Lower Your Squat

Despite the unfounded reputation of being bad for your knees, squats are a highly beneficial exercise that can be done with or without weights, depending on whether you’re looking to add muscle mass or simply tone and shape your thighs and glutes. Any resulting injuries are likely due to human error, as many people often skip the warmup and don’t take their full squats low enough.

What is a full squat?

When you perform a full squat, your knees will be bent to a minimum 90-degree angle and your thighs will be parallel to the floor or slightly lower. Start with your feet shoulder width or slightly further apart and turned slightly outward. To avoid undo stress on your spine, stand straight with your shoulders back, face forward and chin parallel to the floor.

Push your hips back as you lower them toward the floor, as if you were about to sit on a chair. To spare your knees from injury, the fronts of your kneecaps should never go beyond your toes. If you’re having trouble getting low enough or keeping your knees from crossing over your toes, you may need to work on flexibility, which can be added to your warm-up routine.

The warmup

Whether you’re performing squats with weights as part of strength training workout or without weights to tone up your thighs and glutes, warming up key muscle groups is the best way to avoid injury. A good warmup should last about 10 minutes or longer, and, if done correctly, you should break a sweat before your main workout even begins.

Start with cardio

A few sets of jumping jacks or a quick jog will work to get your heart rate up. Running in place would even do the trick, especially if you throw in a few high knees to warm up your hips.

Back and shoulders

If you’ll be squatting with weights, you’ll especially need to warm up your back and shoulders. Forward and backward shoulder rolls are great for heating up those muscles. Side bends will improve range of motion in your back and are good for warming up muscles around the spine.

Hamstrings

Get your hamstrings ready to go with standing leg swings. They’ll warm up the muscle and can also improve balance and coordination. Toe touches and lunges will also work to warm up your hamstrings as well as your glutes.

Improve flexibility

If you have trouble with your form, you probably have tight hip flexors. The most common cause of this is the extensive amount of time we spend sitting at a desk day after day. To improve your range of motion, you may need to add a few flexibility exercises to your warm-up routine.

Using a foam roller is one way to loosen things up. Simply lay on your side and place the roller under your hip. Roll back and forth until you find a tender spot. Continue to work the roller in that area until the tension eases up.

To open up your hips and improve range of motion you’ll need a targeted exercise such as the couch stretch. Start by kneeling in front of the couch. Bring one heel up toward your butt by bending your knee, making the front of your calf parallel with the front of the couch. Keep your torso as straight as possible and, using the couch to push your heel toward your butt, hold the position for at least a minute before switch sides.

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