Squats involve flexion of the hip, knee, and ankle joints. Though there is a common squat stance, there are also individualized adjustments. The squat stance can be shoulder width or a little wider than shoulder width. Imagine the hips and butt lowering between the legs, not atop the legs.
Similarly, the feet can point straight out or angle slightly outward. As a person matures into the squat, it makes perfect sense to make slight stance adjustments to ensure comfort and safety along the way.
Before beginning the downward motion, the abdominals and lower back should be in contraction to brace the lumbar spine. Some people inhale as they lower the weight; others inhale and hold their breath as they lower the weight. The latter creates intra-abdominal pressure, which is advantageous to support the movement. However, this can also temporarily increase one's blood pressure, so for some, it may not be recommended. Regardless of the inhalation technique, always exhale during the upward motion.
Lower the weight by flexing the hips, knees, and ankle. A key point is to keep your weight on the heels and the butt going down at an angle, as if sitting into a chair.
Advance training technique may cause the knees to pass over the toes, but usually the knees should be kept fairly in line above the toes.
The depth of squatting is also very individualized. Experience, goals, body frame, etc., influence how low one will squat. The general rule is to lower the quads (thighs) parallel to the floor. A little below or above parallel is acceptable and provides ample stimuli.
The back will lean forward to some degree, which is acceptable as long as it's due to hip flexion (bending) and NOT spinal flexion. Never round the spine while squatting.
Once you reach your desired squat depth, exhale as you return upward into your squat stance. Simply focus on extending or straightening the hips; the knees will straighten up automatically. Keep it simple and keep it smart. Squats make leg presses and leg extensions a thing of the past.
Ok, as promised, part 3 will conclude our discussion with some ideal squat variations.
Make it a great day!