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VIDEO: The secrets to the perfect squat revealed

In this week's video, Newmarket athletic therapist Jen Mark demonstrates how to squat, like we used to do naturally as children

Squatting is just one of those things you have to do well! A basic movement pattern that we all learn and did as children. We used to sit and play in a deep squat without any difficulty. Remember?! Then as we get older, we start sitting in chairs everywhere, training our bodies to stay at 90°.

There are certainly some factors that stop us from squatting. Knee and back pain can really interfere. Check out the other articles and videos I have about knees and backs as a great way to start. I also find that once you are squatting properly, there might not be as much pain. Technique is so important!

Getting the proper mechanics are so important before loading with heavy weight. Even just bodyweight squats can be a good warm-up before any workout or sport.

The error I see most often is leaning way too far forward. I believe people are trying to get lower so they lean forward. It is actually the hips that need to get lower, meaning you need to get hip flexion and the knees do need to bend. Imagine you have very hot tea on your shoulders… don’t spill it! If you lean forward you will spill that tea!

Another common error is lifting your heels off the ground. Keep your feet grounded. Your foot should have all four corners touching the floor. Good foot contact in any movement creates stability, a better base of support.

Lastly, keep your knees in line with your toes. Even if you have your toes slightly turned out, your knees need to follow that line. Having your knees fall in creates a lot of torsion on your knee. In this case, it’s the glute muscles not doing their job. Strong glute muscles will keep the knees turned out which is a much stronger and safer position.

The ability to keep your trunk still, not falling forward or twisting, and in good posture is key. This is your core acting to keep you strong and injury-free. Rounding your back creates a lot of stress and can throw your whole technique off.

In the video, I describe a few modifications if you find squatting difficult. Squatting to a chair or bench is popular because it eliminates the bottom of the movement where most of the stress lies. Stick to your principles, posture and alignment are still important.

Your ankles have to be able to flex in order to squat. This is overlooked often! The exercise in the video shows me finding a few inches from the wall with my foot. My knee should be able to touch the wall with my heel on the floor. To help with ankle flexion, touch the wall with your knee on and off. This provides a self-mobilization/test for ankle flexion.

The last exercise to help with squatting is really just going into a deep squat on the floor. Almost like going into a child’s pose, rock back towards your heels. The key is to keep your back straight. It’s a great way to practice the movement without the stress of gravity!

So go ahead, squat! Go as deep as you comfortably can. Improve your core, your flexibility, your strength and then watch your squatting mechanics get better. With better squatting mechanics you will see improvement in sport, exercise, and being able to live life fully!

If you want to learn more about reprogramming your body or need guidance putting a routine together, let me know! I would love to help.

Jen Mark is a Registered Kinesiologist, Certified Athletic Therapist, and Registered Yoga Teacher at Matrix of Motion Fitness Studios and Sports Medicine Centre of Excellence in Newmarket. Jen is currently the athletic therapist with the Markham Majors Bantams. Jen is also the head therapist and holistic director for the Junior Development Squad with the Men’s program under Field Hockey Canada. Jen uses her athletic therapy for exercise and manual treatments including soft tissue massage, joint mobilizations, and muscle energy.