LEARN HOW TO AIR SQUAT
The air squat is a total body exercise and no is equipment required!
Mastering the air squat demands adequate hip, ankle and T-spine mobility, as well as strong external obliques, glutes and hamstrings. Welcome to the odyssey.
Contrary to popular belief, squatting is not bad for the knees... unless you are squatting with incorrect technique.
BEGINNERS: Squat to a bench. You can rest on the bench. Don’t flop on it. Don’t lean forward, don’t initiate the squat with your knees (initiate it with your hips first), don’t let your knees collapse in. Work on improving eccentric control (slowly lower to the bench). Keep your weight distributed in your heels.
IMPORTANT: Inhale through your nose as you descend into the squat (eccentric portion). Exhale through pursed lips as you ascend (concentric portion).
What causes BUTT WINK?
A lot of people have difficulty squatting below parallel, or they butt wink when they descend into the squat (the pelvis tucks under into a posterior pelvic tilt and the low back loses its stable neutral position). The causes of butt wink are multifactorial: the 2 most popular theories you'll find on the internet are: your hip joint anatomy (which you can’t fix), or poor ankle mobility (which you can improve). But an almost instant cure for butt winking is merely the act of engaging your external obliques: this will prevent your lumbar spine from flexing.
Back to the ankles: If you don't have enough ankle mobility, your knees will be unable to push forward over the toes during the deepest part of the squat, and so your pelvis tucks under. Most of us haven't squatted like this since we were 2 years old (because we sit on chairs, so we only squat to parallel)... so we need to retrain this movement pattern.
I was able to improve my air squat (and eliminate my butt wink) by strengthening my external obliques and my inner hamstrings.
- Improving the strength/mobility of my inner hamstrings improved my ankle mobility (yes, read that again so you won't waste time stretching/mobilizing your ankles).
- Improving the mobility of my external obliques positively impacted my T-spine mobility. Here is my video tutorial featuring 3 exercises to help you strengthen your external obliques.
Do you have enough ankle mobility?
Place a ruler between the wall and your big toe. Keep your heel on the ground while having your knee touch the wall. If your heel lifts up, then move your foot closer to the wall until you can keep your heel down. How much distance is between the wall and your big toe? 5" is ideal. You want at least 4". I'll say it one more time: The best way to fix restricted ankle mobility is by strengthening your inner hamstrings with hingeing (i.e. stiff leg deadlifts, Dimmel deadlifts).
It’s ok if your knees go past your toes ...
If your hips initiate the squat and you maintain your balance by keeping your centre of gravity over your mid foot, then it does NOT matter if the knees go past your toes. In many cases, this is required to get to the full depth and stay upright without rounding your lower back. Science tells us that the ligaments inside our knee are placed under very little stress in the bottom of a deep squat. So the deeper you squat, the safer it is on the ligaments of your knee. Harmful shear forces are dramatically decreased. Plus, the muscles in our legs work together to stabilize the knee.
Don’t initiate the squat at your knees …
If you initiate the squat at your knees, it puts a lot of stress on your knees, (especially the menisci and cruciate ligaments). This makes your squat quad-dominant, which means there is more activity happening from the quads and less activity happening from the glutes and hamstrings (posterior chain). But you want activity from your posterior chain to counter the forward (anterior) forces coming from the quads. Why? Because the posterior chain is made designed to bear a lot of force. Your delicate knee structures are not.
✅ If you want to train like I do (to fix muscle imbalances, to get stronger and fitter), then join my online Strength Academy. It's a home program, so you can train in the comfort of your own home gym. And be sure to follow me on instagram @drsarasolomon for my daily workouts!