Squat Goals: But Why?
Ahhhhhh yes: squats. Almost every person who walks into a gym will do some form a squats. It's one of the biggest moves you can do in the gym. It feels good when your legs burn or you hit a PB or your just crushing weight. However the question I pose about a lot of movements is: why?
NOT why are you doing squats, but instead: Why are doing squats a certain way? What's the thought process? More importantly, what are you trying to achieve?
Let me preface this by saying squats are fantastic and every single person I train will do some form of squat. I put a post on our instagram today (www.instagram.com/backyourselffitness) saying you need to pick and choose your battles when it comes to squats (more specifically back squats). The way I see it is there are 4 areas you'll judge yourself on when it comes to your squats:
form (that should be everyone's goal regardless)
load - how heavy can I go
depth - how deep can I sit into my squat
activation - what muscles are actually working
Unfortunately, you cannot achieve all 4 of these on every squat!! What do you need to do? PICK AND CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES! Let me break down the 4 areas:
FORM: I don't care if it's a bodyweight squat or a heavy back squat, your form is number one and I'm a stickler for it! If you cannot show me that you can execute a safe movement - guess what: we're not going heavier. It doesn't matter if you're training by yourself, with a friend or a trainer, your first goal should be good form. So, regardless of what you're trying to achieve with your squat, your form should be the most important aspect about the movement.
LOAD: "how much do you squat?" Full transparency - I don't care how much you can squat for 1x rep. I also don't care how much I squat for 1x rep - not for me. However IF your goal is how heavy can I squat, you must succumb to the fact that form will waiver, depth will waiver and muscle activation will be non-existent. Your brain will turn on whatever muscles it needs to to execute the move. If we're being honest the muscles that are going to do the most work are your quads leading into your knees. You could squat 200kg and your glutes could do no work however your quads, knees, hips and back do it all. Great you pushed 200kg but what muscles worked.....
DEPTH: deep squats are fantastic! They work your posture, your pelvic positioning and your range of movement. The catch with deep squats is there is a point in the movement where you glutes are stretched beyond the point of use and stop helping. You'll find deeper squats are extremely stressful on your knees and quads. If you're ok with that, then go for it! Deep squats have their benefit but can your form line up with the depth you're working to? Can you push as heavy? What muscles are working?
ACTIVATION: squats are classified as the best booty building move.......but look at the 2 points above this. Think about what muscles will work if you load up your squats or push the depth. A little experiment I do with clients is have them squat as deep as they can then follow it up with squats only going to the depth they can use their glutes to drive back through the move. The 2 ranges are completely different! If you want to work a certain muscle, your goal should be to feel it the whole way through a movement! The picture at the top of this article is an example of someone (who has great squat range anyway) sitting to a depth that their glutes can still work. It's no more than 90 degrees deep and she's able to glute drive back to the top.
Plain and simple: none of these goals with your squats are wrong HOWEVER you need to decide what you want to work on. If it's strength, then great load up. If it's depth, great nail your posture and ROM. If you want to work your booty, make sure your movement gets it working.