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Perfecting the Squat For A Strong Back and Butt

by | Jul 28, 2021

Summer is a time where people are active and work hard at getting in shape. An excellent exercise that strengthens the back, buttocks, legs, and core is the squat. Squats are highly demanding and are not easy to perform. I have worked with a lot of Moms teaching them to squat properly and typically it is hard for them to get the knee tracking right and maintain a curve in the low back. I created this video just for you, so you can perfect the squat. Below is also a detailed description of how you can work your way into a perfect squat.

3 Reasons You Need a Good Squat

  1. Learning to lift with your legs and not your low back is crucial in protecting your spine.
  2. Squats build a strong butt which protects the low back.
  3. Squats tone everything, the butt, back, legs, core and even the shoulders when holding weights.

A couple of things you can do to help you squat better are:

  1. Toe touch drill – this will teach your knee where to be in space when squatting, lunging or simply walking.
  2. Prone hip extension – this gets the butt working and helps you recruit the large butt muscles instead of the small low-back muscles. Once you can easily do that you will know how to use your butt muscles during a squat and maintain your low back curve.
  3. Swiss ball wall squat – If you have difficulty squatting without support, try the Swiss ball squat on the wall.

 How To Perfect The Squat

Let’s dive into the sumo squat first and see how you do following the cues and the video I have put together for you. If you notice issues keeping your low-back curve and maintaining your knee over your ankle, try the Swiss ball wall squat for a few weeks.

If your knee starts to wobble inside and outside the body, try the toe touch drill for a few weeks first. Trust me, this will not only teach you knee placement, but it will also fire up the booty and make it strong.

If it is hard for you to maintain a 60-second hold in the toe touch drill, prone hip extensions will strengthen your buttocks and get you well on your way to a good squat. Try it for 3 weeks and then go back to the toe touch drill for 3 weeks and then attempt the squat again.

No matter what level you are at learning to squat, each exercise that helps you along the way will strengthen your booty and improve your posture and joint health.

Illustration 1 35 degree lumbar curve
Figure 1 Sumo Squat Start

Squat
Figure 2 Sumo Squat Finish

Sumo Squat

Cues:

1.   Start with feet wider than shoulder-width apart and turn the toes out approximately 15 degrees, knee tracking over the second toe as in figure 1. This protects the back by compressing the sacroiliac joint. Hold a dumbbell in your hands and lift your chest.

2.   Inhale, belly button in lightly and hold (this helps create a corset effect on the spine, stiffening the spine and protecting it), as well as focusing on using the buttocks and thighs to protect your back.

3.   Bending from the knees, and sitting back as if sitting in a chair, slowly sit into a squat. Keep your chest lifted and a 35-degree curve in the low back, shoulder blades pulled together figure 2.

4.   Go as far as you can while maintaining a 35-degree lumbar curve, see illustration 1, keeping your shins vertical (do not let your knee go over your toes). Stop when you feel you are about to lose your curve and feel your back muscles working too hard.

5.   As you come up out of the movement, press through your heels and slowly exhale through your pursed lips.

Modifications: 

1.   If you feel like you are using your low back to perform the exercise, simply shorten your range of motion.

2.   If your balance is off, place a Swiss ball on a wall behind you, as in figure 9, to help you maintain your balance and form.

3.   This exercise can also be done holding your baby.

Variables:

    Reps:    8-12                       

     Sets:    1-3         

   Tempo:    3-1-3      

Intensity:   -2 reps (stop when you can do 2 more reps with good form)                     

     Rest:    60-90 sec.

Benefits:

This exercise provides excellent lifting mechanics, as well as strengthening all the structures that support the pelvis and back. In addition, it helps to stabilize the sacroiliac joint.

Figure 3 Touch Touch Front
Figure 4 Toe Touch 45 Degrees Front
Figure 5 Toe Touch Side
Figure 6 Toe Touch 45 Degrees Back
Figure 7 Toe Touch Straight Back

Toe Touch Drill

Cues:

1.   Stand facing a mirror with feet shoulder-width apart, hands on the top of the pelvis to make sure it stays neutral and does not tip forward or backward or hike up on one side. Draw your belly button in to slim your waistline.

