. I recommend starting off with 2 sets of 10-12 reps daily to ingrain a new neuromuscular pathway. As your strength and mobility improve vitality increases. My clients find that tasks that seemed overwhelming or unattainable all of a sudden become easier to perform. The body finds a new synergy that allows it to overcome and improve overall movement.
Dawn Massey is one of my personal training clients. She is a 73 year old mother of 4 and grandmother of 6. We began working together 4 years ago. She now trains legs using a suspension trainer as well as kettlebell sumo deadlifts and goblet squats. Her flexibility and mobility have soared through consistent, focused practice. She can pull a 72lb kettlebell for 8 reps and a 35lb kettlebell for 8 reps in her goblet squats.
Below is a video of her squatting using a suspension trainer called CrossCore using pristine form. This suspension trainer is superior to others on the market because of its patented pulley pin engagement system. When the pin is removed a greater level of instability is created, forcing the body into dynamic stabilization.
Dynamic stabilization occurs when abdominals, spinal extensors and gluteal muscles work in coordination with each other and intra-abdominal pressure is regulated by the central nervous system.
Fight back against the tide of aging and get moving with good squat technique. This exercise performed daily can ignite and prolong your life force.
Take your squat to the next level check out Marty Gallagher's Purposeful Primitive Squat Progressions performed by Phil Scarito of DV8 Fitness!