How to Squat Properly

Squats are an excellent way to target the full body and to build significant strength. It heavily relies on your thighs, calves, lower back, arms, and abs. Some key benefits include building muscle, burning fat, increasing endurance, and improving proprioception. However, proper form is needed to avoid back or knee pain.  
HOW TO SQUAT WITH A BARBELL:
Starting Position
1.      Stand with feet approximately shoulder-width apart, toes pointing straight ahead, and knees aligned over second and third toes.
-         As much as 5-8° of external foot rotation is allowed in the starting position, some consider this normal anatomical position.
2.      To perform the high-bar back squat, rest the barbell on the shoulders, behind the neck, with hands grasping the bar wider than shoulder-width apart.

3.      To perform the low-bar back squat, rest the barbell on the middle trapezius region with hands grasping the bar wider than shoulder-width apart.
-         It is important to note adequate shoulder mobility (external rotation) is required to hold the bar securely.
Movement Pattern
1.      Slowly begin to squat down by hinging at the hips and then flexing at the knees.  
2.      Allow glutes to “stick” out behind the body as if sitting into a chair.
3.      Keep the chest up and the cervical spine in a neutral position. Avoid excessive cervical flexion, extension, or anterior translation (jutting the head forward).

4.      Squat to a depth that can be safely controlled with no movement compensations.
-         Common movement compensations include knee valgus (knock knees), rounding or arching of the low-back, an excessive forward lean of the torso, and overly externally rotating or pronating the feet.
5.      To rise back up, contract the gluteals and place pressure through the heels as the knees and hips are extended.
6.      Stand up straight until hips and legs are fully extended. Fully contract the gluteals in the standing position for maximal muscle recruitment.

FOR BEGINNERS:

1. Place the big ball up against the wall and have your lower back against the ball
2. Roll up a towel, place it between your knees and shimmy your feet out slightly in front of you.
3. Make sure your knee is in line with your second toe, squeeze the towel and keep your core engaged.
4. Squat down until your knees are at 90 degrees and hold that for 10 seconds.
5. Do 3 sets of 10. Rest for 5 seconds between each rep.


For reference:
http://www.ptonthenet.com/articles/biomechanics-of-the-squat-4016

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