Prepare to Squat

by Lynne Skilton-Hayes on Apr 22, 2018

Why is it that so few people can squat correctly, yet my 8-year-old son squats perfectly? I’ve never taught him how to squat; he innately learned how, just as he learned to roll over, crawl, pull himself up and eventually walk. He simply needed the freedom to allow his body to move. Movement before strength is key.

However, life happens. Now, more than ever, we are sedentary. Desk-jockey postures are, unfortunately, the norm we see in participants. People are making accommodations for their lack of mobility and have forgotten “primal” movement patterns (push, twist, pull, gait, hinge, squat, lunge). Habitual postures or deviations created by sedentary lifestyles increase the risk of injury and decrease the body’s ability to move as it was designed to. It’s not uncommon to look out at class and see forward heads, internally rotated shoulders and exaggerated lumbar curves, which are not optimal positions for effectively handling external load.

In order to move better, we need to practice movement. However, repeating a movement pattern isn’t necessarily the answer to perfecting it. It’s more likely that an inability to perform a movement is due to muscular imbalances. Therefore, to correct a move, we need to restore mobility in the movement chain and then reintroduce the pattern with a higher level of proficiency.

Take a squat, for example. Many people lack the hamstring and calf flexibility, and therefore the hip and ankle mobility, to perform it correctly. They also lack strength through the torso and have underactive glutes. Until there’s sufficient mobility and strength at each of these joints, participants will struggle with squatting. Here are some movement prep exercises you can use in any class warmup to prepare the body to squat.

Prep Flow

The Movement Prep Flow

Emphasize mindful movement and focus.

  • Stand with arms overhead, squat, place hands on floor, and walk hands out to plank.
  • Press back to downward-facing dog, heels to floor (prepares posterior chain).
  • Drop hips down to upward-facing dog. Keep abs engaged to avoid forced hyperextension (prepares anterior chain).
  • Return to high plank.
  • Walk hands back to feet.
  • Return to standing, hands overhead.
  • Repeat 8×–10×, flowing from move to move. Hold each position for 1–2 seconds.

Twist Flow

Twist Flow

  • From high plank, step left foot forward so L knee is at 90 degrees.
  • Put right hand on floor and reach L hand to ceiling, rotating R ­shoulder toward front leg. Knee tracks over middle toe.
  • Unwind and step back to plank.
  • Press back to downward-facing dog.
  • Return to plank.
  • Repeat 8×–10×, flowing from movement to movement. Hold each position for just 1–2 seconds.
  • Repeat pattern, R leg.

For one more exercise, please see “Primed to Squat” in the online IDEA Library or in the April 2018 print edition of Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at 800-999-4332, ext. 7.

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About the Author

Lynne Skilton-Hayes

Lynne Skilton-Hayes IDEA Author/Presenter

Lynne Skilton-Hayes is the Fitness Program Supervisor at the University of Guelph where she is responsible for hundreds of programs for students, faculty, staff and community. She is a canfitpro and ACE certified group fitness instructor and master personal trainer. Lynne holds a B.SC. degree and brings over 20 years of education and experience to the fitness industry. She is an International Fitness Presenter/Educator, a canfitpro ProTrainer and a master trainer for Bender Ball. Lynne has done work for television and print. Certification: ACE