The Core Four Movements Part 1

Squat, Hip Hinge, Push & Pull

Photo by Sergio Pedemonte on Unsplash

This is the first installment in a series reviewing the four common movements that are the basis for most weight training. Today we’ll be talking about my favorite, the squat. The squat works basically every muscle in the lower body, and the primary movers are the glutes (butt muscles) and quads (thigh muscles) and your adductors (inner thigh muscles).

On paper, the squat seems to be a pretty easy exercise to execute, you lower you butt to the ground then stand back up. Easy, right? Unfortunately, most people suffer from a lack of mobility and strength to correctly perform one. Sitting down and staring at screens all day leads to tight hip flexors and a weak lower back which causes you to pitch forward and can turn your squat into something that more closely resembles a bow to a foreign dignitary instead.

What not to do!

Luckily, there is a solution to this common problems that can propel you to the correct form, the goblet squat. The goblet squat a great way to get started with squatting. All you need is a light kettlebell or dumbbell and a flat surface to stand on. You simply take your weight, firmly grasp with both hands and hold it just off your chest and under your chin, like you’re taking a sip from a goblet. The added resistance helps you maintain proper form by forcing your midsection to engage, thereby helping you keep your chest up and back flat. Getting your butt parallel to the ground is a good benchmark, but don’t worry if you can’t get that low initially. If your heels start to peel off the ground or you pitch forward then stop going that low and only go as low as you can maintain good form. As you practice the depth will come, for now we’re focusing on good form. You can also widen your stance to help with getting lower. It’s best to err on the side of your stance being more wide than narrow.

Let’s go though a goblet squat step by step.

  • Choose a light weight to start, it really doesn’t take much. A 10 pound kettlebell or dumbbell is a good place to start.
  • Position your feet at least shoulder width apart with your toes pointed slightly out. This will allow you to achieve proper depth by opening the hips.
  • Grip the weight firmly with both hands and raise it up so it’s under you chin but not resting on the top of your chest, then pull your shoulder blades down and back to ‘set’ the shoulders in place, this will help you maintain a flat back and prevent rounding forward.
  • Initiate the squat by pressing you hips and butt back, not by bending the knees. I’ll say again for those in the back, hips and butt first, then bend the knees.
  • As you are lowering in a steady and controlled manner, think about pressing your knees out so they stay over the toes, keep pressing the knees out as you stand back up as well.
  • Keep you feet flat on the floor, and as you press back up imagine driving them straight down through the floor.
  • When ascending, again lead with your hips and butt, imagine pressing your butt to the ceiling, stand all the way up then repeat.
Keep knees pressed out to turn on your adductors and achieve optimal depth
Pull the shoulders down and back and push your chest up to maintain flat back

This may seem like a lot to digest, and it can be if you’ve never squatted before. However, a little practice goes a long way. Since you will be using a light weight, you can do a few sets every day. Practice in front of a mirror or record yourself. Also, the assistance of a qualified coach or trainer can be a great asset if you’d like some one on one feedback.

To conclude, squatting is an essential human movement, so let’s do it properly. You can apply the same cues from the goblet squat to your daily life as well. Think of all the times you sit and stand during the day, your real life squats if you will. The next time you stand up from your desk chair don’t just lean forward and push off with your hands, take a moment to practice and use your legs as they were meant to be used.

The next part in the series will cover the hip hinge, see you then!



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