Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

More by this author

Kenny Kline

Entrepreneur

This Is Why You Should Sleep on Your Left Side (Backed by Science) Meatless Protein: Top 10 High Protein Vegan Foods For All The Vegan Gym People! How to Cope with Common Sleep Problems: Insomnia, Snoring, and Waking Up Groggy How to Perfect Your Squat (and Transform Your Workouts in the Process) The Unexpected Way to Improve Everything About Your Sleep Quality

Trending in Exercise

1 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly) 2 3 Home Exercises To Fix Your Rounded Shoulders In One Month 3 Workout Every Day: Thursday Music Playlist 4 Cut down on drinking! Time for a post-holiday detox 5 How To Get A Six-Pack In One Month

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on February 14, 2019

15 Fitness Goals That Will Help You Live a Healthier Life This Year

15 Fitness Goals That Will Help You Live a Healthier Life This Year

Starting such a journey is never easy and you must remember this is not a crash diet, it is a lifestyle. Don’t panic and think you have to do it all at once as this will most likely overwhelm you. You may also find yourself giving up because crash diet are not sustainable.

The best approach is to make simple changes to your daily habits and over time, you will notice all your bad habits have turned into good habits.

Accordingly to a study by Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, on average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behaviour becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact.[1] And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances.

Here are 15 fitness goals to help you on your journey:

1. Drink More Water

W.H.Auden said it best when he said ‘Thousands Have Lived Without Love, Not One Without Water’. With any diet, the most important thing to remember is to stay hydrated. Drinking water will support your body with digestion, transporting nutrition to your body and even help improve cognitive function.

Ideally, you want to drink about half your body weight in ounces per day i.e. if you weight 150 pounds, you should drink 75 ounces of water a day.

Hopefully, by following this rule, you will be able to maintain a consistent consumption of water per day.

2. Add Some Lemon & Apple Cider Vinegar to Your Water

It is recommended we sleep for about 8 hours a day, this means we spend about 8 hours per day dehydrated. Therefore, hydrating your body first thing in the morning is absolutely necessary.

The best way to achieve hydration is by starting your day with a glass or even two of water. For that extra boost, add lemon juice and ½ teaspoons of apple cider vinegar. The lemon and apple cider vinegar will help your body with detoxifying, cleansing and digestion

3. Stop Drinking Your Calories

Yes, keeping hydrated is important but try to avoid high calorie drinks such as soft drinks, speciality coffee and juices as they are full of fast acting sugar.

Advertising

Really push yourself to stop drinking such drinks and before you know it, you will notice the benefits.

4. Start Stretching More Often

Always remember to stretch! The benefits are vast and the repercussions of failing to stretch can be dramatic.

Do yourself a favour and always stretch before and after a workout. This will promote a healthy cool down, improve flexibility and reduce next day aches. Failure to stretch can lead to injures and muscle damage.

So, the next time you work out, don’t forget you dedicate a few minutes to stretching before and after your workout. You will thank me for it later!

Here’re some simple stretching exercises you can start trying:

15 Static Stretching Exercises to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

5. Add in Some High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

You may have heard about HIIT training because it is the big thing right now and believe me when I say ‘It works!’.

The benefits include lower body fat, increased stamina, leaner muscles and fantastic hormonal benefits.

HIIT is where you perform an intense exercise, for a very short time frame (about 30 seconds) followed by a slower exercise for about 90 seconds.

Performing a HIIT routine for 1-3 times a week will lead to great results.

Advertising

6. Focus on Your Breathing When You Work Out

For the most part, breathing is second nature to most of us. But when exercising, you may find yourself holding your breath and this is not good.

It is important to consciously take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, this will fill your lungs with oxygen.

7. Build More Lean Muscle

We all want to have lean muscles because not only does it look good, it has great health benefits:

  • Improved posture
  • Reduced body fat
  • Improved metabolism
  • Strong bones
  • Protects and improves joint health
  • Improves stamina

Learn more about building muscle in this guide:

How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle and Increase Fat Loss?

