Squats feature a lot as a key compound exercise on leg day, understandably so. There are very few exercises which are able to generate as much high threshold motor unit stimulation across the thighs, they are hugely energy intensive and have a profound impact on natural hormone stimulation. They are a friggin' great exercise! However, you need to do them properly in order to benefit the most and keep safe! Here are 3 tips to improve your squatting.
Getting your posture right is key when squatting because it allows for correct movement, more depth, increased strength, stability as well as safety. Your chest should be pushed out with the bar across the traps. Some prefer it lower than others, depending on shoulder mobility and biomechanics. For the entire set your posture should remain strong in this position, don't allow yourself to slouch forward or even lean forward! This will equate to a loss in strength and focus on the thighs, potentially increasing the strain on your lower back.
Always look upwards as you squat, this helps sustain a better posture.
Going to at least parallel is key when squatting. When I used to squat over 5 plates during my leg workouts, I would go right to the ground on every rep! The point is, increasing the weight should not lead a reaction in depth otherwise it is too heavy. Achieving enough depth is essential for maximal muscle fibre recruitment and overload!
Sometimes I also implement a pause at the bottom of each rep, to increase the time under tension. Remember, squatting is such an intricate exercise with many variables that you must build with the right form and depth. There is no point getting strong if your form is s***! I'm NOT saying everybody needs to squat to the ground, they don't because sometimes this could be dangerous and counter productive. However, parallel is the minimum depth required.
Poor mobility at the hips, lower back, shoulder and ankles are where most people really struggle when squatting - especially if they carry a lot of muscle. Ankles are perhaps the most common because of dorsiflexion deficit, caused by tight achilles tendons usually. As a result when people squat their heal comes off the ground. You will have either seen this or experienced it in the gym! In turn this reduces strength and increases the pressure on your knees. It also means you cannot gain enough depth!
Initially putting small platers under your heels with fix this issue, but in the long run you want to improve ankle mobility so you don't need the plates. Increasing hip mobility will also reduce the pressure on your lower back when squatting and afford more room to sit more upright in the squat.