April Exercise of the Month: Squats
Kayla Thompson, MS, ACSM-EP
It’s April, my friends! Flowers are blooming, the sun is shining, and birds are chirping as we get outside to spruce up those flower beds that have been neglected all winter long. As much as I would love to give you flower-bed advice, we will be discussing instead an important movement sometimes used when weeding: the squat.
The squat is a necessary movement for everyday life and helps keep legs strong. How else were you able to strategically hide those Easter eggs for the kiddos? It is a compound exercise, which means it works multiple muscle groups at one time. Squatting can help you with the simplest of task like sitting in a chair.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind when performing a squat
· Watch your knees – The first thing is to make sure your knees do not go over your toes as this will put extra stress on the knees and can cause you to become off balance
· Keep a neutral spine position – You want your back to be flat as curving it inward or outward puts unnecessary strain on the spine
How to squat
· Stand with your feet shoulder width apart or slightly outside your shoulders
· Push your hips back and descend towards the floor continually bending hips and knees
· Maintain a flat back and lower your hips toward the ground – making sure your knees are not going over those toes!
· Use more hip bend if you feel yourself going too far forward with your knees
· Keep your chest up – you don’t want your upper torso to collapse and rest on your thighs
· Aim to get your thighs horizontal and parallel to the floor – remember to listen to your body and do not compare yourself to anyone else
The depth of a squat is unique to everyone. Some may struggle with getting their thighs to horizontal, and that’s okay! Everyone is different. Some people are more flexible than others. Do your best, and do what your body allows.
Using a chair is great way to start learning how to squat. To squat with a chair:
· Place a chair behind you and perform a squat – the chair is your target
· As your bottom begins to touch the seat of the chair, stand back up
· If squatting is a super tough exercise for you, sit directly in the chair, rest, and then stand back up – try to not use your hands to help get up from the seated position or down into the chair
· Move slowly and do not drop into the chair – controlling the squat as you go down and as you stand back up are crucial in working your muscles
When you get the hang of the squat, you can use lower objects like boxes or stacks of books as a target to help make sure you are not going too low.
Once you have confidence squatting without using a chair, you can start to add squats into your regular activities. You could go for a 30-minute walk and perform 10 squats when you hit the 10-minute, 20-minute, and 30-minute time mark. You can also perform some squats before you head on your lunch break, during work, or right at your desk. Every couple of hours, stand up, walk around, and perform a set number of squats. Don’t forget to record your squats into your workout log so you can see your improvement!
Good luck with your squatting – I’ll see ya out there!
Kayla Thompson is a patient support representative at the HopeHealth Medical Plaza in Florence and is a certified exercise physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. She has a Master of Science in clinical exercise science.