The Deep Squat: A Cure for Some Common Problems
Been seeing a lot of poorly executed deep squats floating around lately. It seems a lot of teachers enjoy playing Drill Sgt. driving their students to go down lower than what is safe or beneficial, without much guidance beyond the usual, “Relax More, Sink More!”
The depth of your deep squat largely depens on individual body types, variances in flexibility, range of motion, and physical capabilities. Most students attempt to hold tensed and contorted postures while performing them for durations longer exceeding their skill level or utility. This could potentially lead to blown out knees, lower back injuries and more.
Deep squats are one of the most practical, beneficial and powerful exercises you can do. They require zero equipment (a small mirror for feedback), take little space and can effectively be done anywhere there is enough room to stand. They help to retain and preserve crucial hip flexion and mobility to improve your life.
However, if not trained properly and regularly, you will lose your ability to do them as hip flexors will tighten and worsen over time.
When properly executed, deep squats build a “wrapping effect” around the knees by strengthening the quad tendons and the intercondylar notch to evenly distribute the load over a wider area, protecting them from damage. They recruit and strengthen the Erector Spinae- the bundles of muscles and tendons of the posterior chain (back, glutes, hamstrings) making them assist in handling the workload. They build structural integrity and stamina by working the paraspinal muscles of the lower back along with the gluteal muscles to improve posture, which produces more strength and power.
The goal is to avoid over-taxing the quadricep muscles by using the posterior chains equally.
The Deep Squat Workout:
- Stand with your feet slightly beyond shoulder width.
- Keep your weight balanced in the center of the fore-aft of your foot. Just behind the balls of your feet ahead of mid-foot.
- Keep arms relaxed by your sides and fingers unclenched.
- Be sure to lower your chin as you descend at it tends to jut upwards due to increased tensions.
- Keep your back as straight as possible as you descend and resist hunching forward to engage the posterior chain.
- Keep the soles of your feet flat throughout. Do not come up onto the balls of your feet. If you do, then you’ve gone far too low for your ability level.
- Whenever you need to re-align the body but find it hard to do so, rise up gently to relieve a bit of tension, re-align as needed, and relax before lowering again.
- Go down only as far as you can without distorting your posture and be sure to hold it comfortably without trembling or shaking before going further.
- The deeper you descend the more awareness/tension/density is placed around the knees to stabilize them. Do not be flaccid or too relaxed at the bottom.
- Rise slowly and smoothly with good form. Imagine a lotus flower blossoming. Once upright loosen your legs by lightly stamping the soles of your feet towards the ground.
Begin your first month with 30 seconds workouts: 15 secs down/15 secs up. This will initially be plenty challenging to do with proper orm. Perform them 3X per week, for the first 2 months.
You will need to build your base of strength, endurance, flexibility, and stamina while educating the posterior chains to get into the act. This must be done progressively to minimize the risk of injury.
By the 3rd month, increase your workouts to 1 minute: 30 secs down/ 30 secs up. Again, be sure to use perfect form and only go as far down as you can achieve comfortably without distortion or excessive tensions in the body.
The lower you descend, the more density/tension/awareness you must place around the knees maintain lateral stability. DO NOT relax the knee joint at the lowest point of your squat. Keep them slightly contracted and relax as you ascend to standing position. Every 2
Every 2 months thereafter, increase workout duration by 30 secs increment until you can comfortably experiment with longer times.
When you treat your body with respect, it will reward you in kind by giving you good health, strength and fitness.
Enjoy your Paths!