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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

Entrepreneur

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Last Updated on January 14, 2019

7 Ways To Make Exercise Fun For Everyone

7 Ways To Make Exercise Fun For Everyone

From Atkins to Paleo to eating gluten-free despite not being one of the rare few people afflicted with celiac disease, fad diets are everywhere. It drives me crazy because I believe these diets do more harm than good. Your body is made up of a variety of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals, and losing weight healthily isn’t possible when you fill your body with unnecessary synthetic plastics, sugars, and powders. There’s no easy button in life.

What you need to do is exercise, which isn’t very appealing to many people. Workouts take work, so there’s already a stigma involved in going to the gym. Starting a healthy workout regimen becomes easier when you make it fun. If you want to live long and prosper, get off the couch and try these methods to turn your workout into a playout.

1. Take the scenic route.

Walking is an easy way to transition to a healthy lifestyle, and it’s free. Not only do you burn calories (check out this calculator for how many calories you burn based on your weight), but you see the world in a different way. Hiking in nature is great if you have access to it, but don’t let living in an urban area deter you from walking.

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Whenever I’m creatively stuck I get my head straight by walking a couple of miles. It’s also how I discover new paths, meet new people, and stumble upon hole-in-the-wall spots I never would have found otherwise. You could drive past the same place every day and never appreciate the beauty, nor even notice it’s there.

2. Distract yourself.

No matter what exercise routine you choose, use the time to meditate. You may wonder how marathon runners are able to put so many miles on their bodies. It’s because the pain from running that you avoid is something they’ve learned to harness to enter a transcendental state. If you’re aware of the benefits of meditation and exercise but don’t have time to do both, you can combine them, killing two birds with one healthy stone.

3. Listen to music or podcasts.

There are few experiences in life more pleasurable than turning up the music and drowning out the world around you. With so many podcasts and music apps available on your smartphone, you can easily find entertainment options perfectly suited to your personal tastes. Never worry what people may think of you when working out;instead, crank up the volume and get lost in your own world. You’ll be in shape before you know it.

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4. Bring a friend.

Some people can’t go anywhere alone. While I highly recommend dining out and seeing a movie in a theater alone, having company while exercising is very helpful. It allows you to pace yourself with someone else, and gives you a coach to motivate and push harder than you may have on your own.

Many exercises are safer when done with a friend, and some sports can only be played with another person. Involving others in your goals can mean the difference between success and failure. Just remember to continue exercising if the other person flakes, or they’ll be in control of your health.

5. Accessorize.

There are accessories that can make exercise easier, and sometimes buying a new toy can add some much-needed fun to your routine. With apps like RunKeeper and Nike+, your smartphone is capable of tracking your vitals and progress. Wrist weights can add a new dimension to your workout, and, if you exercise at night, a headlamp can help you see what’s in front of you so you don’t trip.

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For urban runners and power-walkers, one of the biggest obstacles is other people. It’s difficult to get in your meditative zone and enjoy your music when you constantly have to dodge people. To resolve this vexing issue, Runbell, a startup in Tokyo, has developed the runner’s version of the bicycle bell. With this lightweight brass bell warning people you’re approaching from behind, you’re free to maintain your transcendental state while continuing your workout. Head to their Kickstarter campaign to pledge your support.

6. Compete.

A little healthy competition can motivate you to push yourself further in your workout regimen. There are apps like Zombies, Run! which turns your run into a video game, and MyFitnessPal which allows you to connect with others in the exercise community. Whether you’re directly competing with a friend, an online community, or against your previous self, setting goals is the key to reaching them. Running with no destination can feel like an impossible task, and it’s easy to get distracted.

7. Relax.

The best part about exercising is how much you enjoy the downtime. If you think laying on your couch all day is enjoyable, it has nothing on that hour you spend as a couch potato after a rigorous workout. Jay-Z said it best, “in order to experience joy, you need pain.” The harder you push yourself while exercising, the better you’ll feel when you’re relaxing.

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With that said, don’t relax too much, or it loses the effect. It’s okay to indulge every so often. Treat yourself to some junk food you’re craving, imbibe a drink here and there, and spend a day vegging out on your couch. Staying healthy doesn’t have to be torture. Just turn down when you can and dedicate some time to better the health of your body. You only get one.

Featured photo credit: tpsdave via pixabay.com

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