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Breaking Down the Squat

Chances are, you have seen some variation of a squat in the last week. Whether it’s sitting at a desk chair or getting out of your car, the natural motion of a squat can be found throughout daily life.

In the gym, squats are a focal point of many workouts. Due to the number of muscle groups activated, and the numerous benefits, squats can be found in almost any lower body, cardio, or full body workout.

Despite what you may see on the internet, depth is not the most important factor in a squat. Don’t get me wrong, depth is key to getting maximal benefits from a squat, but without the proper form, depth can be detrimental. FORM FIRST. Speed and/or weight should be one of your last concerns if you are squatting on your own.

While we always recommend having a professional help you with your squats, here are a few tips you can use if you decide to practice on your own:

  • Keep your weight on your heels, try lifting your toes off the ground and see how that changes your weight distribution.

  • Focus on a point in front of you to keep your head and chest up.

  • Break from your hip first, not your knees. Your butt should be the first thing out.

  • For beginners, watch your knees and try to keep them from pushing out in front of your toes, this may change with supervision, but it is a good rule of thumb on your own.

At Renovo, we hear concerns and field questions about squats on a daily basis, and hopefully I can clarify some of the most common ones today!

How do I increase depth in my squat?

The short answer is to keep practicing with correct form!  The long answer is that you may need to work on your hip/ankle mobility. Oftentimes, tight hips can keep you from taking full advantage of a squat, and stretches that work to open the hips can be beneficial both before and after your squat workout. Likewise, if you find your heels coming off the ground, or feel like you can’t sit back in the bottom of your squat, you may need to work on your ankle flexibility.

We are always happy to recommend some stretches for both hips and ankles!

Why do my knees hurt when I squat?

More often than not, (excluding a pre-existing injury) if your knees are hurting during a squat, it's because you’re asking your knees to do more work than your hips.

Remember that tip about breaking first from your hips instead of your knees? Your hips are more suited for a heavy load than your knees and they want to help!  

If you need practice breaking from your hips, try the box squat!  Box squats are great for practicing form and keeping the load off of the knees!

If you need advice on how to do a box squat, just ask us!

Are there any substitutes for a squat?

There are plenty of exercises that can reach the same muscle groups as a squat, but none that can work them all at the same time quite as well.

If you just want a good quad burn, try a wall sit or leg extensions!  

If hip mobility, and small muscle group work is what you seek, try a lunge!

It's worth noting that squat substitutes tend to miss the mark on core and stability.

So, in conclusion:

Don’t be afraid to squat, and don’t be afraid to let us help you!