Blog · Fitness

Back to the Basics: Mastering the squat

An exciting part of each new year is thinking about all the new, or different, things you can do. And there’s nothing like looking forward to warm weather and all the adventures that can await to make you anxious to move your body and feel your best. I cannot wait to tackle 2017 with abandon and experience all the activities I long for now that the days are cold and the roads are covered in snow. (If you missed last week’s post about setting goals for 2017, go back and check it out.)

Though despite this urge to move my body, or maybe because of it, I sometimes feel like I have exercise ADHD. I love learning about different exercises and how various movements impact the body. Every time I read about a move I haven’t tried or see a workout that promises the results I want, I want to rearrange my own workout to fit it all in. Once in a while, I actually do. This, however, is not necessary for the average person looking to get into great shape.

Keep it simple

In 2017, I’m protesting all of that and am committing to keeping it simple with a few basic moves.

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Deadlifts
  • Pull-ups
  • Push-ups
  • Farmers carry
  • Plank

These compound movements are powerful, and there are so many possible variations and ways to increase the intensity that I am certain I will stay appropriately challenged and will get great results. Since my grip and arms are much weaker than my lower body, my main goal for 2017 is to master the pull-up.

I am also signed up for a 5K in April and plan to do a half marathon in the fall. So I’ll have plenty to focus on as I whip my body back into shape post-pregnancy. But because I sometimes push myself too much and forget to rest, I’m trying to commit to two days of rest a week. Now, rest is not idleness. On my rest days, I will walk or do yoga and make it a point to move my body as much as possible, but the activity will not be intense. Besides, with three kids aged two and under, I doubt I’ll have much of a chance to just sit around.

Compound movements are awesome

So what is it about compound movements that is so beneficial and why am I targeting these exercises in 2017?

Compound exercises work multiple muscle groups and multiple joints. They force you to exhibit good body control and stimulate a lot of muscle mass, which in turn helps you burn more calories and build more muscle. It’s a positive cycle with great benefits.


Being a student of the squat

The squat is a wonder move because it’s essentially a full body workout all at once! When done properly, a squat engages the glutes, hamstrings, quads, back, and core. Let’s talk about proper form for a minute. I suggest standing in front of a mirror or perhaps recording yourself on your phone so you can play it back and critique your own form.

Not everyone’s squat looks the same and it shouldn’t. To find what squatting position is right for you, get on your hands and knees and then push your bottom back toward your heels. Push back as far as you can without rounding your back or thrusting your hips forward. Draw your knees in closer together or push them farther apart to get that deep bend while maintaining a neutral spine. A good squat is all about the position of the spine. Once you find the right position, take note of the distance between and angle of your feet. This is the stance you should take when you begin your squat.

Now for performing the squat…

Stand with your feet at the proper width for your squat, keep your weight in your heels, bend your knees, and push your hips to the back of the room. Imagine you’re trying to sit into a small, low chair. Your butt should not be up in the air, your heels should stay firmly planted on the ground, and your knees should stay behind the front of your toes. Once your legs are parallel to the ground, or lower than parallel, push through your heels to return to the standing position. And squeeze that tush at the top!

Squat variations

If you struggle completing a squat with proper form, practice with just your own bodyweight before trying any variations or holding any weights. Once you’ve mastered the basic form, there are many variations you can try to keep yourself challenged.

  • Goblet squat – hold a kettlebell to your chest
  • Plie squat – wide stance, holding barbell, kettlebell, or dumbbells
  • Jump squat – start and finish the squat in jump position
  • Dumbbell squat – hold two dumbbells just below your chin
  • Back squat – place a barbell across your back, resting it on your traps

The 2017 squat challenge

So here it is! Part 1 of my “sticking to the basics” challenge for 2017. I plan to start the year off with goblet squats, holding a 30lb kettlebell and go from there.

How do you do your squats? Leave a comment here or on the Facebook page.


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