Bodyweight Exercise: Squat
Looking to increase hip mobility, build leg strength and do an exercise that will carryover to all areas of your life? Start with the bodyweight squat.
The Bodyweight Squat is possibly the most functional and efficient exercises that exists. It is functional in the fact that every human is born with an innate capacity for squatting (just watch a 2-year-old for a couple minutes) and used throughout daily life.
Efficient in the sense that no other exercise can engage both the musculature of the body and different fitness abilities quite like the Bodyweight Squat. It’s also versatile throughout each methodology and there are endless variations.
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Step 1: Start with your feet a little more than shoulder-width apart with your feet flat and toes pointed slightly outwards from your body. Stand with your shoulders back, chest proud, and engage your core by flexing your glutes, hamstrings, and abdominals.
Step 2: Keeping your chest proud and shoulders back, begin pushing your hips behind your centerline (imagine there is a wall 6 inches behind you that you are trying to touch with your butt).
Once your hips are behind your centerline, begin descending your hips directly towards the ground. Avoid knee misalignment issues (commonly called knee valgus or medial knee displacement)
by spreading your knees apart as you descend.
Step 3: Once you your upper legs are parallel with the ground, you will most likely need to change your descension angle to descend further. At this point, imagine there is a string running from your tailbone to a point directly in between your heels. Push your hips forward while descending along the imaginary string. If at any point your lumbar/lower back begins to flex, stop.
Step 4: Once you have reached the maximum depth that you can maintain with proper spinal alignment, begin pushing your body away from the ground into your heels. Follow the same path up that you descended with, always maintaining a proud chest with your shoulders tucked and back. Rise to a fully locked out position at the top of the rep, reset your alignment, and begin the next rep.
Tips and Safety
There are a variety of ways to complete the Bodyweight Squat, but I have found that this method (essentially keeping the spine vertical and allowing the knees to come forward in front of the body) to be the most efficient and functional for the purposes of this program.
While reaching the bottom of the Bodyweight Squat is preferential, many people will have restrictions due to hip, back, and leg flexibility issues. If this is the case, don’t attempt to get lower by rounding the back; instead, stop the movement at the depth at which you maintain a neutral spine. Work on mobility and flexibility to increase your range of motion.
If you are unable to tell whether you are keeping good form or not and do not have an outside party to observe you, try facing a wall with your toes against it and try performing a Bodyweight Squat from that point.
If you find that your forehead is touching the wall at any point, or if you can not maintain balance, you probably have an alignment or flexibility issue.
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Mark de Grasse
Mark de Grasse is the owner of MegaMad Industries, a website design firm specializing in comprehensive solutions for small businesses. He is also a former executive of Onnit Labs, former founder and editor of My Mad Methods Magazine, and a dedicated father and husband to a growing family. Learn more at www.MarkdeGrasse.com