Overview: The air squat is one of the most basic fundamental types of bodyweight exercises that is based on natural human movement and it’s a functional move that is used many times during a normal day. Performing the air squat as part of your workout routine keeps the joints and tissues in the hips, knees, ankles and back strong. A type of exercise benefits everyone, from the most elite athletes to the person who has just started working out at the gym. The air squat, if properly executed, serves as a great foundation to more complex CrossFit exercises which involve squatting with heavier weights.
Muscles Targeted: When performing an air squat you are mainly targeting the gluteal muscles and the quadriceps. The gluteal muscles (butt muscles), are some of the strongest muscles in the human body and serve as the link between the legs and back muscles. The gluteal muscles are useful in various functions such as moving the leg to extend and even to rotate the hip around. The glutes play a role in rotating and extending the hip. The quadriceps are a combination of four muscles located in the front of the thigh. The quadriceps allow the knee to straighten and they give stability when a person is standing. The quadriceps are regarded as the most important muscle when it comes to standing and maintaining balance. The other muscles that are involved in the air squat bodyweght exercise, which are referred to as synergistic or secondary muscles, include the calves, adductors, abductors and lower back.
Exercise Instructions: It’s very important to always use correct exercise technique when performing this movement. Follow the guidelines below for proper execution:
- Stand upright with your head looking forward.
- Your feet should be slightly pointed outward.
- Your feet should be positioned a little wider than the shoulder width apart.
- Your arms should be placed in a natural position at your sides.
- Start by bending your knees and begin the squat movement.
- Keep your back straight with your head level looking forward.
- Keep your chest out with your shoulders back and maintain proper posture.
- Squat down as low as you can naturally go (without pain or discomfort).
- While squatting down, place most of the weight on your heels.
- Ensure that your back stays flat at the bottom and your knees track above your toes.
- For balance, you can lift your arms up and keep them straight out in front of you.
- Return to the starting position by pressing with your heels and driving with your glutes.
Things To Avoid:
- Not squatting down low enough. This will greatly reduce the engagement of the muscles and thus reduce the impact of the exercise. Your goal should be to squat down to about a 90 degree angle, but if you feel pain or discomfort then limit the range of motion to avoid injury. Every person’s flexibility is different so keep the range of motion comfortable to your natural limits.
- Driving the knees forward past your toes. Positioning the knees too far forward during the descent places unnecessary pressure on the knees’ soft tissues which may cause some injury to this area. The knees should not be positioned past the toes during the squat movement. Keep the knees inline with the toes.
- Knees point inwards or “cave in”. At no point when performing the squat should the knees collapse inwards. If this occurs, excess stress will be put on the delicate areas of the knees instead of the quadriceps muscles and could cause injury. Position your feet pointed slightly outward before you begin the exercise and focus on keeping your knees pointing slightly outward as you squat down and back up.
- Rounding your back and dropping your chest. Always keep your back straight with your shoulders back and your chest out when performing the squat.
Reps and Sets: Start out with 2-3 sets of 10-20 repetitions when doing air squats. As you become familiar with the exercise, you can increase the reps to 20-50 and the overall sets to 5-7. Air squats are a great bodyweight movement that can be combined with other exercises to create an effective calorie burning workout that helps to tone the muscles of the lower body.