Squats are one of the most beneficial full-body exercises out there. If you’ve never done a squat before or never achieved the results that you wanted, we’ll show you the rights and wrongs of how to do squats and reap their many benefits.
The Benefits of Doing Squats
Whether you’re looking for a total body workout or just want to gain some strength and muscle, squats are the ultimate exercise. When muscles are placed under a great deal of stress, they release the hormone, testosterone, which is vital to muscle growth. During squats our thigh muscles, which are the biggest and strongest in our bodies, are also the most stressed, allowing the testosterone to widely circulate and contribute to a full-body workout. Squats are also a great exercise to help maintain balance and joint support. The controlled movement helps strengthen the lower body, including ankles, knees, ligaments and tendons, leaving you less susceptible to injury.
- Plant your feet a little wider than your shoulder width with your weight on your heels and the balls of your feet. Keep your knees over your ankles and your hips over your knees.
- Take any unnecessary strain off of your back by keeping your spine neutral throughout the movement.
- Reach your arms straight out in front of you so they are parallel to the ground with your palms facing down.
- Inhale and unlock your hips by gradually bringing them back and send them backwards as your knees bend.
- Find a spot in front of you to focus on and keep your back straight with your head and shoulders up.
- As your squat deepens, focus on keeping your knees and your feet in line and go as deep as your body allows. Aim to have your hips sink below your knees.
- Keep your body tight and engage your core as you push back up through your heels.
Single Leg Squat
- Start in the same position as the bodyweight squat, with your feet firmly planted a little more than your shoulder width.
- Lift one leg and bend slightly at the knee so your foot is off the ground. If you need extra stability you can hold your raised foot either in front or behind you.
- Lower yourself down as far as you comfortably can, using only the leg that is still on the ground, trying not to let your other foot touch the ground.
- Return upright without putting your foot down between reps. Use a chair or wall for stability if necessary.
- Start with your feet close together and your hands out at your sides in a T shape.
- Lift your right leg over your left and wrap your right foot around the back of your left calf.
- Bring your right elbow underneath your left and wrap your right hand around your left forearm so your palms are touching.
- Gain your balance and squat as low as your body allows without falling and return upright.
- Plant your feet with your legs wider than your shoulders and toes pointed slightly outward.
- Keep your hips pushed back and bend at the knees. Squat until your thighs are in line with your knees.
- Return upright, or do several short pulses when you reach the bottom for an extra workout.
Poor form when doing squats not only squanders the benefits of the exercise to your body, but can also cause undue stress and injury to your knees and back. Here are some tips on how to do squats safely and efficiently for best results.
Your knees fall past your toes
This is an easy mistake for a beginner to make because it’s all about muscle memory. When your knees go beyond your toes you put more stress on the joints and leave yourself vulnerable to injury and strain. Try to keep your knees in line with your toes, not extending more than a couple centimeters in front.
Your back and shoulders are too relaxed
Rounding your back is a common mistake for beginners. When your back is straight and your spine is neutral it is easier to maintain control and get the best out of your workout. If you find that your back is too relaxed pull your shoulder blades down and together to engage your core.
You do not squat deep enough
Many people believe that squatting too deep can cause injury to your knees. It actually makes for a better workout for your glutes and can even strengthen your knees. Try to squat as low as you comfortably can, aiming to have the top of your thigh just below your knee.
You only squat once a week
It’s easy to get frustrated when you don’t see results right away, but the key to squats is perseverance. Squats are very efficient in conditioning muscles and need to be frequently used for any sculpting to take place. Try to squat at least two to three times a week using different variations to work different muscle groups.
Featured photo credit: antoniodiaz via shutterstock.com