The squat is a powerhouse exercise. Despite being widely known as a leg and bum toner, squats are also an essential base for many types of exercise, from running to yoga. Jane Linden, the creator of Pink Lady® Core, takes you through three simple supplementary exercises to help you strengthen and perfect your squat form.
The beauty of the squat is that it can be used at any level of fitness, using just body weight for beginners or those recovering from injury right up to squatting with rack weights for those at an advanced level.
The key to the squat is technique. Many different parts of the body are employed in this exercise and it’s essential to focus on alignment and flexibility to avoid injury. The following exercises will help you build the mobility and balance you need to perfect your squat.
Hip Flexor Stretch
The ankle joint bears a lot of weight during the squat so it’s important that it is strong and flexible. Use this mobility exercise to warm up the joint before beginning squatting and to help you distribute your weight evenly through your feet while in a squat.
Equipment needed: Small weighted Pilates ball or squashy toy ball
- Stand with your weight on your right foot
- Place the ball under the toes of your left foot
- Press down gently on the ball and roll from toe to heel and back to toe
- Now, applying more pressure without causing discomfort, roll the ball from the ball of your foot to the heel and back
- Repeat on other side
Having the correct alignment in the thorax (or upper chest and back area to you and I!) is key to having good squat form. Keeping the correct balance of weight through the shoulders and chest prevents strain in the upper back and prevents you from leaning too far forward in the squat and over-arching the lower back. This mobility exercise is in two parts that will help relax muscles in the upper back while strengthening the core.
Equipment needed: Foam roller, exercise mat
- Sit on the mat with your knees bent, lean back and place the foam roller just below your shoulder blades
- Keep your head supported by placing your hands on the back of your head
- Slowly lean back over the foam roller, keeping your hips square and your bum on the ground.
- Lean back until your upper spine in curved and then slowly, keeping your abs engaged, sit back up into the starting position. Repeat this movement
- Still keeping your head supported and the foam roller just below the shoulders, shift your weight to your feet
- Lift your hips off the group and slowly massage the length of your back by gently rolling up and down the foam roller
Repeat Part 1 and Part 2 with the foam roller closer to the base of your spine to achieve a full stretch
Hip Flexor Stretch
This stretch will help you loosen out your hips and balance your squat correctly, enabling you to squat deeper.
Equipment: Exercise ball, exercise mat
- Position yourself in a kneeling lunge with your left leg in front, with your knee at a 90 degree angle
- Place your exercise ball on your left hand side and lightly rest your left hand on top of it
- Tilt your pelvis by tucking your tailbone under (just tightening your bottom here might be enough)
- Lean your weight slightly forward until you feel a gentle stretch through the back of your right thigh
- Lift your right arm straight up until it’s in line with your ear and gently lean towards the ball, keeping your hips square. You should feel a stretch along the whole right side of your body
- Hold the stretch and then switch legs and repeat