A properly performed squat builds strength in the entire leg and creates stability around each joint. Proper performance of the squat leads to increased range of motion (flexibility) and improved movement mechanics in sport. To say it another way, if you can squat properly in the gym, you’ll be much more prepared for athletic movement in sport. For example, if you lunge to swing at a ball, your strong leg muscles will stabilize you, protect your joints and provide a foundation for your swing,
The squat works many muscle groups in the lower body: the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and even calves. With appropriate loads, the squat also improves core strength.
[caption id="attachment_8807" align="aligncenter" width="720"] This is a beautiful squat! Note that the hips are lower than the knees, and the lumbar curve of the back is visible.[/caption]
How to Squat
If you have not squatted in a long time, please perform your squats near a stable object you can use for support if you lose your balance. Some people will perform squats to a stable chair as they build strength. You should not feel any joint pain as you squat, though your muscles might feel like they’re working.
Here are the steps:
1. Put your feet at shoulder width with your toes turned out slightly.
2. Slowly send your hips back and down. Avoid the tendency to send the knees forward like a back catcher in baseball. Send the hips back and down.
3. Make sure that your knees are moving directly in line with your ankles. If they start to roll inward, actively push them back in line with your ankles.
4. Try your best to keep your chest upright. For many people, this is a challenge at first. Do your best to sit tall. In a perfect squat, the lumbar curve in the back is maintained just as it is when standing tall. For some people, it helps to squat with the arms extended in front.
5. Descend until your hips are slightly below the top of your knees unless you are too weak to do so. If so, stop short of full range of motion, but make it a goal to squat just a little bit lower next time. When you squat to full depth, you engage more muscles that stabilize the knees.
6. Stand up.
Here’s a video demonstration:
Here’s a video of Coach Mike explaining exactly how to perform body weight squats and goblet squats with a load:
And here’s a link to a woman performing squats from a chair: CrossFit.com
Without knowing anything about you, it’s hard to tell you how many squats to perform. Those who haven’t squatted might be tired after a single rep, while others might not be tired after 10. Other will need to add some weight to build strength.
The important part now is just learning how to squat properly, so practice every day—even when you rise from seated after dinner! If you do, your leg strength will increase dramatically, which will improve your speed, power and agility. More than anything else, you’ll dramatically reduce your chances of injury and joint pain, leaving you free to enjoy pickleball.
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