How do you squat?

Squatting seems like a combination of the simplest thing ever and one of the most complicated. Not complicated like thermodynamic theory, but complicated in that there are so many ways to do it, including squatting as an exercise and squatting as a way to hang out in your life.

This is my favourite exercise squat 

The perpendicular shin squat changes one of the big parameters that workout squats usually have: instead of keeping the knees over the forefoot, which leads to an angle of the shin, this one is all about keeping your weight over your heels and maintaining a vertical lower leg.

Is it a problem to have your knees over your forefoot or toes? Nope! We often have our knees forward in our everyday lives, like when climbing stairs or hills. As long as that doesn’t cause you any discomfort, it’s cool. But we want to have the option of this hips over heels position as well, because it’s AWESOME for your glutes. 

If you do have issues with your knees, then we for sure want to explore other ways of moving that support you and help you move towards more strength, mobility and comfort. If that sounds like you, in addition to this kind of squat you could try out this post that helps your knees by helping your feet and my free webinar for happier, healthier knees.

So why do I like this particular squat? Because it challenges my balance, my calf and ankle alignment, length and strength, it targets my glutes and hamstrings, it doesn’t trigger as much work in my quads and hip flexors and it allows for a neutral spine.

Because of the focus on the posterior chain and the emphasis on an untucked pelvis, this is an excellent choice for pelvic floor issues. Because of the less dramatic angle at the knees and decreased load on the quads, it is also a great choice (with modifications as necessary) for those sensitive knees we talked about above.

So much goodness for one movement!

The goal, the WHY, here is to maintain a vertical shin, to make sure that the movement comes equally from the knees and the hips and to minimise butt tucking and rounding of the spine. We aren’t really looking for a big range here, going instead for control of joints and position. It is remarkable how hard this is to do!

If you prefer your movement tutorials in video form, head on over here for a 2 minute quickie. Otherwise, read on for things to think about.

Try to keep your shins straight up and down relative to the ground.

This is so hard to do that I suggest putting a visual cue, like a yoga block or half dome beside your leg and watching in a mirror to see how easy it is for your legs to shift forward.



woman does high squat with a black tube beside her shin

Can you keep your butt untucked and your back neutral (allowing the lumbar curve to be present) and relaxed?

See if you can keep your torso muscles balanced and avoid over-recruiting your lower back. There’s a delicate balance of your back muscles and your abs working together to support the weight of your upper body. It can be a bit tricky to find, so play around and see what works for you. If your lower back hurts, check in and relax it and experiment with letting your neck and shoulders relax a bit.


Try to keep a slight lift to the bottom of your rib cage. Avoid bracing hard with your abs (that tends to pull you into the rounded back/ butt tuck), but there is supposed to be some space between your thighs and your body. Again, it can be a tricky balance to find, so experiment, and if you can use a mirror to really see how your body is moving, that’s a great tool!


Now let’s do the no-cheating version! No matter how diligent you are, this squat is a hard shape to figure out. I LOVE this version for its illuminating boundaries. 

Stand with your feet under a chair and make sure your knees are touching the edge of the seat when your legs are straight. Hinge your hips back more than down. Keep your upper body lifting slightly away from the chair to help manage the tendency to drop too low and over-hinge the hips and under-hinge the knees.

Stay in a position that doesn’t strain ANYTHING! Not your knees, your back or your neck. If you feel strain, come up a bit and let your shoulders and neck and head soften, without rounding into your lower back.

Try to hold that squat for 60 seconds, or as close to that as feels right for you. Having done that, try it again without the chair and see how it goes!

xo Alison

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