So you think you can squat!

Why does form matter?

Proper form helps you work out more efficiently so you can use your energy for the extra push rather than wasted movements. Improper form may mean you are targeting unintended muscles or muscle groups. The better your form the better your results – run faster, lift more, and jump higher when you do it right. More importantly, when you use improper form you risk serious injury.

Today we’re going to talk about three functional exercises. A functional exercise strengthens the muscles that you use on a daily basis doing everyday activities.

Squats

Squats are an essential exercise since we constantly bend down to either pick or lift something up. It is a great exercise that strengthens the quads, rectus abdominis, and posterior chain of muscles: erector spinae, hamstrings, gluteus maximus. If performed correctly, squats can improve our activities of daily living, and help reduce the risk of potential injuries. Here are some squatting cues to help you perform the perfect squat!

Squatting Cues:

    • Start off standing with good posture: neutral spine and feet shoulder width apart.
    • The initial movement is to hinge at the hips
    • As you hinge your hips, bend your knees to get lower. Go as low till your thighs are parallel to the ground. If you’re not able to go as low, bend your knees to where you’ll feel the tension on your quads before any pain.
    • When you are at the end point of the squat, make sure your torso and shins are parallel to each other, your heels are planted on the ground, and your weight should be more on the midfoot.
    • As you go back up, make sure your knees and hips are extending at the same time.
    • Also, when you go up, make sure your knees don’t cave in. Do your best to maintain your base position and drive the knees out. Caving of the knees (valgus) can potentially lead to hip or knee injuries.
    • It is important to always maintain that neutral position. Common myth of performing the squat, especially the back squat with a barbell, is to look up. Looking up will actually put more pressure on the thoracic spine and lead to injury.

Deadlifts

Everyday when we constantly bend over and pick something up, we’re performing a type of weight lifting exercise, the deadlift. A deadlift is a functional full body exercise that involves lifting up weights/objects from the ground to hip level. Although we perform this movement on a consistent basis, is it done correctly?

Cues/Tips for performing the deadlift:

  • Hinge at the hips
    The deadlift uses the posterior chain muscles (glutes, hamstrings, erector spinae muscles). Hinging at the hips will help activate these groups of muscles.
  • Knees bent and heels flat on the ground
    Establish a solid base and an even distribution of weight on the feet so you won’t fall too forward or back.
  • Maintain a neutral spine
    DO NOT ROUND THE BACK!!! This is very important while performing the deadlift. You want to retract the scapulas, keep the back straight and engage that lower back and core. Just imagine a rod is on your back, you want that rod to maintain the 3 points of contact: Your head, thoracic spine, and sacrum (butt).
  • Hips and Knees should fully extend at the same time
    Evenly distribute the load on the lower back, hips, and legs. Extending the legs first will require more muscle activation on the lower back, and can potentially lead to an injury.

Following these cues will help improve your activities of daily living (ADL), and help reduce back pain while lifting. So next time you grab those grocery bags, or pick up and place down that heavy box/object, be very conscious and aware of your body positioning. Also, don’t forget to always engage that core!

Planks

The plank is a great full body exercise to strengthen the core. It also targets the back, shoulders, and quads. Virtually any age group can perform the plank exercise. There are always modifications if you cannot safely get on the floor, such as holding the plank position at a slanted angle on a sturdy table or chair.

  • Benefits of the plank exercise
  • Strengthens your core
  • Gives you better posture and helps with back pain
  • Improves flexibility
  • Enhances bone and joint health
  • Mental fortitude

How to do a plank

  • Go into push-up position on the floor.
  • Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.
  • Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
  • Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
  • Hold the position for as long as you can.
    • For beginners, hold for 30 seconds to build up tolerance and core strength
  • Remember to breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly and steadily.

Questions? Give us a call!