The squat is the king of all exercises.
Squatting should be a part of every person's fitness routine, young or old.
The squat is more than just a leg exercise. It is a functional movement that can help with daily living and overall strength. It is easily modified and there are so many variations to add intensity.
Functional exercises allow us to perform daily activities more easily and without injury. Squats are one of the best functional exercises out there. They don’t require any equipment and help to build muscle and promote mobility and balance. Squatting is a compound movement, a multi-joint movement that works several muscle groups at once. Squatting exercises engage the muscles in the lower body and core, including glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, erectors, hip flexors and adductors.
Squats can actually help to burn more fat. By building muscle our bodies burn more fat, even at rest. It makes sense, then, that working the large muscle groups in your legs and core will build more muscle and burn more calories.
It’s really important to master proper technique to reap all the benefits of the exercise. To execute the perfect squat, first stand with your heels outside your hips. Keep your chest lifted as you sit your butt back and down. Your knees should always follow the direction of your toes to prevent strain on the knees. Push through the heels to come back up to the standing position. Common mistakes include buckling knees inward or pointing the chest down toward the floor.
For regular exercisers, try adding some squat variations to your routine.
Strong legs are crucial to staying mobile and core strength is so important for balance. Chair squats are a great variation. To do them, simply stand in front of a chair. Keeping your chest proud, sit back until your butt touches the chair and then stand up. Repeat this a few times, focusing on tightening the muscles of the abdomen. That will help keep you stable and help to support the muscles of the lower back. These can be done at home with no equipment other than a chair.
Of course, adding free weights is going to add extra load, but there are many other bodyweight variations to keep your workouts fresh. Try single-leg squats, shifting all your weight to one leg so that it alone has to do all the work. Single-leg work helps to correct muscle imbalances. Add some plyometrics to your workout by doing jump squats. Explosive movements like jumping train fast-twitch muscle fibers and can help you jump higher and run faster.
If you have healthy knees and can squat properly, it’s safe to up your game. One of the most advanced squat variations is called a pistol squat. It is essentially a single-leg squat, but more advanced. You will hold one leg out in front of you as you hinge from your hips and squat down as low as you can go without touching the floor. Drive through your heel to bring yourself back up to stand.
No matter which variations of the squat you choose, remember to include them in your routine.
Angela Fulgieri is the Wellness Experience Director at the Plant City YMCA. Contact her at email@example.com.