Build a Better Squat: Part 1

Genevieve Gyulavary, a physical therapist and athlete, has a passion for proper form — especially when it comes to achieving your squat goals.
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Writing a single guide on squat mechanics could easily turn into an endeavor the length of a book. Here, we’ll touch on some of the main mechanics to get you squatting like it ain’t no thing, with a ton of different variations tailored to your current level.


Build a Solid Foundation

As a physical therapist and athlete, there is no stronger cause I have than encouraging my clients to build a strong base. If it looks bad or worse and if it feels bad, something isn’t right. First, move well.

A beautiful air squat is a head-turner where I come from. Performing a basic air squat is something that is a necessary and functional component of everyday life. Think getting in and out of a chair or picking something up off the ground (like your kids). Spending time working on your squat within a pain-free range not only will build better glutes but also will ensure the long-lasting health and longevity of your lumbar spine. 


Basics to look out for:

  • A vertical shin tracking along the outside of your big toe.
  • A neutral spine
    • Excessive flexion and hyperextension can signal a weak core.
  • An upright chest
    • Excessive rounding at your midback (thoracic spine) can signal a weak posterior chain (traps, rhomboids, erector muscles) or a lack of joint mobility.
  • Weight in your heels
    • This will turn on your glutes and engage your posterior chain, an issue seen frequently because of sedentary work and commuter life.
  • Knees out
    • Think “spreading the floor” with your feet to prevent any collapse at the knees to compensate for hip weakness.

Progress Over Time

Here are a variety of squat variations that will allow you to progress over time without sacrificing form:

Five-Minute Warm-Up for Squat Therapy

This progression is so much harder than it looks. I swear you will be sweating. All you need is a wall and a medicine ball. The goal here is to help you understand what it feels like to maintain neutral spinal positions, also known as “squat therapy.”

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