"Classic multi-joint movements like squats require a tremendous amount of technical skill and body awareness to perform correctly," says Erika Rayman, the founder of The DB Method ($229). "For someone working out on their own without a trainer to guide them, this is a big hurdle to surmount." According to Eric Fleishman, a celebrity fitness trainer, it is tricky to properly activate the glutes especially in a squat, since the exercise is inherently hard to isolate the proper muscles in.
That's because other muscles take over. "People tend to load their quadriceps or their lower back when doing squats," says Fleishman. "This is why a lot of people who do squats the wrong way tend to have lower back issues, quad, and knee pain." Not properly recruiting the glutes in an exercise like a squat can even lead to injury, he says, because if your larger muscles aren't engaged, smaller ones will get activated. "These different, oftentimes smaller muscle groups are usually weaker and not meant to do the specific move," he says.
The DB Method machine works because it takes the load off of your quads. "Your glutes are muscles of the hip joint, so to make the glutes work effectively, you have to load the hips," says Rayman. "The machine supports and guides your weight back and in line with the hip. This keeps the work primarily focused around the hip joint, so that you've got easier access to glute activation." It's a really simple contraption, in which you sit on the seat that's on a lever attached to a stand. Your heels are placed on the base, your hands grab onto the pole that everything's attached to, and you lower down into a squat that your glutes power you through.
Even if you don't want to invest in the machine, you can still use its principles in your at-home workout. Many of us tend to keep weight in the front foot while squatting, but we should actually transfer that to the heels. To feel supported as you do this, grab onto the back of the couch or something sturdy in your home so that you feel supported. Then, sticking your tush back and up begin to move into your first squat. You should feel sensation in the back body rather than the calves.
Rayman says that it's key to strengthen your glutes—for your full-body strength, not just a cute peach emoji. "The glutes are a major muscle group that stabilize the pelvis. This has a big effect both above and below," she says. "Strong glutes provide support to the lower back and better alignment to the knees." That means less squat-induced knee problems, and plenty of other benefits as well.
For more intel on properly doing a squat, check the video below:
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