All squats aren’t created equal—but not in the ways that you might think.
While some outspoken gym bros might harp about how deep you need to lower down under the weight in the eccentric portion of the exercise, pushing for beyond parallel depths, experts like author and The Ready State coach Kelly Starrett are more concerned about other less arbitrary factors, like how you feel when you’re moving and how you position yourself before you descend. But there is one important detail Starrett wants every squatter to focus on before their set: foot position.
“I need you to feel like you’re balanced between the ball of your foot and your heel, and I need your feet to be as straight as you can make them,” he advised in a wide-ranging interview with Men’s Health about healthy movement, best gym practices, and more. “I need your ankle to be in the middle of your feet. Now: Squat.”
He’s not just talking about heavy loaded barbell back squats, either. This is important for every variation of the exercise.
“With the front squat, back squat, overhead squat, give me a goblet squat … that foot position shouldn’t change,” he continues. “The foot pressure shouldn’t change, and when it does, it’s because you’re trying to get some arbitrary depth or because it’s too heavy. Then you are no longer practicing great squatting technique. You’re starting to compensate, which means you have a choice here: You can say, “Well, I need to get fit so I’m just going to keep doing it, and it doesn’t matter because if I’m just fit or I’ll have abs.” Or you stop.”
Starrett has some advice for when you reach that compensation point.
“You rest a little bit more in between sets, or you make the load lighter. Or you squat higher,” he says. “But I need you to feel when you are starting to break down, or when you’re starting to compensate away from best expression of the human.”
Your foot position is only one part of your squat. There are other small details that go into executing the various versions of the exercise properly. Looking to master the movement? Check out our form checks for the air squat, goblet squat, back squat, and front squat to learn how to best approach each variation.
Find out what else Starrett said about movement and exercise by checking out the full interview here.
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