Squats Are For Every Body
Have you done any squats today?
Not gym squats, just life squats.
Where you fold your ankles, knees and hips to get down to the ground so you can, you know, do something.
I bet that if everyone who says ‘No’ to this gave me a dollar, I’d make some serious coin.
And that’s a shame, because squats are a category of movement that your body requires if it’s going to work at its best. Squatting is awesome because it helps keep your hips, knees and ankles in top working condition, gives your glutes and hamstrings a solid mini-workout, and nourishes your pelvic floor.
And squats are lost to most North Americans because we stopped squatting after the age of three and started sitting exclusively in chairs. After 10-50 years of this, our bodies just can’t squat any more (even though they’re champion sitters)!
Today I’m sharing my #1 favourite exercise to help ANYONE get more of the goodness of squats into their lives.
Why Can’t YOUR Body Squat?
So there are a lot of mechanical reasons that squats might not work for your body.
Maybe you’ve got limited range of motion at your ankles (if you need to turn your feet way, way out to squat, then this could be an issue for you).
Or maybe your hamstrings won’t allow it (do you round your lower back as soon as you start dropping to the floor)?
Perhaps your joints aren’t up for deep flexion – if you feel pain in your knees or hips as you go deep, this might be you.
What if you have a pressure issue in your core? Sometimes this means that full squats are too much for your pelvic floor (if you have a prolapse, or feel heaviness or bearing down when you squat, this might be you).
And maybe you just HAVE NO TIME to squat. Because you have to work, and cook dinner, and get groceries, and check Facebook, and write Christmas cards and clean the house and MORE.
Those are just a few reasons your body and life may not get enough squatting-type movements.
The more you know your own limitations, the more you’ll be able to work on them. So take a moment right now to consider what your particular barriers are. Then pay these areas extra attention as you move forward on your squatting journey.
When You Can’t Do A Full Squat
Because most of us have some limitations in our squats, it makes a lot of sense to break down squats into their component parts. By working on exercises that improve each little bit of your squat, you eventually end up with better squatting overall.
So instead of thinking ‘I need to do a squat’ – start thinking ‘I need to do some squat prep’. Pretty soon your squat-ability will get better.
I can’t promise that every single body will someday be able to do a full complete squat.
But I can promise that working on the pieces will give YOUR body some of the movement goodness that a full squat would bring. And that if you work on it, you’ll be creating potential for true and positive change.
My Favourite Squat Prep Exercise
Now, although there are lots of exercises you can (and should) do if you want to be a really champion squatter, the one I’m sharing today is a real heavy hitter when it comes to improving your squat.
I love it because it can be easily modified for literally every body. It is possible to make it really low load – you can do it in a CHAIR – and it’s possible to use it as a way to come out of a full deep squat in a way that uses more glutes and hamstrings. I’m sharing all the variations in the video below.
I also love this because it’s easy to work it into daily life. In fact, I’m doing a variation of it right now as I’m typing this. Boom!
I do highly recommend using a half-dome – just a foam roller that’s been cut in half length-wise. Failing that, a yoga bolster or a cushion can work too. But if you’re serious about getting better movement, a half-dome is a very useful investment that will serve you well for many exercises, not just squatting.
As always, go slow and be careful – if your body tells you it doesn’t like something, then back off and give your body extra time and kindness!
More Ways To Improve Your Squat
If you’d like more ways to work on your squat, you’re in luck! Many of the exercises I teach and practice are helpful for squatting. Here are a few ideas.
For better dorsiflexion
Calf elevators – I show these on flat ground but if you do these facing up a hill, they are a squat prep exercise
For happier hamstrings
Don’t forget your hip flexors
All these exercises are awesome, but the first one is a really, really great squat prep.
And the classic squatting series from Katy Bowman
Ready To Go Deeper?
Katy’s book, Move Your DNA, has a complete squat prep exercise program in it that is appropriate for all bodies.
It has more details than in her squatting blog posts and more context.
And if you want to get personal feedback and instruction on your squat (as well as a whole lot more!) I teach all the squat prep exercises and lots more in my Move Your DNA workshops – you can get all the details right here.
What’s YOUR Squatting Barrier?
What’s holding you back from squatting right now? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll see if I can point you in the right direction to start busting down those barriers!
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Petra is a movement educator and personal trainer with a passion for helping people find greater ease, joy and health in their bodies. She believes that better movement can help every body - and she's always happy to chat about it. She's on the road right now, travelling the world and moving in as many ways as possible. When she's not out exploring or working on her movement practice, you can probably find her hanging on some monkey bars.