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First off, when triathletes think of squats often they think of a bulking, grinding, and potentially dangerous exercise reserved for football players and gym rats. But not every squat has to be the heaviest thing ever. Or heavy at all. The benefits of squatting impact all aspects of your body’s health, performance, and recovery so you can perform at your best.
Next to breathing and walking, squatting represents a very useful movement for humans of all ages, life stages, and athletic pursuits.
- Babies learn to squat to transition between sitting, crawling, and standing.
- You have to squat on and off your chair or your couch.
- Some argue running is a series of single-leg squats from one landing to the next.
- And really, it’s the best position when you have to… you know… go. Just ask our friends over at squatty potty.
So…what is a squat?
So what is a squat anyway? A squat is a sitting and standing motion. The hips, knees, and ankles flex simultaneously on the way down and extend as you stand. Squatting doesn’t isolate any muscle per se. If done correctly, it engages virtually every muscle from the neck down, primarily your powerful glutes, hamstrings, and quads but also the supporting musculature to stabilize the spine, hips, shoulders, and feet.
Squatting is also an expression of really good mobility, requiring full dorsiflexion in the ankle, flexion at the knee, and both flexion and external rotation at the hip.
RELATED: You’re Probably Squatting Wrong
Squatting benefits: Injury prevention
Physical therapists and trainers use squatting as a quick and effective screening tool to assess your joint range of motion and hip, knee, and ankle health. Triathletes who lack this range of motion here are more likely to perform with altered mechanics, creating a higher risk for injuries.
Prolonged periods of sitting in the modern age combined with an obsessive focus on singular sport specialization contribute to tight, unbalanced hips and a whole host of potential injuries including Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, runners knee, ACL and MCL tears, IT Band issues, hamstring strains, hip impingement, labral tears, bursitis, low back pain, and even stress fractures.
Squatting prevents a lot of these injuries by teaching you how to stabilize your hips to prevent foot, ankle, and knee collapse.
Squatting benefit: Prime your body for training
Dynamic warm-ups should include multi-joint exercises that raise body temperature, increase blood flow, activate key muscles, and prime important motor patterns for better form. The squat, and other squat-like movements, are king in this respect because they engage your core, activate your feet and ankles, and switch on your glutes. Specifically, they teach you to drive your hips forward into extension for more powerful strides and greater pelvic alignment and hip stability.
Squatting benefits: Super strength
Squatting and squat-like movements are considered king exercises for improving force production and power output in the human body to increase sports performance.
And you can do a lot of variations. You can back squat, front squat, and do front squat thrusters. Or you can do goblet squats, front rack squats, or even overhead squats with a kettlebell. You can do a bootstrapper squat (pictured above) to improve mobility. You can even add some variety to this movement with a lunge. You can get powerful with squat jumps. Or you can get fancy and powerful with a knee jump to squat. Or you could go super technical to build ultimate single-leg strength and stability with the rolling pistol and regular pistol squat.
RELATED: Strength Training for Triathletes
Squatting benefits: Mobility and recovery
Every run or workout should end with a little mobility to restore joint range of motion and facilitate a smoother recovery. Doing a squat hold for 2-3 minutes post-training session can be done by anyone, anywhere. You don’t need to get your hands dirty and you can even upload your workout and post your epic photos in the process.
Bonus tip: Grab a broomstick or PVC pipe and work on your overhead squat. This adds additional range of motion in your shoulders and thoracic spine in addition to requiring even more range in your hips, knees, and ankles to be more upright. And everyone has a broom!
So Yes, Triathletes Should Squat Every Day!
Just by moving through your day, you are squatting to some degree. Bringing some additional thought and intention to your daily squat practice will go a long way to improving your range of motion, eliminating pain and injury, and helping you to run with better, stronger form.
If you want a more in-depth look at proper squatting mechanics, check out this video on The Run Experience YouTube channel. We also include several squat variations in the workouts on our app. Regardless, work on your squat form, add it to your daily routine, and reap the benefits.
RELATED: How to Perform a Proper Squat
San Francisco-based Nate Helming co-founded The Run Experience with the goal of reaching a broader audience of runners and outdoor enthusiasts who want to be able to run and enjoy the outdoors and avoid injury. He has helped athletes finish their first races, conquer new distances, overcome pre-existing injuries, set new PRs, reach the podium, and qualify for national and world level events.