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How is Diwali prep going? Everyone must be getting fit to look better this year on Diwali, and to gorge on the delicious meals and not feel guilty. Everyone hitting the gym has done squats on their routine. It is a master exercise as it involves the entire lower body: glutes, thighs and calves. I may speak for everyone when I say that squats are one the most difficult exercises to master. Something or the other goes wrong and slight wrong movement can send you to the hospital. I, myself, had been doing it wrong for almost a year and then I learned from my gymaholic boyfriend; he used to train me a few years back. Ever since then, squats have become so much easier to perform, and the change has been massive. I’m listing out all the common mistakes, please do check them the next time you squat!
Knees over your foot
For knee-joint health, your knees shouldn’t cross over an imaginary line from the toes. If this is happening, sit further in your squat and work on your flexibility. If you’re using a leg press or hack-squat machine, the same thinking applies, but the line will be coming up from the foot plate. Here, place your feet higher on the foot plate, which will take some of the emphasis off the quads and knees.
When squatting, you must at least get to the level when your thighs are at an angle of 90 degrees to your calves. This is the minimum to allow full involvement of the leg muscles. Going deeper in your squats will result in more involvement of the hamstrings and glutes. Many people forget the importance of the depth of the squat; simply adding weights to the bar and going down a few inches isn’t enough. It is one of the most common mistakes. Once you start going deeper, you will find your older methods pointless.
When you’re a beginner, keeping a flat back is difficult especially with a bar of weights on the shoulders. Rounding of the back is very dangerous. It can cause spinal injury. Lock your spine in a slightly arched position and hold it there. It helps if you maintain a big chest and pull your elbows back as you complete the movement. Also, try free-hand squats initially to get the correct posture. To keep a flat back, place a yoga ball in between the wall and your back and then go down into the squat position. This helped me a lot initially.
Looking way up
Some experts will say that looking way up ahead is safer for your spine, which is not at all true. The truth is that you want to maintain a neutral arch in your cervical spine, not just your lower back. That means looking directly forward. If you can see yourself in the mirror, your head position is spot-on. Keep your head in that position for the duration of the set. Most of the good gyms, therefore, have a mirror right in front of the squat machine. It helps to keep the correct posture. The mirror also gives you a great deal of motivation.
Exhaling too soon
Exercising in the correct way can have a great effect on your body, that is if you follow the correct pattern of breathing in and out. With yoga, you have a special instruction manual for when to breathe in and out; but with gym, people often forget the breathing pattern and tend to exhale too soon. Never exhale when you lift the weight. For a more effective workout, exhale as you reach the top of the movement. Reason being, holding your breath will increase the intra-abdominal pressure, actually making you stronger as you push up and helping to prevent lower back injury. Exhale forcefully near the top of the rep.
I hope you can keep these points in mind while squatting the next time. I’m also at the gym right now. Have a great workout, everyone.
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