8. Decrease Body Fat

This may seem like an obvious one but it is one of the most important steps to a healthier you. Reducing your body fat has a lot of benefits such as:

  • Improved joints and tendons
  • Lowered risk of diabetes
  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Better performance and endurance
  • Improved appearance and confidence
  • Better hormonal profiles in your body

Remember, it is not a race to see how quickly you can decrease your body fat, a healthy weight loss is around 1-2 pounds a week.[2]

Crash dieting or pushing yourself too much in the gym can lead to you achieving an unrealistic target, and you may find yourself gaining all the weight you have lost.

Think of it as a lifestyle and take it slow and steady.

9. Eat More Greens

What you eat is the most important factor in a healthier living plan. It is important to ensure you are getting as many nutrients and vitamins from the food you are eating as possible.

Advertising

Focus on dark, leafy greens as they will provide you with a wide array of vitamins, minerals, nutrients and antioxidants – all of which you body needs!

Don’t forget to avoid processed and manufactured food. They are usually high in fat and have minimal vitamins.

10. Start Eliminating Sugar

Another top goal you can start immediately is reducing the amount of sugar you consume. It also won’t cost you anything, save you money and improve your health in the long run.

There’s no surprise we eat too much sugar and this should be one of your top goals moving forward (eliminating or drastically reducing sugar).

Cutting out liquid calories is a great way to start. If you’re looking for something sweet, turn to fruits or even dark chocolate.

11. Allow Yourself to Rest and Recovery

The workout is where you go to breakdown the muscle tissue and it builds back through proper nutrition, rest and recovery. It might be tempting to go to the gym for two hours every day as hard as you can to achieve your goals but that’s not the most effective approach.

If you don’t allow for proper rest and recovery, it can set you back a few steps. Your body is more prone to injury and even illness as you can weaken your immune system from all the progressive intensity the body is facing.

12. Get More Sleep

When you are deprived of sleep, you make it next to impossible to achieve your health and fitness goals. Lack of sleep can increase stress hormones in your body and over time these can lead to a lot of inflammation and chronic diseases.[3]

Make sleep a priority to let your body heal and rejuvenate. A good approach is 7 to 8 hours. Also, allow yourself some wind-down time and a pre-bed routine to help get more consistent sleep every night.

13. Focus on the Habit and Not the Result

It’s easy to get caught up in trying to achieve a certain look or shed time off of your mile, but the more important focus is on the habit that will bring you those goals.

Advertising

Don’t look at the scale, the tape measure, or the body fat percentage. Focus on the habits that will lead to those achievements.

Don’t compare yourself to where others are, you’re right where you need to be.

14. Take Your Fitness Outside

This may be hard depending on the weather you experience, but the more you can be outside exposed to fresh air and sunlight, the better.

Being stuck in the gym doing cardio while staring at a wall won’t do much for your mental stimulation.

Try to challenge your body more by getting outside. Hiking is great and also just running and walking. Give yourself more mental stimulation and a constantly changing environment. It also beats breathing in that recycled gym air.

15. Do at Least One Pull Up

This is a great last goal to focus on because it’s a great test of strength and to see how you are progressing with your fitness.

If you haven’t been able to do one, you know what a challenge it can be. Having the goal of doing at least one pull up will not only show you how far you’ve progressed but is a great way to become dedicated and motivated.

The Bottom Line

It will become more attainable through the year if you’re consistent with your fitness. Set yourself a concrete timeline as when you want to accomplish some or all of these goals. In fact, start making one of these goals happen this month!

This guide on achieving goals will be helpful for you:

How to Set Goals and Achieve Them Successfully

Featured photo credit: ivan Torres via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Phillippa Lally: How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world
[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Losing Weight
[3] Unity Point: The Scary Truth About Sleep Deprivation and Chronic Diseases

Read Next