The Air Squat
A Part of Fierce Play's Grounded Gymnastics Series
The air squat, also called a body weight squat, is a movement that focuses on the athlete’s ability to sit back and lower themselves into a position slightly lower than if he/she were sitting into a chair. The movement requires good hip, ankle, and torso control to get the hip crease below the knees. The air squat is an important movement that increases strength in the legs and butt (glute muscles). Athletes will immediately feel leg muscles activated as they perform the movement, with the bulk of the exercise focusing on the use of the quadriceps and glutes, but also an activation of abdominals and back muscles as they keep the torso properly engaged.
Watch the video clip below for a full explanation of technique, tips and tricks for performing the movement with efficiency, as well as precautions for staying safe.
- Knees Over Toes: Feet should be just about shoulder-width apart and your knees should drive out and over your toes as you drop into the squat. Focusing on keeping your knees over your toes actually prevents your knees from caving inward as you drop your weight down, which can put strain on the ACL and meniscus inside the knee. A great way to achieve knees over toes is to think about driving your knees outward slightly, versus straight ahead, as you dip into your squat. This will prevent knees from caving in toward each other.
- Weight in Your Heels: For the air squat to engage muscles properly and keep your joints safe, you need to keep your weight in your heels. If you’re leaning forward and have your weight in your toes, it creates an unstable or wobbly knee, putting unnecessary pressure on the joints and ligaments. So, sit your butt back into the movement and put your hands forward to counterbalance your weight. We promise – you won’t fall over!
- Keep Chest Upright: It may be tempting to hunch over your legs as you drop into your air squat, but work to keep your chest upright with your eyes looking ahead and not down. This prevents strain on the lower back, helps you keep your weight in your heels, while also increasing core strength
- Hip Crease Below Knees: If you’re just starting out and learning to perform the air squat, you may have limited mobility (range of motion) and will only be able to get your hips to just above the knee line, versus having your hips drop below the knee line. This is still technically considered a squat, but the ideal air squat requires you to have your hip crease drop below the knees for full range of motion and engagement of the back of your legs (glute and hamstring muscles). When you don’t drop below parallel, your bodyweight shifts into your knees while engaging the front of your legs (quadriceps muscles), which increases the risk of the knee caving in and putting unnecessary strain on the meniscus and ACL.
TIPS + TRICKS:
- Use a Box: If you’re struggling to get your hips down below parallel or feel unstable, grab a 12” box or object around that height, and try dropping back into the squat until your butt touches the box, and then stand back up. Over time you will increase in strength and can begin to move toward completing the air squat without a box behind you.
- Pick One Thing to Work On: If you are struggling with more than one of the movement basics listed above, pick one thing to work on and focus your energy there. The ideal place to start if multiple things are going wrong is safety concerns. So, start by following this sequence of improvements: keep the weight in your heels; keep your back flat and chest upright; push knees outward over the toes; move toward dropping your bodyweight below parallel. As you improve in each movement basic, you can work toward the next issue you may be facing, until you’re able to successfully complete an air squat while achieving all movement basics.
- Scale: If you’re unsure about completing the air squat with proper form, talk with your coach about ways to scale down the movement and focus on perfecting the technique. It’s great to push yourself to the next level, so long as you stay safe and prevent injury!
QUESTIONS: Ready to get started, or curious to learn more about how Fierce Play can help you meet your health and wellness goals? Contact us for more information. Also feel free to check out more of our videos series to learn how to perform the basics with solid form and efficiency.
GROUNDED GYMNASTICS SERIES: Technique at Every Stage
Fierce Play’s Grounded Gymnastics Series focuses on proper technique, as well as tips & tricks, to master some of the foundational movements that will be integrated into many of the workouts you will perform. Start your next workout with the confidence and skills to do the movement safely and effectively.