The squat is one of the most versatile exercises in the gym or at home. It can be used with barbells, kettlebells, and dumbbells. You can also do bodyweight squats without weights or machines. Squats are an amazing exercise to strengthen legs and butt muscles, improve flexibility and balance.
This ultimate guide to squats will help you not only learn the correct form but also pick the right squat variation for your fitness goals and find new ways to add these leg exercises into your daily routine.
Squats are one of the best full-body exercises that you can do. This is because not only do they work your legs and butt, but your abs, as well as your back and arms, are also activated when squatting. Because of all this, squats should be a staple in your exercise regimen to stay fit. And if you want to improve your squats, here’s a complete guide to help you do so.
What is Squat?
The squat is a fundamental human movement pattern, one which you perform daily in activities such as getting out of a chair or using the restroom. It’s also a fundamental strength training exercise that can be performed with your own body weight, free weights, kettlebells, resistance bands, and more.
This move targets your quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus (your butt), gluteus medius (outer hip), adductor magnus (inner thigh), soleus (calf), and gastrocnemius (back of calf). It also strengthens the connective tissues of the hips, knees, and ankles.
Benefits of Squats:
The squat exercise is one of the best compound movements for training your lower body. It trains your quads, hamstrings, calves and glute muscles in addition to strengthening your core and increasing overall body strength.
Squats can be done anywhere with or without equipment, squat is one of the best exercises for building a strong lower body, which helps to improve your posture and balance. Squats activate the core muscles and help you maintain better form, which reduces your risk of injury.
In addition to being a compound exercise—one that works for several muscle groups at once—the squat is a functional movement, meaning it mimics something you do every day. As a lower-body exercise, it strengthens the muscles of the thighs and hips, which are used in climbing stairs, standing up from sitting, walking uphill and even getting out of bed. The squat also improves balance and builds strength in the muscles of the back and torso.
How to do a proper squat:
While there are a few exercises that will help build strong shapely legs and a firmly rounded bottom, none is more effective than the squat. Easy to perform once you learn the correct form, no gym or machines are needed and you can begin with only your body weight as resistance.
While squatting may appear as simple as sitting in a chair as standing, it is actually a complex compound movement that requires thought and practice in order to be done safely and correctly.
1. A properly performed squat requires hip flexibility and balance. Perform your squats in front of a full-length mirror or with a partner to check your form. Keep your feet wider than shoulder width with your toes pointed slightly outward to target both glutes and thighs.
2. Ensure that your spine is upright with a very slight arch. Don’t slouch or bend your back which may cause injury. If performing bodyweight squats, relax your arms at your sides or cross them across your chest.
3. As you bend at the knee, lower your body until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Pause momentarily at the lowest point in the movement and squeeze your buttocks with each squat repetition. Your knees should not extend past your toes at any point in your squat. Perform deep and slow full squats as partial squats only work your knees and the thigh just above the knee and may cause injuries.
4. Adding resistance to squats can make it more challenging. After you become comfortable with bodyweight squats, use a pair of dumbbells or an empty barbell as resistance. When you begin to add weights to your routine, it’s a good idea to have a spotter especially when you begin adding heavier weights.
5. After you become comfortable with bodyweight squats, use a pair of dumbbells or an empty barbell as resistance. When you begin to add weights to your routine, it’s a good idea to have a spotter especially when you begin adding heavier weights.
6. As you begin to lower yourself, take a slow deep breath and hold it until you rise once more to a standing position and exhale. Holding a deep breath during the lowering part of your squat as it locks everything in place and reinforces your diaphragm and core with added strength and rigidity.
7. As you perform your squats, keep your eyes locked straight ahead or on a spot on the ground about ten yards in front of you. Don’t look up at the ceiling or down at the ground to prevent curving your spine as you lower and raise your torso.
7 Tips for Improving Your Squat:
Here are a few tips on how to make each squat more effective in toning your thighs and butt:
1. Proper squat technique begins with a strong and steady stance.
Your feet should be shoulder width apart or slightly wider. Widening your stance can improve your stability and will improve the training effect on your the glutes and hamstrings.
2. Squat with only your bodyweight.
Once you become proficient and proper squatting becomes second nature, only then advance to weighted squats. Squats with a dumbbell in each hand are a good first step toward barbell squats.
3. Avoid placing the barbell on your spine.
Once you advance to barbell squats, practice and then warm up with only an empty barbell. Ensure that the bar is supported by your shoulders, back and hands and not your spine. As you steady the bar with your hands keep your wrists in line with your forearms.
4. Your feet and toes should be pointed outward for stability.
This positioning will also help your knees bend outwards in the direction of your toes. It is important to prevent your knees from bowing inward as you squat. If you maintain a good stance but your knees continue to buckle inward reduce the weight you are using to prevent this.
5. Take a deep breath as you squat and tighten your core and abs.
Breathe deeply and squeeze your abs as you lower your body and exhale as you go back up. As you move upward, focus on your hips and do not rise using your chest or back.
6. Keep your head up and eyes forward.
Looking down at your feet or up at the ceiling places additional stress on your spine. This potential injury increases as your weight increases.
7. Pull your shoulders back and raise your chest as you squat.
These two steps will properly align your spine and provide a very slight arch to your lumbar spine. Do not lean forward or round your back as it increases pressure on your vertebrae.
Squats are one of the best exercises you can do to target almost every single muscle in your lower body. And because pretty much everyone can do a squat, the amount of variation you can do is insane! So keep these tips at hand, and watch your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and more grow with every set of squats.
In the end, it’s important to remember that everyone is different. That’s why careful planning and attention to detail in your workout routine is so important. There is no one right way to squat, and there’s no single program that’s suitable for everyone. But by taking the time to consider the body mechanics involved in each variation, you can make an educated decision on which squat form is best for your body—and start reaping the incredible benefits of this essential exercise.