2.   Bend the left leg to about 20 degrees or as much as you can without letting the knee come past the toes. Make sure the knee is tracking over the second toe, next to the big toe. Hold this position.

3.   Using the right leg, slowly touch out to the front, as if touching your toe around a clock starting with 12:00, figure 3, bring the foot back, then touch 2:00 (45 degrees), figure 4, then touch 3:00 (out to the side), figure 5, then touch 4:00 (45 degrees back), figure 6 and then straight back to 6:00, figure 7. The left leg stays bent, holding the starting position the entire time.

4.   Continue to do this for 30 – 60 seconds, then repeat on other side.

Precautions:

1.   If you feel this in your knee, do not go as deep into the knee bend.

2.   If you feel pain in your back, squeeze your glutes and make sure your tail bone is tucked under.

Modifications: 

1.   This exercise can be done by touching in front of you and, as you come back to start, releasing the bend in the knee for a second or two and then bend the knee again and touch the next place on the clock.

2.   You can increase the intensity by turning the toe touch into a lunge.

3.  This can be done standing on an unstable surface.

Variables:

    Reps:    1  if using a 30-60 second hold or 5-15 if using a 2-2-2 tempo.

   Tempo:    30-60 seconds per leg or 2-2-2 per leg.

     Rest:    60-90 seconds

      Sets:    1-3                         

Intensity:   -5 seconds (stop when you feel you can hold it 5 more seconds) or -2 reps, stopping when you feel you can only do 2 more reps with good form.

Benefits:

Strengthens the glutes and quadriceps, as well as teaching the knee how to track properly. This is an excellent exercise for those who have trouble keeping the knee tracking over the second toe during a lunge, squat or when walking or running.

Figure 8 Prone Hip Extension

Prone Hip Extension

Cues

1.   Lie on the floor with your chin placed on crossed arms.

2.   Start by slowly lifting both legs as far as you can go, lifting up for 2, hold for 2 and lower for 2, as in figure 8. Be sure to squeeze your buttocks tight.

3.   Return to start position.

4. Lift again for a count of 2, hold for 2 and lower for 2, Repeating 10-15 times.

Variables:

    Reps:    10-15       

      Sets:    1-3         

   Tempo:    2-2-2      

Intensity:   -2 reps (stop when you can do 2 more reps with good form)                     

     Rest:    60-90 sec.

Modifications: 

1.   This can be done lifting one leg at a time of it is too hard to lift both legs.

Benefits:

1.   This exercise is an excellent tool to strengthen the glutes and low back together.

2.    Most people who have back pain during a back extension exercise, can perform the prone hip extension without pain and begin to strengthen the back muscles safely.

Figure 9 Swiss Ball Wall Squat Start

Figure 10 Swiss Ball Wall Squat Finish

 Swiss Ball Wall Squat

Cues:

1.   Place a Swiss ball against a wall and lean against it, so that the ball fits nicely in your low back and you feel supported. See sizing a Swiss ball blog

2.   Start with feet about 3 feet from the wall, having them wider than shoulder-width apart and turn the toes out approximately 15 degrees, knee tracking over the second toe, as in figure 9. Lift your chest.

3.   Inhale, belly button in lightly and hold (this helps create a corset effect on the spine, stiffening the spine and protecting it) and focus on using the buttocks and thighs to protect your back, figure 9.

4.   Bending from the knees, roll the ball down the wall, slowly sitting into a squat. Keep your chest lifted, eyes on the horizon, and shoulder blades pulled together, figure 10.

5.   Go as far as you can while maintaining a 35-degree lumbar curve, keeping your shin vertical (do not let your knee go over your toes). Stop when you feel you are about to lose your curve and feel your back muscles working too hard.

6.   As you come up out of the movement, press through your heels and slowly exhale through your pursed lips.

Modifications: 

1.   If you want a challenge, you can perform this exercise with one leg at a time.

2.   This exercise can also be done holding your baby.

Variables:

    Reps:    8-12                       

      Sets:    1-3         

   Tempo:    3-1-3      

Intensity:   -2 reps (stop when you can do 2 more reps with good form)                     

             Rest: 60-90 sec.

Benefits:

This exercise provides excellent lifting mechanics as well as strengthening all the structures that support the pelvis and back. In addition, it helps to stabilize the sacroiliac joint, and create good squat form.

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