What if we told you that one of the most functional exercises we do as adults is perfectly executed by our toddlers (2-4 yrs.). Yes, you heard that right, our toddlers are the best squatters! The term “functional exercise” refers to exercises and activities that we do daily or consistently in life. When you think about sitting down at your desk, at a restaurant, or under that barbell, we are doing squats almost more than any other exercise. Squats should be implemented in all exercise programs since they develop strength, size and mobility in the lower body while stabilizing the spine. We really don’t start having bad squats that lead to tight hips and low back pain until after we start walking. When you think about the movement of our toddlers, they fall, roll to the side, and then allow their feet to be the center of gravity while driving through the heels to stand-up. Let’s now define a quality squat and start at the base.
1. Keep feet shoulder width apart with weight on heels
2. Keep knees over the toes but not past the toes
3. Crease of the hips at 90 degrees
4. Strong lumbar spine during and through the movement (no curve in spine)
5. Upright torso (chest-up) with neutral chin
The correct technique engages the legs and core muscles at an optimal level and prevents injury. The most common errors that adults do in squats that lead to injury are
1. Knees going past the toes
2. Weak lumbar spine (curve and not straight)
3. Weight on toes instead of heel (destroys the knees causing pain)
4. Rounded shoulders and chin down (tension in the lower back)
Our squats will make us or break us in the long run. The great thing about life is that every day we can learn. Although we as adults teach our toddlers the basic needs of life, our toddlers teach us the correct technique in squats. The next time you are watching a toddler, watch the way they pick up their favorite toys and see if you can imitate the same movement. Are You Game?