Revisiting fundamental movements is essential, whether you’ve been working out for years or are new to incorporating these movements into your routine. One of the most basic fundamental exercises I like to touch upon first is the body weight squat.
The body weight squat (note: since there are several variations of squats – like the back squat and goblet squat – I am opting to discuss the most fundamental of them all: the simple body weight squat) is a great functional exercise that utilizes the muscles in your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and abdominals. It is a compound exercise, meaning that it “works two or more different joints at once to fully stimulate entire muscle groups.” (definition here). It’s a movement ingrained in us from a young age, but years of sitting behind a desk has made it so that a lot of people shy away from it because of fear of injuring the knees. When done properly (and with proper mobility and stretching done), the body weight squat can be a really beneficial exercise.
Key points: Essentially, you want to sit your butt down and bend at the knee so that your hip crease is at least parallel with your knees (and slightly lower than your knees if you have the mobility). You want to keep a rigid upper back while you squat down because as you add weight, this will become immensely important in order to keep you in proper alignment and reduce your risk of injury. Your feet should be about hip-width to shoulder-width apart with the toes pointing ever so slightly outward. Your feet should be flat on the ground with the weight evenly distributed over the midline of the foot – never up on the toes.
Breathing: as you begin to descend into the squat, slowly inhale your breath, building tension throughout your body. Don’t release that tension once you get to the bottom of your squat or you’ll lose power and have a difficult time coming back up with proper form. As you come back up from the squat, drive through with your hips and exhale out, returning to a full standing position.
Muscles engaged: As you descend into the bottom of the squat, you should feel your glutes, abs, and quads engaging and building tension. As you come up, you’ll push through the heels and big toes of your feet and continue to engage your glutes, quads, abdominals, and hamstrings to power you up to a full standing position.
Here’s a video demonstrating the body weight squat!
There are a number of different squat variations to work with, but it is important NOT to add weight until you have the proper mechanics in the body weight version.
How are you getting your squats on today?