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How to Perfect Your Squat (and Transform Your Workouts in the Process)

How to Perfect Your Squat (and Transform Your Workouts in the Process)

If you’re looking for a simple way to transform your workouts and build total-body strength, then you need to start squatting.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, squats are one of the most effective strength building exercises in existence.[1] Not only do they tone the muscles of the hamstrings, quads, glutes, and calves, but they also strengthen your abdominal and back muscles, improve bone and joint health, increase mobility, and decrease your risk of injury during sports and everyday life.

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The best part? All of this is available to you for free. While some squat variations require gym equipment, the simple bodyweight squat can be done anywhere. You don’t even need to belong to a gym in order to reap total-body benefits.

In spite of these benefits, many people avoid squats. They might hate how challenging they are or they’ve been scared off of them because of joint pain caused by improper form. But for people without contraindicating issues, it’s seriously worth adding squats back into your fitness routine.

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When you practice squats with proper form, you’ll be able to reap all the benefits described above sans pain. While I can’t promise that squats will get any easier, I can assure you they’re one of the best ways to transform your workouts.

1. Foot position

Whatever foot position you adopt for your squat, it should be comfortable, and it’s worth noting that every person’s foot position will look a little different because of minor anatomical differences. In general, aim to stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips with your toes pointed slightly outward. Then engage your feet muscles so your arches don’t collapse inward. (You’ll want to press through the outer edges of your feet as you rise back up, not through the arches.) Try to distribute your weight evenly through both the heels and balls of your feet, and avoid gripping with your toes.

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2. Trunk position

Because it’s an exercise that primarily targets the lower body, a lot of people focus exclusively on the position of their lower body when squatting. But in reality, what you’re doing above the waist is just as important. To maintain the correct trunk position in a squat, straighten your spine, raise your chest, and pull back your shoulders. Extending your arms in front of you (parallel to the floor) can help you maintain this correct posture as you move through the exercise. Also be sure to keep your core engaged throughout the entire range of movement.

3. Head position

Just as it’s important to keep your back in a neutral position while squatting, it’s also important to keep your neck straight. To help ensure your head stays upright during your squats, choose a spot on the wall and fix your gaze there throughout the entire range of motion.

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4. Knee position

There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to proper knee position. For starters, aim to keep your knees in line with your feet. This will probably require focusing on pushing your knees outward, because most people’s knees will naturally collapse inward as they lower down (although maintaining the foot position described above should help minimize this). Then, when it comes time to lower down, make sure your knees don’t track forward past your toes. This will help you avoid placing undue stress on your knee joints.

5. Hip, butt, and thigh position

As you start to lower, hinge your hips so your butt sticks out behind you. (Do this even before you’ve started bending your knees. Just remember to keep your back muscles engaged, your spine straight, and your chest lifted as you do so.) The depth of your squat will vary depending on how much flexibility you have in your hips. The general rule of thumb is to aim for lowering until your hamstrings are parallel to the floor. Engage your glutes throughout the entire range of motion.

Now that you know how to safely perform the exercise, it’s time to incorporate squats into your routine. Using a squat calculator can help you develop a healthy routine and track your progress over time. Squats are a challenging exercise, so it might be tough at first. But the more you practice them, the more their results will inspire you to keep squatting.

Reference

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Kenny Kline

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Published on November 21, 2019

7 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Workout

7 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Workout

Maybe you like going on walks in your neighborhood or hiking in the park, taking in the sights and sounds of nature. Or, perhaps you like to push yourself with spin classes and work up a real sweat. It could be that basketball at a local recreation league is your thing. And even though you enjoy these activities and you like the way you feel when you are doing them, somehow lately, you haven’t been able to muster up the energy to participate.

There’s a “catch-22” that often happens when you’re wanting to work out, but you are not in the mood. Working out will boost your mood[1] and make you feel better, but because of your current mood, you don’t want to work out. Does this conundrum sound familiar?

Anyone can get stuck in this rut from time to time. It could be that work has been taking too much out of you, or your family and personal commitments are eating up a lot of your time and energy. You’ve got to find a way to break out of this cycle. Getting your groove back requires finding a way to getting back to working out; you need a way to get started again.

How can you get started? Use one of the following hacks to get you back on track. Find one or two of the ideas on this list that speak to you and that you think you can easily implement. Once you get your workout mojo back, you’ll be surprised at not only how much better you can feel in a short amount of time, but how much better everything will seem.

Here are 7 ways to motivate yourself to work out:

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1. Don’t Get Sucked into the Black Hole of the Couch

As soon as you come in the door from work, get your workout clothes on and hit the door. If you sit down on the comfy sofa, it will take more fortitude to get yourself going. Think of your sofa as quicksand and don’t get pulled into the trap.

