Technique

Back in Chapter 2, when I first described the squat, I asked you to imagine a time when your lower body was so weak you couldn't get up out of a chair in time to get to the bathroom.

Forget about urinating, but continue thinking about that chair:

If you were to lower yourself into a chair, how would you do it? The movement would start at the hip joint, with you pushing your butt backward toward the chair.

Your knees wouldn't bend until they had to, when your butt starts moving downward as well as backward.

Squatting works the same way.

No matter which variation you're doing, you lead the way with your butt, pushing your hips back; knee action will take care of itself.

If you watch someone at the gym with poor squat form, you'll probably see him bend his knees too soon, before his hips have moved back. Bending your knees so early does two things, both of them bad:

• Your knees will move forward, over your feet, which puts unnecessary strain on the knee joints.

• Your knees will probably buckle in a bit, which puts a different kind of strain on the connective tissues in your knees.

A third problem is that your heels may come up off the floor. This could be a separate issue, or a consequence of the knees bending too soon. Either way, it's bad for your balance—you want your weight over the middles of your feet, not over your toes—and it does your knees no favors.

A perfect descent ends with you sitting comfortably, with your upper thighs parallel to the floor, or even a bit below that point. There should be no strain anywhere— not on your knees, not on your hips, not on your lower back.

If someone were to take a snapshot of you from the side, perfect form would look like this:

Your shoulders would be directly over the middles of your feet.

• Your torso and lower legs would probably be at the same angle to the floor— leaning forward slightly, but never dramatically.

• Your eyes would point forward, not up or down.

• Your knees could be over the middles of your feet ... or farther forward, over your toes ... or anywhere in between. Your individual biomechanics (including bone length and the degree of flexibility in your ankle joints) will determine where your knees go when the rest of your body is in the proper position. Some people will squat with their knees out past their toes and never have knee problems. But this I guarantee: If your knees end up to the inside of your feet—if your knees buckle inward, in other words—you're screwed. That will hurt your knees.

From that position, you rise, initiating the movement from your feet. Literally, you press your feet into the floor (always the middle of the feet, never the toes). As you rise, the knee joints should start to straighten before your hips. If your hips come up first, your torso will lean farther forward, and that's bad; it puts your lower back at much greater risk.

That's not to say the movement is powered entirely by your quadriceps down at the bottom. Yes, the muscle's working hardest down there, but your knees are protected by the simultaneous contraction of all the muscles that cross it, including the hamstrings and calf muscles.

The joints in your lower back should not move at all. You need to stiffen your midsection muscles, including those in your lower back, and keep them stiff throughout the exercise—while you're lowering, when you're paused at the bottom, and especially when you stand up.

What you will not do is suck in your abs, even though you see guys in body-

Body Building Secrets Revealed

Body Building Secrets Revealed

Ever since the fitness craze in the 1980’s, we have become a nation increasingly aware of our health and physique. Millions of dollars are spent every year in the quest for a perfect body. Gyms are big business, personal trainers are making a tidy living helping people stay fit, and body building supplements are at an all-time level of performance.

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