Improve Your Squat With These Workouts
Improving your squat is essential, whether you crave toned glutes or not. That’s because you’ll be squatting for the rest of your life – whether you are sitting down in a chair, or bending over to pick something up off of the floor.
Every time you complete the squat movement, whether as part of an exercise routine or to simply sit down, you have to do it properly. Intentionally contracting the muscles that you need to and making sure that the mechanics of the movement are solid is essential, and an important habit to develop. Correctly squatting will help you to avoid injury and move efficiently over the course of the rest of your life.
General Good Squat Mechanics Look Like:
- Feet shoulder width apart
- Chest up tall
- Arms out ahead of you, pinching the shoulder blades together and keeping a nice neutral spine.
- Descend slowly into the movement, keeping the knees in line with the toes and your chest up the entire time. Knees should be pushing wide and forward as you go down into the movement.
- Try to get your butt to go as low as you possibly can.
- Maintain an equal distribution through the heels and the ball of your feet as you ascend into the top of the squat.
- Don’t forget to breathe.
Although every single person squats – when sitting or bending – the problem is most people don’t do it very well. As us humans have evolved the posture and natural fitness abilities of many have devolved. Squatting is a natural movement for humans, but if you don’t use it you lose it.
As you’re reading this right now what is your spine’s position like? For many it’s probably curved in an unnatural position that they’ve grown accustomed to. What’s key here is retraining yourself to naturally fall into a neutral spine position – which is what you’ll need to be in when squatting, or completing most workouts.
Here at ERA Fit we aim to – for the most part, increase the range of motion within the structural capacity of the individual to allow them to use that extra range of motion with the intent and the contraction that is necessary to do the movement in a way that is safe.
There are 3 things that we do to help improve squat mechanics here at ERA Fit, these are:
- Improve Dorsiflexion – which is, overall ankle mobility.
A great way to do this is with a calf stretch, placing hands up on the wall. This helps to solidify a new range of motion.
Our first tip to ensure that you actually gain range of motion is that you should be holding this stretch anywhere from 90 seconds up to 2 minutes. You should also be breathing intentionally, for example – breathing in for 3-5 seconds while thinking about breathing into the joint that you are looking to gain range of motion for. When exhaling, slowly release the breath for 5-10 seconds.
- Split Squat – a movement which helps with mobility.
The split squat movement will help you to learn to contract, control and own the new range of motion you’ve gained through your Dorsiflexion. With this movement it is important that you choose a raised platform that’s at a height appropriate for you, allowing you to get down to the lowest range of motion possible with a little bit of wiggle room to potentially allow you to stretch a little lower. The better you get at this movement, the lower you can get.
- PAILS & RAILS – a little bit more of an advanced movement. PAILS stands for Progressive Angular Isometric Loading, and RAILS stands for Regressive Angular Isometric Loading.
This is the most advanced movement out of the 3 we have shared – squat PAILS and RAILS involves a sequence of stretching, breathing and contracting your muscles.
How to – drop down into the bottom range of your squat, getting as low as you possibly can (it’s fine if you have to have something to hold onto). For 2 minutes you are going to press your elbows into your knees nice and wide. Breathing intentionally here is important: inhale for 4 seconds, exhale for 8 seconds. After passing the 2 minute passive stretch you will then contract your muscles in your entire body, moving from 10% contraction up to 100%, as you push your knees into your elbows for 20 seconds. Upon reaching 20 seconds flex your entire body as hard as you can for 10 seconds (this is the PAILS exercise). Then you will raise your arms out in front of you and flex your entire body, remaining in the squat position and pushing your knees wide, trying to pull yourself lower down into the squat position. Hold that for 10 seconds and then bring the elbows back to the knees, holding for another 30 seconds and trying to go deeper into the stretch (this is the RAILS exercise).
There is an exhaustive list of different things that you can do in order to improve your squat and your range of motion, but these are 3 general things that we like to use over here at ERA Fit.
If you want more help to develop any of your workout techniques, or to know which workouts that you should be doing in order to reach your fitness goals then get in touch. ERA Fit offers online coaching services and personal training at our state of the art gym based in Miami.