It’s a simple law of physics — Newton’s first law:[2] an object at rest tends to stay at rest; an object in motion tends to stay in motion. You can come nestle into the comfy couch after your workout. But first, while you’re in motion from your day, stay in motion and your get your workout in.

2. Find an Accountability Partner

Studies show that having an accountability partner greatly increases your exercise frequency and success.[3] Talk to some of your friends and find someone who is interested in your same schedule. Maybe you have a friend who would love to hike early morning before work, or maybe you know someone that would like to hit a dance class right after work ends. Knowing that you have to meet someone else will make you think twice about blowing off your workout.

You don’t have to have all your workouts include your partner, but even if you meet this person once a week, that will give you a boost to want to keep your workout going on other days. If you really feel that you need an accountability partner all the time, then find 2-3 people and meet them 2-3 times a week.

One caveat: if your accountability partner cancels on you, be prepared for that and keep to your schedule. Everyone has things come up every now and then, but if you find your partner is frequently trying to cancel or reschedule, you probably need to find a new partner.

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3. Or, Make Yourself an Accountability Partner

Commit to 30 days of an exercise plan. Look at your calendar and plan out which days and times you are going to work out, including what that workout will be. Allow yourself two “do-overs” for random life events or illness, but only two.

For example, let’s say you have on your calendar that you are going to go to a spin class after work on a Tuesday, but a family member calls whose car broke down and you have to go assist. You will rearrange that date of your spin class and find a different date to put it on the calendar, but you only want to do that for necessary external life events. Hitting the snooze button because you woke up too tired isn’t a good excuse.

If you can stick to 30 days of this plan, it should feel more like a habit and be simpler going forward as you reap the benefits of feeling better, mood boost, and more energy.

4. Integrate Some Mini-Movement into Your Day

If you go into work and sit at a desk most of the day, it will feel good to get out and move your muscles afterwards. But sometimes it seems difficult to get out of that sedentary rut. One solution is staying in touch with your body all throughout the day.

Set a few timers on your phone during the day, and when they go off, take a few minutes to do different physical movements. Stretching, doing forward bends or side bends are some ideas. You can stand against the wall and “peel” off of it, feeling each vertebra and releasing your lower back.Take off your shoes and wiggle your toes around. Do calf raises, standing up and lifting your heels up and down.

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These small movements done 2-3 times throughout your workday may seem insignificant, but they will keep your attuned to your physical self a bit more, so that you will be more motivated to have some bigger, longer, “real” workout sessions. Think of them as appetizers and your workout is the big meal.

5. Eat Something Fresh

Speaking of big meal, what we eat and drink is related to how we feel. So if you’re not eating particularly well these days, commit to at least eating one fresh item daily. Maybe you have an apple as an afternoon snack. Perhaps you fix a nice salad to go along with your dinner.

Sometimes, we’re so busy on the run that we don’t realize we’ve not been eating as fresh as we’d like. By making the conscious choice to seek out some fresh food, you’re taking care of yourself which in turn will make you think about those same kinds of choices when it comes to exercise. Another benefit is that if you’re eating well, you may feel “lighter” and have more energy to work out.

6. Create an Alter Ego

It may sound kind of crazy at first, but employing the use of an alter ego can be a great way to break out of a habit or create some life changes you desire. In his book The Alter Ego Effect, Todd Herman illustrates how an Alter Ego is a mental trick to improve your life. Many famous entertainers have used alter egos to overcome stage fright.

How could this work for you? You may be too tired to work out at the end of the day, but your alter ego isn’t. Let’s say you create a character named “Ironman.” Sure, when you come in from a long day at work, you can talk yourself into wanting to relax on the couch. But Ironman doesn’t feel that way — he’s ready to throw on his sneakers and go for a run!

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7. Water, Water Everywhere

Sometimes the simplest rules are the most important. We all know we are supposed to be hydrated throughout the day. But if you’re busy all day at work, and you’ve nursed a big tumbler of coffee all morning, suddenly it might be early afternoon and you realize you haven’t had any water today.

Drinking water boosts mood and decreases fatigue.[4] These two factors will help you in your quest to find the motivation for your workout.

Make sure you’re getting your water intake all throughout the day, and if you’ve had coffee, drink some extra water to counteract the dehydrating effect of it.

Final Thoughts

So, how are you planning to get going this week? Go pour yourself a big glass of water, get out your calendar, and think about what types of workouts you want to do.

Whether you call a friend and ask him/her to be an accountability partner, or whether you sketch out an alter ego for yourself so you can harness your power, you can use a hack to get you back on the track of being motivated to work out.

You know how good you feel when you do, so give yourself that gift. You don’t have to wait until tomorrow — go get your sneakers on!

Featured photo credit: Jonathan Borba via unsplash.com

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