I worked with Dakota Johnson's personal trainer.  He showed me that what I had learned about squats over years of weightlifting was wrong.

I worked with Dakota Johnson’s personal trainer. He showed me that what I had learned about squats over years of weightlifting was wrong.

  • I thought I couldn’t squat properly without lifting my heels because I have long thigh bones.
  • Personal trainer Luke Worthington showed me that’s not true, I just need to push my knees forward.
  • Worthington said the common advice to sit back when squatting isn’t good for many people.

Squats are widely regarded as one of the best and most effective exercises a person can do, but the common advice to sit down when performing them is wrong for many people, the celebrity trainer tells Insider. staff Luke Worthington. Instead, people like me have to push their knees forward, he said.

Because they are compound exercises, squats engage multiple muscles in the body. They are also considered one of the best moves for building strength; and, alongside deadlifts and bench presses, form the three main tests in powerlifting.

Squats can be performed using body weight alone or by holding weights in different ways.

Every balanced workout program should include squats because they’re one of the five main human movement patterns, alongside hinges, lunges, pushing and pulling, said Worthington, whose clients include Naomi Campbell. , Dakota Johnson and Munroe Bergdorf.

However, many people get the wrong cue to keep their knees above their heels, while keeping their torso upright and concentrating their weight on their heels, as if they were sitting back on a toilet, I recently Worthington said when I trained with him.

Squats are full-body exercises that work the glutes, quads, and core, among other muscles, so this position is supposed to help engage them properly. I had received this advice from other trainers, but it is only possible for people with certain proportions, such as those with longer bodies and shorter thighs, he said.

I thought I couldn’t squat properly without changing my stance, but Worthington, who is launching a strength-training app designed primarily for women in January 2023, showed me how.

I thought I couldn’t squat properly without lifting my heels

Squats seem simple at first glance, but performing them correctly can be challenging, especially since everyone’s body is different.

As personal trainer Eugene Teo explained in a July 2022 YouTube video, differently proportioned bodies will require slightly different squat positioning. If you have long femurs (thigh bones) and a shorter body, for example, you need to bend your body to keep the bar in the center of your feet, he said.

I’ve been lifting weights for over five years and have come to the conclusion that due to my long femurs and lack of ankle mobility, I had to lift my heels to perform a squat and not fully bend my torso.

Rachel performing a back squat with elevated heels.

Raising my heels helped me keep my body straighter than it otherwise would be.

Rachel Hosie

I knew I had to keep my torso as straight as possible to avoid straining my lower back, but with my feet flat on the floor, I found myself having to bend over to keep myself from falling backwards. Raising my heels by placing small weights underneath pushed my center of gravity forward and allowed me to maintain what I thought was better form.

A few months ago, I squatted 100 kilograms (220 pounds) for the first time, with elevated heels. Teo said there’s nothing wrong with raising the heels, it’s just a way of essentially lengthening the lower leg relative to the upper leg, which makes it easier to keep the body straighter by changing the center of gravity.

A post shared by Rachel Hosie (@rachel_hosie)

Recently, I started to prefer front squats because having the weight further forward helped me keep my body straight.

Rachel Hosie doing a front squat

Rachel performing a front squat.

Rachel Hosie

However, when I recently asked Worthington to evaluate my technique, he showed me how I could actually do a back squat with my torso straighter and my heels flat on the floor.

Pushing the knees forward in a squat can help keep the torso upright

After training with me and performing a mobility assessment, Worthington confidently told me that there were no ankle mobility issues and, long femurs aside, I am able to perform a squat, with a sufficiently straight torso, without lifting the heels.

I was skeptical but intrigued.

First, Worthington had me practice holding a kettlebell in a front rack position (holding it in front of my chest). The first thing he told me was to push my knees forward, which went against everything I had been taught before about the squat.

Worthington told me that, contrary to popular belief, the knees should go over the toes, and I should think about breaking my hips and knees at the same time.

Then we tried with an empty bar. Before lifting the bar off the squat rack, Worthington told me to engage my lats by pulling on the bar almost like I was doing a pull-up, keeping my elbows pointing down.

Rachel with a barbell

Before squatting, I thought about pointing my elbows down and engaging my lats by pulling up on the bar.

Rachel Hosie

By pushing my knees forward, I was able to squat up and down, keeping my center of gravity above my feet and my feet flat on the floor.

Teo echoes Worthington’s point, saying the more a person can bend their ankle and push their knees over their toes, the more they will be able to keep their body straight.

Rachel crouching

By pushing my knees forward, I was able to squat with my flat heels.

Rachel Hosie

I couldn’t believe it: I really don’t have any ankle mobility issues. I had just pushed my body weight too far. After five years of lifting weights, I now know how to squat.

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