Intro: Performing Proper Deep Squats
My name is Melvin, and I've been weightlifting for around 4 years now. I do primarily strength training or as some like to call it, power lifting. I perform squats, deadlifts and bench regularly, and have been for a while. The exercise I'd like to demonstrate in this tutorial is the squat. The squat is probably the most important lift you could possibly do. It utilizes just about every muscle in your body in some way, and is the anchor for every big lift you could do. You cant have a strong overhead press if you can’t hold the weight up, and you can’t deadlift if you don’t have strong legs. The other reason I want to create this tutorial is because people end up doing squats incorrectly and as such gain very little strength from doing them. Not only that, but will probably end up severely hurting their backs. I will be showing deep squats for those that are wondering which pertain more to power lifting and Olympic lifting, not so much body building. You can still use my form/method for body building, just increase your reps.
Step 1: Things You NEED
Here I'll list the things I think you should have for doing proper squats.
1) A gym membership
2) Workout clothes you feel comfortable moving in. Mobility is key for squatting
3) A weightlifting Belt. I don’t care if it costs 20$ or 200$ you need a belt for squats.
4) Sneakers with flat bottoms. I have Olympic Lifting Shoes (Adipowers) but those are rather expensive. If you don’t feel like shelling out $200+ for shoes, I recommend any kind of flat sneakers such as converse.
For more advanced:
5) Compression shorts. Compression shorts help maintain circulation through your body as well as help mobility in the hips
6) Knee wraps. When you start lifting heavy, you'll feel your knees bowing, even if you have proper form. Knee slips/wraps will make your knees stay out and not buckle.
7) Chalk. This is purely an accessory. I have chalk just so I can keep a good grip on the bar while I squat.
Step 2: The Warmup
You WILL warm up. Only idiots don’t warm up properly before lifting, and I'm not giving advice to idiots.
Big lifters tell you to not have too much of a warm up because you start to waste energy. This is true, so you have to optimize your time with performing the proper movements you find most useful to warm up.
FIRST: Warm up the muscles.
For this, I like to jog in place for about 1 minute while maintaining high knees to get my legs warm. I also recommend about 4-5 minutes of treadmill running. You need to get your muscles warmer and looser before you stretch.
Stretching is a great practice for more of the cardio based exercises so you don’t pull your muscles by overextending. In strength lifting, overstretching will actually be horrible for your lifts, as extending the muscle too much will make it tear slightly, just like lifting weights does. So you'll basically be lifting, without actually lifting, which is useless.
You're going to want to stretch your quads and hamstrings. Not your gluts or your hip flexors, because as I said before, you'll wear them out before you lift. Choose any quad/hamstring stretch you please, and hold it for only about 10 seconds.
THIRD: Your back
I like to use a foam roller for the first part of my back warm up. Most gyms have a foam roller sitting around. You can probably find it around the stretching/yoga area, but if not, ask a front desk person, they probably have it.
Place the roller on the ground, and sit on it. Now, lean back letting all of your weight rest on the roller, and scoot forward with your feet so that the roller rolls up your spine. Make sure to keep your weight on the roller. You should feel your vertebrae cracking slightly as your loosen up your joints. Don’t be scared, this is a good thing, and will probably feel great.
Lastly, I like to do rotating arms. This is basically where you stand upright with your arms out to your sides, and you spin side to side, rotating your spine.
Step 3: Stance
Now comes the time for the stance.
I squat with my feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, with my toes pointed outwards at about 45 degrees.
Lets start with feet:
I have my feet at slightly wider than shoulder width, because that makes them also just slightly wider than my hips, which help me to keep my balance when I squat to parallel, and engage my hip flexors and gluts.
As discussed briefly before when you squat your knees are going to want to bow inwards. This is bad because that kind of pressure on your knee joints is extremely bad and very detrimental and could later cause serious injury. You want to find a good angle at which to point your toes out so that your legs are aligned more adequately to compensate from the bend your knees will attempt to do.
You can choose your own feet positioning and toe angle but I personally recommend slightly wider than hips/shoulder width and toes pointing outward.
Step 4: The Squat
Now it's time to actually squat.
We're gonna start with the Bar Placement.
You should have the bar resting not on your spine or the base of your neck, but slightly lower, on your trap muscles.
Next is the proper Form.
You are going to want to maintain your spines natural curve while you squat. This means having a tight core to ensure that your lower back is straight (hint: this is what belts are for).
Now to mention Balance.
When you squat to parallel, you're going to probably feel yourself tip forward. This is bad, this means you are squatting on your toes, which will later strain your upper and lower spine. One way to maintain your balance is to look up at a 45 degree angle while you squat. This will keep your head up and your chest out, maintaining your solid form.
When you squat you must think of your movement as starting with your heels. Once you get to parallel, the only thought in your head should be driving yourself straight upwards, and that movement comes from your heels. If you feel yourself tipping forward, lessen your weight maybe, and fit your form. Possibly even practice without any weights on the bar.
Step 5: Tips, Tricks and Sources
Tips: Always have a belt and knee wraps. Eventually if you stick with it you'll get strong enough where they will be necessary. Look up videos about form like this one where you might learn a thing or two. If you start to feel overworked or tired of lifting, take a couple days off. You'll come back to lifting with more energy and more determination. Have chalk on your hands so you can grip the bar. When you're coming up in your squat, push upwards with every part of your body, which includes your shoulders. Pushing up on the bar will help your body stabilize itself.
Sources: Main image- http://zacheven-esh.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/WenhuaCuiDeepSquats.jpg
2nd image- http://worldfitnessnetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/11/good-stance.jpg
3rd image- http://www.precisionnutrition.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/what-your-knees-should-not-be-doing-during-a-squat1.png
4th image- http://muscleevo.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/squat-lower-back.jpg?b8fec2