Squat! What a funny-sounding word used to describe an even funnier-looking position. The mere thought of squatting is sure to elicit a giggle or a cringe depending upon your age. Children naturally assume this playful position, while many adults avoid squatting due to painful knees or the fear of not being able to get back up. To squat is to live. Strengthening the muscle groups engaged in squatting allows you to maintain independence in performing activities of daily living like getting up and down off the toilet. And who does not want to maintain that independence?
Every time you sit down onto a chair and then stand up, you are doing a squat. The problem is, we spend too much time sitting. Learn to squat correctly. Begin by doing a few squats per day. No equipment is needed. Increase the number of reps or stay down in the bottom position a few seconds longer each session. Squatting improves your hip and knee function, while strengthening butt, back, leg and core muscles. Squatting engages your entire body and is the foundation for performing many other movements well. Messages sent from your brain to your muscles enhances your mental ability, boosts physical confidence and contributes to longevity.
Squatting should be a fluid movement – down, then up. Follow these guidelines for the squat. Then use the same movements in reverse, returning to a tall standing position.
1. Arms up: Raise your arms. Keep your chest up. Look straight ahead. Do not look down. Keep your feet shoulder-distance apart. Feet may be slightly toed out. Performing these cues properly places your back in the correct position, allowing a normal arch of the lumbar curve while tightening your abs(core).
Knees out: Push your knees out. Drive your hips back and down while keeping your weight on your heels. Your knees should track with your toes. Do not allow your knees to cave inward.
Butt down: Breathe, relax, and pull your butt down low. The fold of your hip should be below your knees – breaking parallel with the thigh. To rise, exert pressure on the outside of your feet as though you were trying to separate the ground beneath you. Stand straight up, opening your hips.
Joni Colle has over 38 years of experience in health care as a registered nurse and respiratory therapist. Learning to squat at CrossFit Instinct alleviated the pain and healed meniscus tears in her left knee. Happily, she did not need to install a high-rise toilet during a recent bathroom renovation.