Squatting for Beginners: The BEST Warm-up You Are NOT Doing
Are you a beginner and unsure if you are adequately warming up prior to squatting? Unsure what exercises are MOST appropriate to squat effectively and safely? These are common questions we get all the time. As a performance physical therapist at MOTION RX, here are some of the most efficient warm-up techniques to not only improve your performance but also decrease the risk of injury as well. There are so many different benefits to performing an effective squat warm-up such as increasing blood perfusion to the tissues, reducing the risk of injuries, improving mobility, and enhancing performance by priming the body for heavier loads. In this article, we’ll sum up some of the most efficient techniques!
Best Warm-Up for Squatting for Beginners:
1) Have a Dynamic Warmup Dynamic Stretching and Movement are important for elevating muscle temperature by creating increased blood flow to enhance joint flexibility. We know the hips are about to work hard so the following 2 exercises are great for getting some light blood flow into the area to let the body know we’re about to go to work!
- 90/90 Hip Switches: Initially start by using your arms to support your body while moving your legs side to side in a seated position. Then work towards sitting more upright without the use of your arms.
- Kettlebell Squat Hold: Relax down into the bottom of a squat holding a kettlebell. Shift your weight as needed back and forth to help open your hips and mobilize ankles while priming the knees for a loaded position.
2) Mobility Prep Joint Mobilizations can help create an increased range of motion and lubrication at the joint by readying them for the impending workload required to access full squat depth. In the squat, stiff ankles are usually the cause of the inability to get to the bottom squat position so if you know you’re unable to get low, prep the ankles ahead of time with some mobility! Here is one of our favorite ankle mobility exercises!
- Banded Ankle Mobilizations: A large portion of the population lacks the ankle dorsiflexion to sit at the bottom of a squat. These banded ankle mobilizations will help improve your dorsiflexion to deepen your squat! Start by placing a thick band below your two ankle bones or malleoli, then add a kettlebell to your knee while performing a kneeling lunge.
3) Movement Prep We can help activate and prep the tissues ahead of time to pave the way for more vigorous squatting sessions. Awakening the muscles before squatting helps with averting potential injuries and increasing motor recruitment. In a squat we know the hips are a big primary mover so here are some of our hip activation exercises that cover the lateral hip, anterior hip, and posterior hip! Single Leg Captain Morgan: First start by standing on one leg while driving the inside knee into the wall with the knee bent. Then perform hip hinge movement maintaining good balance to warm up lower back and lateral hip musculature.
- Hip Flexor Marches with Band: Place a resistant band around midfoot with hands on a wall or holding onto the rig. Then perform alternating marches as high as you can go to warm-up hip flexors.
- Banded Glute Bridges: Lying down on your back with a resistance band placed around your knees, you will lift your hips into the air while maintaining resistance against the band throughout the entire motion. This is good for warming up your posterior chain.
4) Cardiovascular Activation Warm ya body up! We want to instigate an increase in heart rate and blood flow to the muscles allowing for muscles to be amply oxygenated during the exercise to foster muscle growth and strength development. – Perform 1 to 2 minutes of cardio starting at a light intensity for the first 30 seconds and building to moderate intensity. This could be performed on equipment such as an echo bike, rower erg, or ski erg, or by simply performing a short jog or jumping jacks to get your heart rate elevated.
5) Practice the Movement! There is no better way to prepare for the movement than to do the actual movement itself! It is paramount that you pay attention to form and the gradual progression in loading to safeguard against aberrations during weighted squats. – Air Squats o Focus on the proper form: shoulder-width stance, hips descend back and down, hips lower than knees, maintain neutral spine, heels down throughout movement, and knees in line with toes. That may seem like a ton, but try to incorporate 1-2 of these tips the next time you’re about to hit the gym for some squats!
**Bonus Tips for Beginners**
- Start with bodyweight squats and progress from lighter to heavier weights to prepare the central nervous system for heavier loads
- Get tons of reps in!
- Get guidance! We have all been new people at some point and did not learn these movements on our own, so seek help from a professional
- Listen to your body: Pay attention to any pain or discomfort and seek assistance from a professional to adjust your exercises accordingly!
If you are dealing with discomfort in a squat or if you need some specific guidance on what the most optimal form and technique are for YOU as an individual, set up a time to chat with one of our team members!