Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
12 Aug

How-To: Proper Squat Technique

If you want to pick something up off the ground, you have two options: hinge at the hips or squat down. There’s no question that the full squat is an essential, Primal movement, and yet many folks in modern, industrialized society are unable to perform one. Kids have good squat form (just watch them at play), but their parents are stiff at the hips with rounded backs and tight knee joints. Many more have been taught – by health experts and personal trainers – that the full squat is dangerous, that it will destroy your knees with wear and tear and render you incapable of normal activity. They say a half-squat is perfectly adequate, or, better yet, get rid of the squat altogether and use the leg extension machine! Disregard these “experts.” You need to squat. You don’t need to use a ton of weight (or any!), but you do need to be mobile and flexible enough to reach a full squat below parallel.

Full squat – dangerous? Tell that to the elderly folks in Southeast Asia comfortably resting on their haunches with ease. Tell that to modern hunter-gatherers who use the full squat as their default resting position. Tell that to professional power-lifters squatting under heavy weight for dozens of years. The problem is not with the movement; it’s with our lack of flexibility and mobility. In order to be truly fit, it’s important that we relearn how to perform a proper, full squat.

How to Do the Basic Squat

  1. Stand with a comfortable stance. Most will prefer their feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart with toes turned out at a slight angle.
  2. Lower yourself by reaching back with your butt while maintaining a strong lower back. Keep your knees aligned with your toes and your toes on the ground.
  3. Chest up, upper back tight, eyes looking forward and slightly down, head in a neutral position. Maintain a nice cohesive line along your spine.
  4. Go just below parallel, so that your butt drops below your knees.
  5. Come back up by pushing through the heel.

Things to Remember

  1. Don’t let your knees bow inward, or risk potential injury. Think of actively shoving your knees outward on the descent so that they track over your toes.
  2. To visualize driving through the heel, try lifting your toes off the ground the first few reps.
  3. Thirty seconds or so of the Grok squat stretch is a great way to prime the pump for your squat workout.

Watch this video on proper form and technique for the first 4 of 9 total squat movements in the PBF Lift Heavy Things bodyweight progression.

Find out where you should begin in the squat progression by taking the self-assessment test found in Primal Blueprint Fitness and then get started today!

You want comments? We got comments:

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  1. Mark, I have not yet delved in to this but it seems that, for better or worse, we have evolved beyond deep squatting for rest. From the little research I’ve done, it seems that the articular surface between the talus and tibia is different in the skeletons of squatting people.

    Bobby Fernandez wrote on February 11th, 2011
  2. Hello,

    I’ve been doing squats for a while following these tips but I noticed while looking in a mirror that as I start to reach parallel my back starts to round and I can’t find a way to stop it. It looks like as I get to about parallel my glutes/hamstrings rounds my back. I’ve been doing dead lifts and hamstring/glute stretches to help alleviate this but to no avail. Anyone else had this problem? And any suggestions on how to fix it?

    Robbie Justice wrote on February 20th, 2011
    • Hi Robbie. The easiest way to maintain good spine position as you go past 90 is to widen your stance so that your pelvis can tilt forward as your hip flexes. Of course tight hammies will stop the pelvis from allowing full flexion at the hip however if your stance is too narrow (shoulder width is too narrow for a full deep squat) your femur itself with lock the pelvis at a certain angle and not allow full hip flexion. Also, some PNF type stretches for the hip flexors might help as well. I would also suggest the chair pose. Keeping your arms extended above your head helps keep the spine in proper position as you lower.

      Bobby Fernandez wrote on February 20th, 2011
  3. It disturbs me how difficult/impossible it is for me to do what should be a totally natural, human resting position. It doesn’t surprise me, however, that Western medicine would suggest that if you are going to poop a watermelon (have a baby) that you should lay down to do it. That is insane. Hurray to ladies who bucked the CV and copped a squat to poop their watermelons. :) My ancenstors dug a big hole, filled it with soft moss and then squatted to have their babies. Lay down? Who’s sick joke was that?

    Michelle Fire Eater wrote on April 12th, 2011
  4. I do Squats 3 times a week, started doing them with my running shoes on and always had pain in my knees as my feet were always inclined forward due to the shoe shape so I couldn`t push through my heels much. This created pressure on my knees. Now I`am doing them bare footed and no pain at all.

    Alan wrote on July 12th, 2011
  5. @ MARK…I am not supposed to do squats, at least with a bar across my shoulders, because I have a curvature of the spine. I have always done wide and high leg presses to hit more of my glute and hamstrings. Is this okay? Or, am I losing out?

    Ryan wrote on November 10th, 2011
  6. Been primal with my diet and lifestyle for almost a year now, but started doing the workouts recently. Just thought I would make a suggestion for anyone doing the “Assisted Squats”… If you are doing them indoors & don’t have access to a pole, an open door works great by using the doorhandles in each hand for support. Love the life! Thank you, Mark!

    Karen wrote on December 19th, 2011
  7. Knees over toes or not? Myth or fact? Ive been told repeatedly taht knees should stay over toes or risk injury, is this true?

    Seb wrote on January 12th, 2013

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